DON’T Take Your Laptop to the US Embassy in Chile

Apparently you’re not supposed to take your laptop to the US Embassy, and I’m evidently oblivious as hell because I’ve never noticed this image on their website: 
Prohibited items (courtesy)
(Photo: http://chile.usembassy.gov/)
I always take my phone, which evidently is also prohibited, but not in practice. The guards simply take it before I enter, put it in a cubby in exchange for a number so I can retrieve it before I leave the premises. I figured it would be the same idea for my laptop, but I was in for a rude awakening, without any real explanation other than ‘’I couldn’t bring a laptop into the Embassy’’.
After nicely turning me away, the guard told me I had two options:

  • First, go over to the Carabineros, who might hold my computer for me or go to the Intercontinental hotel and ask them to store my backpack. Oh yeah, and don’t tell them you’re coming from the Embassy! First of all, why the hell would I leave my computer with the Carabineros!? 
  • Second, what excuse could I make up that would sound believable to leave my laptop for less than an hour at the nearby Intercontinental Hotel… and not be a guest there. Hmm…
I gave up on the Intercontinental Hotel. I’m horrible at lying and I assumed they wouldn’t hold my backpack for me since I’m not a guest. Then again, it’s Chile, so the real question was ”Why wouldn’t they?” as things like this tend to depend on the attendant’s discretion. I gave it a try, and as I predicted, they made an ”exception” to hold my bag, although it seemed like it was a regular occurrence since they automatically knew I just came from the Embassy.

I love how ”exceptions” are always made or rather that is the choice word. After hearing this so many times, it’s become an overused word to make someone feel like the other person is going out of their way to be extra helpful. When I asked how much it would be, the receptionist said I could just leave a tip with the guy handling my bag. They were all very professional, polite and nice about it which was also relieving.

American Vs. Chilean Experience at the Embassy

Although arriving to the Embassy with my laptop proved to be an inconvenience that could have cost me an extra visit to the Embassy and lost time, I almost thought I had a taste of the dreaded Embassy stories that I’ve heard Chileans tell – the ones where they have had intimidating interviews or spent ”all day” there because of the long lines, and the not so pleasant service is usually mentioned as well. I thought my visit would give me insight into the common Chilean narrative especially since on this day the Embassy was swarming with a lot more people than I was used to, and there was even a line outside!

I got there, said I was a citizen and, as always, was given the red carpet treatment. I didn’t have to wait in the line outside or in any line inside for that matter. As a citizen you go in, get a number to be attended by one of four of the long row windows dedicated only to citizens. 
I was not there for more than five minutes including waiting and being attended. Out of all the four times I’ve been there, I’ve never spent more than 30 min. there which is pretty good time considering the amount of people there. Sorry Chileans, I thought I would feel your pain, but I still don’t. At least you don’t have to go there for tourist visas anymore! Try waiting at Extranjeria, the PDI and Registro Civil lines all in one day with grumpy public workers, then we’ll talk. 😉

But, seriously, save yourself the trouble, and don’t take your laptop to the US Embassy in Chile.

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