Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Going Postal

Instead of posting a quote or video, I'm going to tell you all a little story. Try to contain your excitement, guys!

My friend Amanda and I recently planned a trip to Niagara Falls at the end of June. She's never been there, and it may or may not be one of the world wonders (have you ever tried to look those up online? Talk about confusing... I guess that makes sense, being "wonders" and all, but you'd think someone could provide a single comprehensive list is all I'm saying, thanks a hell of a lot, Internet), and plus, who doesn't love taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist? So we made the plans, and Amanda so kindly booked the flights and hotel room. I didn't look at the itinerary too carefully until yesterday. Then it dawned on me. We are staying at the Sheraton on the Canada side of the falls. Crap crap crap.

I know what you're thinking, but no, not "crap" because as you well know I consider Canada to be one of the top 5 worst states in the U.S. (second-to-worst, to be exact - no state is worse than Dirty Jerzzz). No, "crap" because apparently I am a completely irresponsible person who HAS NO IDEA WHERE HER PASSPORT IS. You would think that this wouldn't be a huge deal. People lose things all the time. This is America! It can't be that hard to get a new passport, right? WRONG. I don't want to be dramatic here and suggest that my adventures in getting a passport have been all Iliad and Odyssey or anything. It's nothing like that. It's worse. (Whatever, shut it, this has been an epic quest.) I frantically searched my entire apartment for the damn thing and I swear to you, it's nowhere to be found. I've had a queasy feeling about it for several years actually and never ended up finding it when I moved to a new apartment last August, which was not a good sign. But I digress. This is not what the story is really about, so I'll leave it except to say that the little blue book is definitely not here, and clearly someone swiped it from my person in an airport and has obviously been using my identity to pull off elaborate heists a la Catch Me if You Can for the last 5 years.

Passport search being an utter failure, I started doing extensive research online about what to do if you lost your passport. All of the directions are extremely confusing, but to the best of my ability I deciphered the following: you need to fill out 2 forms (a new application and a lost passport form), get 2 passport photos taken, provide a form of identification and proof of citizenship (and according to the directions on the passport application, both of these can be an old passport - luckily I still have my old passport from high school which is expired), and of course a check, and take them to your nearest passport acceptance location. I called the number provided online and found out that that location for me is none other than the Times Square post office, old glory herself (ugh), supposedly on the second floor. It's open 10-3 Monday-Friday, and they will take your passport photo there. Joy.

I meticulously filled out all my paperwork and headed over to the Post Office From Hell in good spirits, ignoring the fact that this is the worst post office I've ever been to in my life and all of my dealings there end in pure frustration with me leaving in a huff, or tears, slamming a door behind me, contemplating taking up smoking, and coming home to drink a six-pack, alone. And surprise surprise, when I got there the winding line reminded me yet again of Disney World if at Disney World everyone was pissed off and dreading being taken for a ride (which indeed they will be).

And guess what? After looking for the "passport department," second floor, post office, wouldn't you know, there was NO SECOND FLOOR OF THE BUILDING. It just didn't exist. Shocker. And there was no place for passport pictures either. Lovely. I was sent out of the post office and down to CVS for my photoshoot. I trudged there and back, grimacing at my ugly 2x2 mugshot, and waited in The Punishment Line yet again. Of course, the "passport department" is one specific person who works there, so after waiting in the entire line, I had to wait in yet another separate extra special line at her window. She *looks through all of my paperwork* (please keep this in mind for later), runs her hand through her nest of hair like she's really aggravated and reprimands me, as only a middle-aged white disgruntled postal worker can. "Wherrrre is your FORM. OF. IDENTIFICATION." I explained that the paperwork indicated the passport counted as both ID and proof of citizenship. Well what a shock, apparently the U.S. government documentation is wrong, I need copies of my driver's license, and no I cannot make them there. She sends me past the people in line, out of the post office and across the street to make copies of my ID, front and back, in a cloud of despair.

Of course I get to the store, make a copy of the front, flip it over, and realize there is a box on the back of my driver's license that asks if you changed your address, leaves space for you to write it in, and stresses that you must notify the DMV within 10 days of your move. Shit. I won't give details for fear that the U.S. government will read my blog, but needless to say, I was hoping I read it wrong and it meant to say "years." Suddenly worried that the government would all at the same time deny my replacement passport, arrest me for not changing my address on my license, and send me to Gitmo for whatever international crimes my doppelganger with my stolen passport has obviously committed within the last 5 years, I paid for the front copy and a sharpie, wrote in my new address, made the back copy, and finally got out of there with a tiny shred of dignity in tact. And walked back to the post office to have it taken away.

Because you would think this would be the end of my saga. You would be wrong. I get back to the post office and back in line. Apparently the passport department is now a different person, so I finally get up to the front of the line and get passed to someone else's special line. Behind a person who is getting a visa - not a quick process. The girl had a lot more paperwork than I did to fill out and was trying to pay the fees by credit card, which is not allowed. And it was taking forever. By the time I got up to the window, the new woman looks through all my paperwork and informs me that MY APPLICATION CANNOT BE DOUBLESIDED. That's right, folks. In an attempt to be environmentally responsible, and with no indication that this was against the rules, I had printed out the application on two sides of one piece of paper. Apparently the U.S. government hates the planet. And me. She made me fill out an entire new application. Whyyyyy the first woman did not mention this to me is completely beyond me. AND then I had to pay THEM $100 for processing. If you ask me, they owe ME at least $100 for all of that nonsense.

I know postal workers hate their jobs, and I'm truly sorry they have to deal with the people who haunt the halls of the Times Square hellhole. But I honestly think the USPS tries to get vengeance by without fail making things way more difficult than they need to be. I swear every time I leave that place the postal workers are all lined up behind me laughing and pointing because they have done this intentionally and with purpose. I do not wish this upon you. And so I tell you this cautionary tale of woe to warn you that if you ever plan to get a new passport, you should a) take an entire day off of work, and b) re-read this post so you know exactly what not to do. Good luck, and good night (because that's how long it will take you, believe me). Oh, and if my passport-stealing doppelganger is reading this, I really hope it was worth it. Punk.

Guess I have to go to the DMV now to change my address. Seriously guys, kill me now.

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