My passport expired in January. Now, for most of you, this is no big deal. I know some of you have never had a passport. Never in your life. Or you got one way back in high school that you have long since lost to the boxes of childhood memories in your parents’ attic. Not me. I’ve had a valid passport since I was 16. A little over 10 years ago, my parents moved to another continent, a continent on the other side of the world. Going to visit them means I need my passport.
I have forgotten this in the past, and had to have a friend overnight mail me my passport so I could leave on a plane the following evening. I am now mildly obsessive about knowing where my passport is and making sure I have it on my person when I travel.
As those of you that read my blog regularly know, my identity was stolen this past fall. Even though I knew my passport was expiring in January, I was very very reluctant to let it out of my sight. The person that stole my identity had generated a fake driver’s license, so the only photo ID I had that truly proved who I was happened to be my passport. Well, s*it. Guess it’s gonna expire. I’m not happy about this, but I don’t see any other option. Fortunately, most states consider an expired passport a valid form of identification for at least a year after expiration. So once it was proven that my identity had been stolen, and who I really am was firmly reestablished, and I had successfully obtained a new driver’s license for Pennsylvania, I knew it was time to send in my passport for renewal.
I had no idea what I was doing, apparently. Surrendering my passport into a void. Due to the new laws that will require people to have a passport when they drive to Canada, the backlog going on at the passport agencies is out of control. When I mailed my passport in in March (to a PO box in the same building…absurd!), I was told that it would take no more than 8 to 10 weeks for a renewal. Especially since I was changing nothing. No name change, nothing. Just a new really bad picture (horrid! it’s horrid this time!). Note: last time I renewed it took 3 weeks. But OK, no problem. 8 to 10 weeks it is.
At around 12 weeks I started to panic. With your parents living in a foreign country, not having your passport in hand and knowing that you cannot get to them if an emergency arises really starts to make you nervous. So I checked online on the handy government travel site. I knew they had my passport, as they had cashed the check in mid-April. But that was still over 8 weeks ago. And no passport had been returned to me. I hadn’t heard anything telling me there was a problem. The online “check the status” option just told me that they had it. No update of any use at all. OK.
At a little over 14 weeks, I tried to check back, but the website was “down for maintenance.” So I decided to call. I finally go through (about a good 20 minutes on hold, mind you), and in a rather panicked voice, asked the nice lady when I would be getting my passport back as it had been almost 15 weeks and OMG do you understand that my parents don’t live in this country so being with out it for very long starts to freak me out?? To her credit, she calmly asked me the info she needed to look it up in the system, acting as if she was oblivious to my shaky panicky voice, and then said, with some surprise: “Oh, it’s done!”
Me: “What?? So where is it?”
Nice Lady: “They put it in the mail this morning, it should be there in 3 to 5 business days.”
Me: “Oh! Excellent! Thank you very much!”
Nice Lady: “No problem. Have a nice day.”
This was before the conference. I returned from the conference to a rather large pile of mail. Can you guess what I looked for first? Yup, my passport. And it was there. Bad picture and all. Thank the heavens, I can leave the country again.
I am now free to move about the world.