Dear U.S. State Department, Please Bite me.
WARNING: BORING STUFF AHEAD
Why is it that institutions with the most complex rules have the lamest websites? I lost my passport and need to get another one before February 6th when I GO TO MEXICO!!!! So, I looked on the U>S. State Department’s website to see what to do in case of a lost passport. It said fill out a DS64 form and a DS11 form and that I’d need to appear in person to submit them. So, I printed out forms, filled them out and took the train downtown to the Passport building where I took off my belt, went through the metal detector and everything exciting like that. I get to the hall where the office is (it’s in the Tip O’Neill building, which is super modern and awesome despite the big round cement things they put up in front after 9/11 to keep car bombers out) and I am greeted by the security dude saying “what time is your appointment?”
Now on the website, it says the only reason you need to make an appointment is if you are leaving the country within 14 days, and if you are not leaving within that timeframe, don’t waste their time making one. So I explained, and he let me into the office where the dude behind bulletproof glass told me I had to make an appointment if I wanted a passport ASAP but otherwise I didn’t have to go there, I had to phone in that I lost my passport and mail the rest.
He gave me a number to call.
I called the number.
The number has a recording that told me to call another number.
So I called that number. It was the main passport hotline which I had already called that morning.
i finally got a lady who told me that I yes, I needed to appear in person to apply for a new passport, but I needed copies of my drivers’ licence, proof of citizenship (i.e. birth certificate) and to make a copy of the DS64 form to give to the passport issuing people and to mail the original to another section of the State Department.
I took the train to Staples and bought some giant envelopes to send stuff out in and made copies of every piece of ID I had with me, including my SS card. I figured it wouldn’t hurt.
Then I read the DS-11 form and there was a part where I had to swear to the truthfulness of the statement to some authority person before I could sign it.
Confused, I headed to Kinko’s to use the innernets to see if it would clarify things. Of course, Kinko’s had gone out of business and the only other place I could think of to use the innernets was this shady internet cafe/souvenir store/pool hall at the other end of downtown which may or may not still exist. So I called the passport hotline again. I got through about 15 menus, none of them helping when I gave up because my cellphone battery was dying.
I took the train back to the Top O’Neill building, took off my belt and coat and emptied my pockets for the metal detector and went back up to the stairs to the Passport office. There was a different security guy there. This one looked very military, in that hardcore clean-cut kind of way. “When is your appointment?” he asked predictably. I explained my situation and said, “so I need to show up in person right?” “correct,” said the security guy. “But I need an appointment, and the hotline says you can only make appointments if you need a passport within 141 days.” “Correct,” said the guy. “So how do I appear in person if I can’t make an appointment and you can’t see anyone without an appointment?” “Oh,” said the security guy. “You need to appear in person, but not HERE. you need to show up at the post office.”
WTF?!? Why didn’t someone say that in the first place? I had no idea the post office does these kinds of things!
So i got back on the train and went downtown to the post office. When I got there, I started assembling all the stuff I needed (luckily I had taken passport pictures a while ago and then lost them and then found the previous set I had thought i lost and used those instead before I then found the ones I had taken to replace the 1st lost set. Confused yet? I am.). i discovered that I didn’t have the original copy of the ds-64; I had probably left it in the copy machine at Staples. So, I walked over to Staples (luckily it was in the neighborhood). The form wasn’t there on the machine. I rifled through the trash and there it was!
The first time i went to the post office, it was deserted. This is a very strange state for the Downtown Crossing post office to be in; usually there is a huge line at all hours of the day. Of course when I got back there was the usual line. I waited forever and when I got to the counter I handed all my stuff to the lady. She took one look at my forms and said, “these are filled out in blue ink. You have to fill them out with black.” So I had to go over to another table and fill out more forms.
When I got back to the counter, a different lady looked over all my stuff and freaked out because I had photocopied my Social Security card. Apparently not only do they not need it, the mere sight of it gives them hives.
Finally, 4 hours after I had begun my odyssey, I got my passport application on its merry way. It also turned out I didn’t need any of the envelopes I had bought.
On the way home, though, I finally got a Cambridge library card. The day wasn’t a complete bust!