This is the 3rd of a 4-part series comparing the US and Spanish Consulates in Paris. In February 2011, when STORSH was 5 weeks old, El Argentino (half Spanish), S and I went to both consulates to apply for his two citizenship / passports. It was an eventful day.
The US, of course, has an absurd 4-step security system, requiring one to cross the street twice. They email you a few days before your appointment, asking you to allow at least 20 minutes to get through security (and then being a bit threatening about missing your appointment if you’re late). I guess this makes sense, since they inevitably make you wait once you’ve spent your 20 minutes to get in. Their time is more important than yours. Plus you do have the swat cars of Gendarmerie vans lined along avenue Gabriel — a street that you have to cross twice in order to enter the consulate. Once past them you have the Consulate guards to check out your passport and appointment print out. And then you have the line to wait in to actually get to the guard house. As in any airport, prior to entering the guardhouse, you are asked to bin any liquids or foods. Then once you’re inside the guardhouse — an entirely separate building from the consulate — and your bag and coat have gone through the metal detector they confiscate your maycup, phones, cameras and any other electronics. These are put in a locker and you’re given a key. Only then can you go to the actual consulate (The Patriot Act apparently dictated that any and all French architecture must be eliminated and that the consulate must have the stagnant air of any O’Hare Airport security room). Such security I suppose implies how very important we are?
This, opposed to the Spanish Consulate in the 17th, where there wasn’t really any real security system. In fact the distance between Boulevard Malesherbes and the inner courtyard was perhaps 7 meters, as seen in the photo from the inner sanctum. There’s a metal detector that beeps indiscriminately, but the 16 year-old guard – who patted both of us on the arm in warm welcome, as though we were his personal guests – didn’t bother to look through anyone’s bags. That said there is a very clever fence (photographed below) that they’ve built in their courtyard, just on the opposite side of a fire escape. Phones, videos, cameras, liquid – probably guns, dynamite, bombs – are permissible.
The next post will conclude this Consulate Comparison Series, covering the different Cultures.