30 July 2007

The Passport Drama ... continued

Alright, so, my passport may or may not be coming in the near future. Of course, I mailed it to the Passport folks months ago, so it should have been here by now, but whatever, that can't be fixed. What can be fixed is what I had to do to get any answers. These things included ...

1. Calling the 1-877 number provided by the Passport Agency, which lead me to have a short, unhelpful conversation with a customer service rep who more or less told me "well, too bad for you." Admittedly, they probably can't promise anything, and even said so, but really, why bother having a phone service at all? And jeez, the menus/recorded messages took three times as long as the conversation. On the plus side, I was only on hold for maybe 5-8 minutes.

2. Emailing the Passport Agency via their web form = useless. It just tells you what you already know.

3. Follow the advice of #1 and call my local Passport Office (San Fran) to schedule an appointment. I did this at 3 AM Pacific time and had to call EIGHT TIMES to get through because they said they were getting "high call volumes". At 3 A.M. PDT/6 A.M. EDT? Ridiculous. When I did get through, after being threatened that I had to have a departure date that was sooner that 8/14 and had to bring proof of that (by the way, this is all automated), I tried to make an appointment. The SOONEST that was available was noon on 8/13! Yes, the day before. Ridiculous. Made the damn appointment anyway as a back up.

4. Emailing your local congressman or senator. This is apparently one of the ONLY ways to get anywhere. I emailed Mike Thompson (D - Ca) and, oddly, John Kerry (D - Ma ). Not sure why I emailed Kerry beyond the fact that he helped my parents before and I've voted for him many times now (2 for senator, 2 for president if you count primaries and generals). I didn't hear anything from either office until today, when I got an email and call from a nice lady at Mike Thompson's office who said she would call and get to the bottom of this.

5. Searching the web for other lost souls. This is how I found an internal email address for the Portsmouth NH Passport Processing Facility. Using this email, I was actually able to get a proper answer to the status of my passport! The person told me that it would be Fedexed to me in the next 5-7 days and they gave me a tracking number. Of course, I am no fool, so I'm not holding my breath.

So, there you have it. After utilizing a big pile of contacts and using up an immense amount of time, I was able to find out that you really need to grease the wheels to potentially get your passport on time. Of course, I still haven't gotten it and even if I do, I did lose a night's sleep and $55 to buy a copy of my birth certificate (which, incidentally, I ordered on a Wednesday and received it on the following Friday - 2 days later). I suppose I shouldn't have tried to be a good citizen and mail things with plenty of time. Instead, I should have mailed it in a hurry and paid my official "bribe" (aka, "Expedite Fee") to get it with less stress.

The government really misstepped here with the passport and again seems to show the unfortunate weakness of this whole Homeland Security mess - it isn't going to do any good if you don't put money behind your ideas. Anyway, how does causing all Americans to get passports help fight terrorism when they can get passports from another country anyway? This is all part of the Orwellian future that the Bush administration salivates over, where they can keep us under their thumb. It is never a good sign for a country when they start trying to convince us that war is in fact peace and order is in fact freedom.

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