Friday, June 15, 2007
passport to freedom
My husband and I are going on a fabulous European getaway and we are absolutely thrilled. Until this morning, we were also EXTREMELY nervous, as the trip is in a few days, and still... no passport.
Let me explain the last week or so to you:
Via internet and email... You have to submit everything, including the name of your first born, to sign on to check the status, which unfailing for the past 2 months has said "processing". Once you hit the magical "two weeks 'til your trip" mark, you can email. The day I emailed, it said it was taking one day to get back to people. The next day, it was taking two. The day after that, it was taking four days to reply. I checked the following day and they had removed the email address from their site. It's now been six days and still no word.
On the phone... You can't actually call and wait on hold for the next available representative. You have to call back and be hung up on one thousand times first. I dedicate an hour a day or so to my calls to the Passport people. So last Tuesday I spent an hour watching Scrubs and hitting redial, then 1-3-1, which will bring you to the moment of rejection the quickest. "Goodbye!" it says, but it starts to feel like "Good riddance! If I don't get to go on vacation, you don't either!"
Finally, at the end of the second episode, I get put on hold. Every six seconds, it interrupts the classical muzak with important things I should know, such as "We will only answer your call if you are within 2 weeks of your trip." "Because of the high demand for passports due to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, we are currently receiving a high volume of calls, please stay on the line." "Passports are not required when traveling to U.S. Protectorates, as you are not actually leaving the United States. These include: Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Swains Island..." Swains Island?!?! We have Swains Island? Where is Swains Island?
Forty-five minutes later, I come in contact with a live human being who says she will "expedite it". "No ma'am, I can't tell you the next step. No ma'am, I can't give you an estimate of how long it will take. You can drive to your local regional passport center." LOCAL, meaning COLORADO!
At the post office... I remember this man from when we ordered the passports three months ago. He agrees that a passport would be nice at this point and launches off into the familiar monotone list.
"Well ma'am.... (the magic question) Is it within two weeks of your trip?"
"Less than a week."
"Have you checked the website?"
"Have you emailed?"
"Have you called the office?"
"Have you tried faxing?"
"I didn't know that was an option."
"It's a secret option."
"How do I do that?"
"You can't do that. Only I can do that." (pause and looks at me)
"Will you please do that for me?"
(Moves slowly to computer and then begins to hit keys one by one... I'm starting to understand why it's been over three months and still no passport.)
"Date of trip? Husband's Name? Social security number? Date of birth? Place applied? Favorite tie color? Inseam length? Name of firstborn?"
He brings the paper over to me and shows me how he's marked the internal "urgent" box and ask that it be sent overnight priority. I seriously consider giving the man my firstborn as he faxes.
"You might try your congressman..."
Calling Bob Bennett's secretary...
"By any chance, is the passport in South Carolina?"
"Seems like they are all there. I'll call you tomorrow."
At this point, Andrew has spent the time he should have been studying for his exam planning a road trip of where he will go because his passport isn't coming.
What joy and exultation in my home this morning when the UPS Priority Overnight arrives with a package from the state department. I almost hugged the brown-bedecked savior, which startled him a bit. The coveted blue booklet sits before me, answer to prayer and pleading... open it up, and...
his picture makes him look like an angry terrorist. Did I mention he also speaks Arabic? You know we're getting stopped at every checkpoint. I'll soon post pictures of every detention center on both sides of the Atlantic! :)