Daily Archives: June 8, 2007

Thank you, Homeland Security…

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This is a follow up to my post about my missing passport. I spent most of the day yesterday going over my office and bedroom with a fine-toothed comb. No luck. I got an e-mail from my mother, who is in a less dire situation: she just realized that her passport expired in June of 2006. After being assured by the members of her art class that there was no way that the airlines would let her fly to Mexico without a passport, she started researching solutions on the Internet.

This morning, while reading the New York Times, my husband found the passport problem to be front page news. He was going to send it to Mom, but I suggested he hold off. She was going to find out about the delay soon enough.

During breaks from combing through all of my file folders, I had been doing the same thing. I read a reassuring entry in the FAQs at this website, I was feeling pretty good. It is obvious that I am an American – I would bluff my way through with my driver’s license and my Costco card. Then, I called a representative at Continental Airlines and asked exactly when they would be asking for my passport (we will be changing planes in Houston). He assured me that it would be checked in Atlanta, and that I would not be allowed to board without it.

I continued to search, until I got an e-mail from my mother. She had done a text chat with a Passport expediting company called the International Visa Service. The nice lady told her that next day service would cost $499 plus $127, and we needed to be there by 1:30 in order to get the passport with a 24 hour turnaround. By then, I was pulling things out of my office drawers and moving my shelves aside in a last ditch effort to turn up the passport. With the threat of having to re-book our trip – or at least my part of the trip – I finally became resigned to paying the money and getting the expedited passport.

We got to the office – we had managed to find my official birth certificate as well as a couple of passport photos that I had taken for my old passport. I officially looked like hell, so I was grateful not to have to be photographed – as I didn’t have time to shower or anything. There were a lot of people there already, but I worked on my application online, printed it out in duplicate, and went to complete my paperwork with a lovely Brazilian woman.

Typical of the way this day was going, I realized that I could not use the passport photos. Although I was wearing the same shirt in both pictures, they were actually taken at different times. I did get a lot of compliments on the pictures – the passport guy said I looked like Meryl Streep (usually I used to get Andy McDowall or Bette Midler – there’s a picture for you!). But instead of a lovely photo with my hair and face made up and my smiling face, I now have a passport photo that looks like I got pulled into a jail in Tijuana and photographed for my mug shot. Oh, I am smiling, though.

After this, we were instructed to take the application packet to the nearest U.S. Post Office to be affirmed by the Official Passport person. We were at the post office for over an hour, along with a family going to live in Cambodia (I assume on missionary work), and another more affluent family going to Kenya on vacation – among others. After that was done, I paid an additional $30 to the nice man, and we trotted the forms back to the expeditor’s office. Then we went to Chik-fil-A.

But my adventure was not over yet. Now, I had to deal with the fact that my passport may not make it in time for my 8:30 flight Saturday morning. After consulting with both Travelocity and Continental Airlines, I was assured that the least expensive option would be to just wait until check-in at 6:30 that morning and if I still had no passport, then Continental would work with me on booking a later flight.

My husband, my brother-in-law and I conferred on the phone, and were coming up with plan B (Wheat would just fly in ahead of me and either go on to Morelia or book a hotel room in Mexico City and wait for me). We needed to go and get a phone card so that we can call each other in case we had to be separated. And on and on.

Then, my sister (who was praying to Saint Anthony – patron saint of lost items – like a good unofficial Catholic) sent this news story from Yahoo:

The Bush administration is poised to suspend a major post-9/11 security initiative to cope with increasingly angry complaints from Americans whose summer vacations are threatened by new passport rules.

A proposal set to be announced as early as Friday will temporarily waive a requirement that U.S. passports be used for air travel to and from Canada and Mexico, provided the traveler can prove he or she has already applied for a passport, officials said Thursday.

Great. But I will probably still have to have some sort of receipt to prove that I applied for the replacement, so I am not going to worry about the EXORBITANT price I just paid. Oh, and the visa lady assured me that I would probably have that passport by Saturday morning, if the 1 day turnaround service works out. So, yippee.

In an effort to defray costs, my brave mother has agreed to give dog sitting a try. Pray for her, please. My dog is not bad – just young.

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