Saturday, June 9, 2007

1-877-478-7778 - Forever imprinted on my mind

I have just finished one of the most frustrating experiences of my entire life. Tomorrow morning, I am flying to Israel, and after spending two weeks non-stop on the phone talking to the national passport office and to Congressional offices, I finally got my passport about fifteen minutes ago.

It turns out I had the terrible misfortune of applying for a renewal in the midst of a passport crisis. Normally, processing is supposed to take 6 weeks. I applied over 12 weeks ago, and it was only by a lot of work and a lot of luck that I ended up getting it on time. During the past two weeks, I have called the passport center at least fifteen times - each time it has taken about an hour to get through to talk to somebody. For a long time, I thought I was the only one experiencing problems, but it gave me little comfort to wake up Thursday to a New York Times article about the crisis. The Bush administration put in place new regulations mandating passports for Americans returning from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean by air, but somehow didn't anticipate that there would be a major rush for passports. Well, it turns out that the number of applicants has doubled, which understandably has caused major problems.

Even when I got finally got through to the passport center, the people I spoke to had no clue what they were talking about. Everybody gave me a different story. On Monday, they told me my passport was being shipped out that night. Good luck with that. It finally shipped on Thursday afternoon, but they totally messed up the shipping. They told both me and a very helpful staff member from Rep. Hodes's office that they were shipping it overnight mail or "express mail." That was definitely necessary because the other option was "priority mail" which takes "2-3 days, or longer." Well, two days would be today, three days would be tomorrow, when I'm flying, too late. Of course, despite their assurances they messed up, and shipped it Priority Mail. Only by complete luck (and probably because I live in Manhattan) did I get it in time.

Okay, so I'm relieved that I finally have the passport, but completely pissed off that I had to spend twenty hours on the phone and ultimately only rely on luck to get my passport. I hate to do this, but I really think that George W. Bush is to blame for this. All these new passport restrictions were done in the name of fighting terrorism, but I don't see how it accomplishes anything. Right now, you need a birth certificate and a driver's license (or S.S. card) to get back into the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, and those other places. Those are the same documents you use to get a passport. It's the same thing. If they can reliable ascertain the authenticity of those documents (which they should be able to) then requiring a passport doesn't add security. And it won't fuck up my travel plans or completely ruin a week of my life, which it has, because rather than chilling this past week, I've been on the phone 24/7. If I were a conservative, I would probably turn this into some rant against "big government," but I believe in the ability of government to help people and improve lives. Instead, this is the outcome of a completely incompenent government. It is really inexpliciable that they would not inticipate the increased demand for passports. What were they thinking?

All right, so now that I have my passport, I'll be in Israel for the next ten days, so Super Dartmouth will be on vacation. As a sophomore, I'll be at Dartmouth for the summer, so this blog will be back in full effect around June 21. And for the first time, I'll be able to actually blog from Dartmouth.

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