In 2013, my husband and I decided to get passports in case we wanted to travel outside the country, something we had never done before. As it turns out, between the two of us, circumstances were such (hip replacement for him and some health issues for me) that we didn’t think much about international travel. And then, of course, there was Covid. It dawned on me recently that the ten year lifespan of our passports was coming to an end. So, I decided to be pro-active and get it renewed before expiration.
I did my online research and discovered that there were post office passport offices I could go to for renewal. The USPS website gave the locations, days, and times of service. Today, I went to the nearest post office right when it was to open, only to find a couple waiting ahead of me. At first, they thought I was the person who was going to open the office. When they said they had been waiting and the office looked closed, I found someone in the back who was sorting mail to help us.
This slight, middle-aged man, with a heavy accent and wearing a mask, told us that we needed to go to the passport office on the other side. We told him that there was no one there. He said, he knew that because it is by appointment only. I let him know that the website doesn’t say that. He was firm. An appointment was the requirement. The couple told him that they had tried repeatedly to make an appointment. He kept saying that they needed to make an appointment. They repeated their claim. I then asked to speak to the person in charge of passports. That same postal worker told me that he was the Passport person. He offered to walk us to the computer terminal to make an appointment. The man who had been waiting said, “I tried but it wouldn’t let me.” Then the postal worker said, “That’s because there aren’t any appointments available and you can’t make one.”
Not sure I’ll ever get those brain cells back! But, not to be deterred, I travelled to a FedEx office because their website said you could renew there. When I arrived and requested it, they said I had to go online to fill out and forms and then come back for a photo to be taken. This was getting annoying.
Later on in the day, I found that the US government allows you (if you fulfill certain requirements) to renew online. I did so, and then my husband and I had to take digital photos of each other with very specific requirements. For the better part of an hour, we repeatedly kept uploading photos only to have them rejected for one reason or another. Finally, the photos proved acceptable and we were able to move on to the next step. (I really didn’t like any of the photos of me, but as soon as one of them proved successful, I decided that I loved it.)
The website then instructed me to pay for this service and I thought I would use the Visa Card that arrived the other day from the State of California called “California Middle Class Tax Refund Card,” meant to offset inflation under the banner of the Benefit for Families Act. Having researched that a bit, I discovered we were going to be taxed on this relief money, and I figured this was a good a place to spend it as anywhere. Guess what? The U.S. Government website wouldn’t accept that as payment! Truly, I am not making this up. Money from California doesn’t cut the mustard, apparently.
Persistence did pay off and finally our applications were accepted, but with a caveat. If our renewal is denied for some reason, they will not refund our money.
Is my passport saga over? I haven’t a clue. It will take 6-9 weeks for me to find out.
One thought on “Traveling with the Speed of Inefficiency”
Just plain “Good grief!” These things cannot be made up!!