Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Passport Pen Pals

I have a wise coworker who reminds me to not talk common sense into bureaucracy otherwise I might go insane. Right now, I am about to go crazy.

I learned my lesson. NEVER EVER misplace your passport. Never mind the fact that I have moved more times than I can count, and somewhere in there a box probably ate it like my dryer eats my socks.

I decided to be a proactive citizen, and report my missing passport and apply for my new one before I had even began to start planning any trips out of the country. I filled out all of my paperwork, supplied the needed documents, and hesitantly mailed away my birth certificate.

Those following weeks I felt like Mother Hen, who anxiously paced as she awaited the arrival of her children, except for me it was my birth certificate. Don't judge. I have had that flimsy piece of paper for 24 years now. You get a little over protective of it over time.

Once I received it back in the mail, it was accompanied with a strange letter, stating the obvious, that I had a missing passport. Thank you bureaucracy. This is the reason why I already submitted the missing passport form at the time of my application. What is new? Oh! You sent me a form to get a new passport? Thanks! But I won't be needing it. I am already one step ahead of you and submitted my new form with my picture and everything! I know...I am just that kind of American. Wink, wink.

Another week passed, and I finally received my new passport, which was also accompanied by another letter. Apparently, somewhere in the mix of things, this office didn't receive my report of my missing passport, so I was issued a "limited" passport, meaning it is good for one year. The letter stated that I needed to look for my already lost passport, and if I can't find it, fill out the missing passport form. Starting to sound like a very cyclical story, right? Tell me about it.

SO, today, I call the phone number issued on the letter to find out what is going on, because, well, I am confused as to what I am supposed to next. Do I have to apply for a new one? Do I have fill out another "lost" form? It just all seemed too redundant for me, and a waste of mine and the government's time and money. This, as I would soon learn, would become my downfall. Why on earth would I try to make sense out of this bureaucratic situation???

Once I was connected to a nice young woman, I explained the situation to her, and I asked her my questions. She placed me on hold for a while. She came back and asked me if I sent in a "full-size birth certificate." I repeated the statement back to her, as I was trying to make sure I heard her correctly. "Did you just ask me if I sent in a full-size birth certificate?" She affirmed, and I answered, "I believe so, but I didn't know they came in different sizes..." Does any one have a mini birth certificate? If so, let me know...I'm curious... She also asked me how much I paid for my birth certificate. Again, I don't know what this has to do with anything.

At the end of the questioning she asked me to hold again. I patiently awaited, and upon her return she notified me that I would have to write a letter to the Colorado agency to find out why my passport is limited.

I gaffed, "A LETTER?! Do people still even write letters?" This was a half-serious question. As I wrote down the address to write the passport agency, I explained how I was just baffled by this idea. I asked for a clarification, because surely they would at least have e-mail. "I feel like the pony express will have to come and pick it up," I joked. She didn't find it nearly as funny or ironic as me.

Once I got off the phone, I thought I would just try to outsmart them and see if I could find the phone number to this agency, turns out there is no phone number. I REALLY DO HAVE TO WRITE THEM. Surprisingly, this doesn't actually perturb me, but it does, honestly, baffle me. It just seems nonsensical to pay someone to open and read letters all day and forward them to the right office, instead of hiring a few people to field some phone calls, and take care of the problems right then. Then I have to pause and remind myself that I am dealing with a government office and that there is no point in trying to make sense of it.

So now, as I prepare my letter for my new passport pen pal, I wonder what my receiver will look like. What are their interests? Should I include a picture of myself? Maybe I should send a treat from Seattle too...

Leave it to the US Government to force us to use their dying US Postal Service. Thank you, and I look forward to sending you my handwritten, and loosely decorated letter inquiring about my passport soon!

4 comments:

Troy said...

Yeah... Don't you want these same people running your health care???

imri said...

well, at least for the next year you won't have to be begging your way into canada.

Hans said...

i'm just not at all surprised by this sort of thing anymore, i think that's the real tragedy...

Rachel. said...

what a terrible story, but what a great bog post.