Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Each minor triumph is countered by a moderate disaster.

My minor triumph is that on Tuesday I finally finished reading that damn report. I've only been working on it for, oh, almost a month. And, um, yeah, there's actually 20 pages left to read, but I decided that could wait. I needed to get to actual editing. The 20 remaining pages are the least important part of the report and will be relegated to an appendix, so are not a high priority.

I got started revising the Executive Summary, the most important part of any report we publish. It's the only thing 90% of people read. What a mess! I'm writing whole new paragraphs as I go. I have to rip down the rotten structure they built and start from scratch. The information in the report is good but the organization is a disaster.

Still and all, I'm feeling good about it. I know the material well (I should by now!) and I think I can get it organized. It's hard work but much more satisfying that I can see it coming together on the page. I was in the office until 7:30 tonight working on the damn thing. Crazy.

The current disaster isn't related to work, it's related to my passport. Way back in April, during my first week of jury duty, I sent my passport to be renewed by mail. I knew that I'd be traveling to Israel sometime this year, though I wasn't sure when. My passport was due to expire in August and I thought I'd get it back in plenty of time for the next trip.

Heh. As you may have heard, there is a huge backlog in the passport office because of new travel regulations that require passports for travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. My poor little passport is caught up in all that mess.

I still wasn't worried. I don't leave for Israel until July 22, which is much more than 12 weeks from when I sent my application. No problem, right?

I checked the website a few times--my request was in the system, but that's all I knew. On July 5, slightly more than two weeks before my departure date, I called. The office is open until midnight, I called around 10pm, was on hold for 30 minutes, and was told my passport was scheduled to arrive on the 17th or 18th. He said, "That is cutting it a little close, isn't it? We'll send it express mail but call back on Sunday and we'll get it set up."

I called back on Monday (I forgot on Sunday). This time I was on hold for 30 minutes but it took me 30 minutes to even get a chance to be on hold.

I gave my name, social, my travel dates. I was told, "We'll request expedited service." I asked, "Can you tell me about when I should expect it to arrive?"

"We can't give out that information?"

"I'm sorry? The last time I called, the guy said it was scheduled to arrive on the 17th or 18th."

"We aren't allowed to give out that information. We don't have access to it. We're just the call center. I've submitted a request for expedited service."

"Wait, so, you can't tell me when it's going to arrive? What am I supposed to do if it doesn't come in time?"

"All I can do is put the request in. We can't guarantee delivery."

I lost it at this point. "What am I supposed to do?? That's not enough information. Let me speak to your supervisor." The supervisor came on and was no help at all.

He said, "Well, I don't know what to tell you. Maybe you should make an appointment."

I said, "This is totally screwed up." I hung up in frustration. It was after midnight.

I called back the next morning at 6:40 am and got through in about five minutes. I asked, "I was supposed to be put in the expedited queue and I want to make sure that happened."

The lady said, "Yes, you called late last night? You are in there with the expedited request."

"Great. So, um, what do I do if I don't get it in time?"

"If you don't get it by the 20th, you can make a request for same day issuance."

"By the 20th! You do have faith."

To sum up: three calls, three different stories.

1) It's coming next week, but we'll speed it up so you'll be sure to get it in plenty of time.
2) We'll speed it up, but can't say if it will get there in time. No guarantees.
3) If it doesn't come in time, you can get it in one day.

What is the truth? What am I to think? Is it even imaginable that all that money I spent on the plane ticket is going to waste?

No, that's not imaginable. The current plan: call first thing in the morning and make an appointment for next week. If the passport doesn't arrive before the appointment, keep the appointment and get my goddamn passport in person. What a huge frickin' pain in the ass. I sort of feel like I'm being punished for sending my renewal request in early!

Still, while I'm getting more anxious about the passport, I'm sure it will work out. And the report will get done. When either of these will happen, though, is anyone's guess.

UPDATE: 7/12/07
I called the passport people again this morning at 6am and spent and HOUR in the automated appointment system. Um, sorry, no appointments are available until July 26! That doesn't work. I called the main line and was immediately connected to someone. I gave him all my information, was told they sent an email on July 10 but that my passport was still in Rhode Island (or was it New Hampshire?) for processing. He said, "If you don't get it by the 18th, give us another call and we can send another expedite request."

I said, "On the 18th? Would I get my passport in time then?"

"We're doing the best we can?"

"I really need my passport. What else can I do?"

"We can only send two emails."

I got angry again and hung up. I took a deep breath and called back. I spoke to a woman this time. I said, "I have a question. I'm traveling on the 22nd. If I don't get my passport in time, can you do a same-day issuance?"

"Yes, but you have to make the appointment three days ahead." More new information!

I said, "Ok, so if I don't have it by the 18th, I call this line and make the appointment?"

"That's correct."

Finally, I spoke the magic words, "Thank you."

Grateful for: patience.

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