Many large guards in smart uniforms direct people….and me. They are well cut men and women with proficient, but accented business English. They speak as if they are used to dealing with foreigners. Their blazers sport official looking government seals upon the lapel. Some operate behind thick glass. I show my documents and am allowed into the security screening queue. I have an appointment, but that fails to save me from more bureaucracy, more standing in line as many people chatter impatiently in Chinese around me. I’m here on official business. I need an official seal of approval. I need a notary. I’m in the citizens section of the American Consulate. And at the end of the encounter, I will realize the danger I’m in.
A notary officially witnesses a signing of a document – like patents. Drug discovery centers on intellectual property and patents protect those ideas developed by pharma firms. Patent applications take time to generate and employees move. I’ve signed dozens of rights over to my former employers, common practice. Usually, however, I’ve had access to a notary with my current company. In China, the only US Notary stands behind thick glass walls, and layers of bilingual Chinese office workers at the US Consulate. I pay first, $30. The Chinese office workers efficiently fill out everything but the signature and seal. I wait.
The notary comes. He is young. A foreign service worker, and seems to be unfamiliar with patent applications. He looks at me and makes me swear an oath that the affirmation in the document is true. “I do” I say….odd, never have done that before. The notary should only witness the person signing, not the content.
I had visions of an American Citizens section of the consulate on par with First Class airport lounges. A Ritz-Carlton-like ambiance in which Americans working there bond and share stories with those of us ex-pats working around the city. I worry my expectations are the first symptom of an ex-pat syndrome. We can be spoiled here, and get used to spoiling quickly. I would never have expected first class treatment at a US government office in the US, but do expect that here. I expected special treatment just because I’m an American in China. I’m in danger of becoming a jerk.