There's a local coffee chain I go to every so often, just down the street from the consulate. They become really packed during the lunch hour. People get frazzled, particularly the counterstaff. At 12:30 you could always spot the manager sweating behind the register, glasses slightly askew, rumpled hair and uniform conveying a low-level stress that bordered on mild panic. His tension radiated out over the entire store. As a customer, you felt the only proper response to the pressure was to slap money on the counter as you hurriedly uttered your order, then grab the coffee they thrust at you as you were veritably pushed out the door by the other people in line. A rather stressful environment.
But on my last visit, I realized they'd had a change in management. The store is still every bit as packed, but this new manager is unflappable. I watched as he smilingly but firmly told a disappointed customer that they were out of what she wanted, and smoothly suggested something else. Taking orders and making change, this new manager was efficient, yet unrushed. The line might be long, but he's not panicked or harried. And why? Because... it's just coffee. No need for all the drama. The waitstaff is calmer; the customers are more relaxed.
This man is my hero.
So on Friday, when the Consular Chief came to me asking about the backlog, wanting to know when we'd up the numbers... I told him we'd do it when we were ready. And when he said someone had called complaining that there were no open appointments until mid-July, I said perhaps that person should consider applying in Tokyo where they seem to be fully staffed. Because the goal here is not to be martyrs. And because we're working very hard with the resources we have, more than meeting the '100 interviews per officer per day' guidelines of the State Department. Because at summer's end, I'd rather brag about how well we managed ourselves than how back-breakingly high our numbers were. And because you know what: it's just visas. No need for all the drama.
You forget sometimes.