I shared a few days ago that my passport got delayed, along with thousands of other Americans.
The problem? I’m supposed to get on a plane today at 2:40pm and fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
For weeks, my passport application status just said, “In Process.” I tried calling their toll-free number to set up an appointment at an in-person passport office. The closest ones to me are in DC, Philly, and the northeast.
95% of the time, my calls didn’t go through. It either went straight to a dead line, or the automated messaging system spewed these words that are ingrained in my head: “Thank you for calling the US Passport’s Automated System. Your call is very important to us. Due to high call volumes, we are unable to take your call at this time. We recommend you call back at a different time. Goodbye…*click*”
But every now and then, my call would go through. And it felt like I won a prize. Bursting with glee, I’d have to calm myself down and remind myself that the war was far from over.
Monday was the first time I got to speak to a human being. Her name was Lori. “That’s my mom’s name,” I said, hoping that would create a cosmic bond between us and force her to send me a new passport that day.
“I don’t give a shit,” Lori replied. Just kidding.
But she told me my only option was to make an appointment. If I showed up to an office without one, they wouldn’t even let me in the building.
“There aren’t any appointments available in DC between now and Thursday,” she sighed.
“I’m willing to drive,” I said. “Are there any openings in nearby states?”
After clicking away at her keyboard, she said the closest one was in…Buffalo, New York. Wednesday afternoon. Seven hours away.
“Book it,” I said without hesitation. She entered my unique code and phone number. I would’ve driven 15 hours. I just wanted a God damn passport.
“Oh shoot,” Lori whispered.
Oh shoot? Oh shoot??? Clearly she means, ‘Oh shoot,’ looks like we’ve actually made a huge mistake and your passport is being hand-delivered to you by Joe Biden along with a new MacBook Pro and free Chipotle for life.
Unfortunately, that’s not what she meant. “Someone just grabbed that appointment,” she explained. “They come and go pretty quick.”
Then immediately, “Oh wait! One just opened up in DC for Wednesday morning,” she cheered.
“Jesus Mary and Joseph, Lori book it!! Do it now! Send it!!!” I was elated.
“…It went away,” Lori said dejectedly.
My emotional state was being kicked around like a hacky sack. It felt like Lori was my only ally and at the same time trying to sabotage me.
“O..okay,” I muttered. Like a defeated and confused child who just wants more waffles but there aren’t any left in the freezer. Lori apologized and I thanked her for her efforts.
That day and the day after were two of the most stressful and anxiety-ridden days I’ve experienced in years. It was kind of a wake-up call.
I never really get stressed. My life is quite simple and highly rewarding. I mean, the thing that has brought me the most mental suffering in years is not being able to fly to a beautiful foreign country on time. What a glorious problem to have.
But I was still feeling it. There was sluggishness in my eyes. It was harder to laugh. I was tired when there was no reason to be.
This whole government passport system is slow and inefficient. But this whole ordeal was my fault.
I knew when my passport expired last year. I had all the time in the world to be proactive and just get a new one. But I waited until I actually had an international flight planned. I take full responsibility. Poor Lori was just doing her job and answering the thousandth phone call from some flustered American trying to leave the country.
New plan: I was just going to take the next open appointment within the next two weeks, then move my flight to whatever day came after that.
On Wednesday morning, I came down to this temporary office space in my friends’ basement. Coffee in hand, I opened up the travel.gov page I’d been visiting every day. I typed in my info to check the status of my passport and get my unique locator number to give to the eventual person I’d speak with.
Big bold letters. My passport was approved, completed, and shipped.
A wave of peace flushed over my body. All was right in the world.
I called the airline to reschedule my flight. Her name was Sandra. She was super professional and had a lovely Hispanic accent. She told me that since I got the cheapest option, I’d have to just cancel it and buy an entirely new flight.
“Is that the absolute best option for me,” I asked like a sad puppy.
“Let me see what I can do,” Sandra replied. She put me on hold for 10 minutes.
When she returned, she told me she would break the rules and just move my flight. I’ve never felt more grateful for a stranger’s kindness.
My new flight is next Saturday. Nine days from now.
Thank you, Lori. Thank you, Sandra. My guardian angels.
Until then, my close friends are kind enough to let me continue living with them. So long as I scrub the mold and vacuum the ceilings.
I’ll let you know when I get to my destination. ✌️