March 13, 2009

Can I Help You With Anything Else?



One of the big obstacles to our trip to St. Kitts was that I had to get a passport in a rather short bit of time. I absolutely dread dealing with government offices for any purpose and this was no exception. Not to mention that it can take up to three months to get a passport processed because of the in depth security checks that are necessary these days. I could have gone to D.C. and had it done in one day but my fear of driving in D.C. is even greater than my fear of government bureaucracy. So as soon as we found out we were going I made an appointment at the local acceptance office. Allen knocked off work half a day early to go with me. I filled in the abundance of paperwork and gathered documents.

We met the most helpful and efficient government worker named Cindy. She took my picture and checked my forms. Problem number one was that what I thought was my birth certificate all these years was merely a birth registration notice. She assured me it would be fine and gave me explicit instructions to go across town to the birth certificate office, get my actual birth certificate and come back. No big deal she said.

True to her word, it was no big deal. I walked in got my birth certificate and Elisabeth's while I was at it. I was back in Cindy's office in no time. She even got Allen's renewal all squared away and told us just what to do to file it and such and how to mail it. (You can't renew a passport locally just file for a new one.) She told me how to go on line and check to make sure it was received and checked in and such. She was so nice and so helpful. I trusted her completely when she said it would definitely be here no later than March 6th. I felt foolish for worrying about it so much. The whole process cost $340 (including the cost of two birth certificates) and took less than one hour (even with running all the way across town). I left with a new confidence in our governement and bureaucratic offices.

I was further encouraged when Allen's passport came in less than two weeks later. There is so much time before we leave and his came so fast that undoubtedly mine will be here in time. Boy was I fooled. One week passed after that and then another. March 6th has come and gone and still no passport.

Yesterday, I finally broke down and called the passport office to see what was up. I got the voice mail of my buddy, Cindy. She called me back and gave me a number and said call this number right now and ask them the status.

Well, here it is folks. The reason for my anxiety with government offices. My phone call went just like this...I swear you can't make this stuff up.

First off, I was on hold for at least 15 or 20 minutes-guess I shouldn't have called on my cell phone, huh?

A lady finally comes on the line and asks how she can help me. I told her my problem. She asked me a boat load of questions and made me promise to hand over Elisabeth as payment for bothering her by asking her to do her job.

Then she pulled up my record and said, "Your application is in progress."

I asked her, "What does that mean?"

She said, "It doesn't tell me."

I said, "Well, will it be done before April 1st when we have to leave?"

She said, "It doesn't tell me."

I said, "Is there some kind of problem?"

Bingo! She said, "It doesn't tell me."

So apparently, the only thing that she could tell me was my name, birthdate, date of travel, address and social security number-all of which I already knew!

Here's the kicker. She actually had the nerve to say, "Is there anything else I can help you with?" just like she had actually helped me at all!

So I ask you, will my passport actually get here in time? You can take the poll on the side bar to get your vote in. The lucky winner will get an all expense paid trip for 5 days and 5 nights to St. kitts with a very cute engineer. Shucks, I am feeling really generous. I will even throw in one very nice evening gown and 5 days worth of new clothes and shoes.

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