For some reason, Thursday adjudications are always strange, but today was particularly weird. I had almost a 10% refusal rate, which is about 4 or 5 times my normal average. And even the issuable applicants were just... bizarre. It's difficult to explain. Things just didn't seem quite in balance. I think Wednesday night was the summer solstice, so maybe that played a part. My colleague Jerome and I found ourselves repeatedly stepping back from our windows to cast puzzled glances at each other.
When lunch finally rolled around, Jerome laid his head on his desk in exhaustion, and I grabbed my book to go find a place to hide and recover. You can perhaps imagine the scenario: I'm stepping out into the rain, book in hand, considering where one can be at least semi-alone in the urban crush of Osaka (note: nowhere), when one of the consulate guards hurries over. [in Japanese] "Uh, Katie-san," he waves his hands a bit, looking somewhat confused, "there's sort of, this girl..."
This is when I realize that one of the applicants Jerome refused is waiting outside the consulate.
I do not become scared very easily, but I was definitely tense. I couldn't believe the guards would allow a visa applicant to loiter at the consulate door, waiting to pounce. I couldn't believe that after that hellish morning I was now in the unenviable position of sizing up someone else's refusal, wondering if I could take her in a fight. I couldn't believe that I had never thought to carry mace, a gun, a nightstick, a brick... I couldn't walk away, because then she could follow me and I wouldn't even have the guard to protect me. And I don't think anyone in Japan would come to my defense if I were being attacked, especially as the applicant was another foreigner.
The situation, luckily, did not come to that, and I was able to pacify her by briefly explaining a little more about reasons for rejections, and what her options were (stalking consular officers was definitely not on the list). She told me thank you at the end of it, which is actually my goal whenever I reject an applicant. I'd say I achieve that goal about 80% of the time, but usually with the comfort of a pane of bullet proof glass between myself and the rejectee. As soon as she walked away, I turned somewhat angrily to the guard and told him to never EVER allow that to happen to any of us again.
This evening, when I left work alone and began the walk back to the train station, I found myself looking over my shoulder. I don't want this job to make me mistrustful. I don't ever want the first thing I think when I encounter someone to be 'What does this person want? Is she going to hurt me?' People are basically good. I really believe that. I want to be able to live like I believe it.