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Joel C

Pulling One's Hair Out One Strand at a Time

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So I am trying to get my Mother, brother, and two sisters off on a trip to Europe. Sounds easy enough. Make sure you have plane tickets, get everyone packed, bring adequate amounts of money for souvenirs, renew passports, check all th....Wait a second, renew passports you say? That's right, with a full 11 weeks before the trip. Everyone in the family needed a new one. So of course, being the responsible people that we are, we apply early.

Problem is, with all these kids getting passports over spring break to get wasted, stoned, drunk (pick your favorite descriptor!), and more in Bermuda, the passport process is taking a lot longer. At 7 weeks after we applied for my brother's passport, we find that it hasn't been issued. So we call the national hotline, which of course, is an automated system that hangs up on you (I guess the government is taking cues from United Airlines on that one). So, we drive up to Aurora, CO, which is a two-hour drive roundtrip, because that's the only place that offers passport help in the ENTIRE state of Colorado. They assure us that within the next week, the passport, which we find out is in Charleston, SC, will be mailed promptly to our home address.

Fast-forward to a week later, and less than 48 hours before said-international flight takes off. No passport in the mail. So, I call the only number I can find, seven or eight hits down on the google list (because of course the number isn't listed, that would be too easy). Turns out it is the Aurora Post office. The conversation goes something like this:

Me: Hi, I'm trying to expedite one of my family member's passport. Can I do that here?

Desk Clerk: You need to call the international passport hotline.

Me: (smugly) I've already tried that, it's an automated system that hangs up on me every time I call. Is there a number for the Colorado Passport Agency that you can give me?

DC: Which one, the Passport Post Office, or the Department of State?

Me: Whichever one will allow me to expedite his passport.

DC: I'm sorry, I don't have that number.

Me: Do you have ANY number I can call to find out the status of the passport?

DC: I'm not authorized to know that number.

Me: (Idiot. It took him this long to tell that to me?) Well, I've already tried to check it online. All it gave me was a tracking number. Is there no local number that I can call and talk to a real person?

DC: Well, not really...I'm not allowed to know that number.

Me: ( ::pinch:: ) So what you're telling me is that there isn't a local number, I can't find out the status of the passport online, and the only national number I can call is an international hotline that is automated? So how am I supposed to find out the status of this passport???

DC: Well, you need to dial XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Me: ( ::doh:: ) Oh, really? Because that's the number for the national hotline.

DC: You just have to keep trying.

Me. ( :cuss: ) I've tried that number 30 or 40 times in the past several weeks. I've never reached ANYONE. Is there a number for the department of state?

DC: XXX-XXX-XXXX

Me: ( :blink: ) Uh, that's the number you just gave me for the national hotline.

DC: Exactly!

Me: ( ::stupid:: ) Ok, thank you anyway. You've been loads of help.

(hang up)

::blowup::

So, after a good 20 minutes on google, I find the building that the passport agency is in. However, when I call a neighboring business in the same building, I find that they don't have a listing for the Agency in their own building. Finally, after ages of weaving through the meaningless miles of text on the government website, we find the number. We call. We give them the tracking number. And guess what: The passport is STILL IN CHARLESTON, SC.

Agghh. If you ever wonder what induces people to storm a government building and start firing off an assault rifle, just spend a couple weeks trying to expedite a passport.

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Yuck. So, have you called your congressman? They supposedly have been known to help expedite passports, but I don't know if it can happen in 24 hrs.

Where are you planning to go?

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Issue diverted, nice, blue passport in my brother's hand this morning as I sent my family members off to Europe this morning.

So do tell, Buckeye! I'll be able to commiserate to some degree, I'm sure.

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