If you haven’t heard, we’re in a bit of a global passport crisis. Sounds like high class problems and it so very much is compared to literally anything else going wrong in our world right now. But, it’s a thing. And it’s a big one.
If you are trying to travel anytime in the next… 10 years?… and you either don’t have a passport or lost your passport or your current passport is expired or any other reason a passport is a thing that you require…
then you are in a bit of a passport pickle jar, my love.
But maybe I caught you in time because I just got out of passport prison.
And now I will tell the tale of how it was possible.
Ok, so first things first… you will probably try to get your passport / renewed passport, etc. the normal way.
You will apply for it the way it has always been done – well in advance like a good citizen.
You will fill out all of the many, many required forms and try to remember things like what hospital the person who gave birth to you did it in and what favorite ice cream flavor your deceased great uncle liked when he was 7.
You will go to a drugstore or a copy place or mail shop and get your official photo taken which will be taken by someone who has never held a camera before, who will make so very sure that you look like a mob leader or a short fused guidance counselor or someone who needs to speak to the manager.
You will combine the many, many forms and your official photos and you will drive to Cleveland (I imagine this could be either Ohio or North Carolina, but I will be very honest with you and tell you that I have lived in NC for a large part of my life and did not know we had a Cleveland here). Because Cleveland is the only place in existence that has an available appointment in the next decade.
You will confidently pay this gentlemen who took your items from you and did his official computer thing to make them go where they need to go, and you will drive back home from Cleveland where you will confidently wait for your passports to arrive in your mailbox.
You will not receive your passports.
You will call and call and call all the various numbers the websites tell you about and you will be on hold for hours and then get cut off and then try again and sometimes speak to someone who will tell you some version of – yeah, yeah, join the club.
You will soon find out that one of the 4 new passports you are waiting to receive is missing somewhere in Pittsburgh. You are not able to contact Pittsburgh about this problem; you must now merely hate Pittsburgh for stopping your passport fetus from becoming a real boy.
You will do the math one morning over coffee and discover that you have less than a month until you are supposed to leave the country for very important reasons and still have zero passports in the house. Not only do you not have shiny, new passports – you also do not have any version of any passport because they must take all the passports from you in order to make you shiny, new ones.
You – zero passports.
Pittsburgh – One.
You will then learn that you have the ability to make an appointment with another official passport place to fix this problem in person, as this is the only way this problem can be remedied.
You will try to make this appointment, but the person you have finally gotten on the phone this time will tell you some version of – no, I’m sorry – but not really because you are the 768943269th person I have spoken with today about this exact problem – you can only make this new appointment to get your shiny, new passport – even though you already did all the right things – if you are traveling within 2 weeks.
Also, and this part is a hoot –
You have to do this other new passport appointment in either New York or Atlanta.
Those are your only options.
But no one is really sure which one until you have an actual appointment… which you cannot have until you are traveling within 2 weeks.
So you better be able to up and travel whenever and wherever you are told to.
Because you now have zero choices in life.
You freak out just a little bit.
Here’s what you do.
And this is what brings me to you today.
You will call the passport people back, you will wait for another several hours on hold, and you will speak to someone who will again tell you this 2 week rule.
And you will make the appointment anyway.
Because – and it’s really not lying – by the time you are present for this appointment, you will, in fact, be within the 2 week window of travel.
You. Just. Need. An. Appointment.
You land the appointment.
You now have to get more new photos taken because – remember, Pittsburgh and St. Elsewhere have the old ones. And this time the passport people allow you do them at home. So you get your fancy camera and your ring-light and a photographer who is your kid.
You will be absolutely be well lit but look like you woke up in rehab.
The day you are set to leave for your appointment for 4 shiny new passports, your children’s previously ordered and then lost shiny, new passports will show up out of nowhere on your doorstep and really make things fun and interesting.
But they still have to come with you because they are non-adults.
You will leave your
tigers cats alone overnight for the first time with too many breakables but just the right amount of food and water.
You will hope for the best, but settle for the non-worst.
You will drive to Atlanta – and nobody wants to drive to Atlanta – where there will be traffic made of traffic with traffic on the side and a car full of motion sickness adding 2 more hours on to the drive. You will show up to your appointment early like a good citizen but realize that does not mean anything to the passport people because they are their own island and they own your soul.
You will wait in line outside.
You will wait in line inside.
You will be clutching your entire life in paperwork in an old Trapper Keeper.
You will make it past window number one and breathe a little bit.
You will then go through security with your hands up and pockets emptied where of course your husband gets stopped because – jesus, babe, it’s always – and you will wait for window number two where you live now.
The waiting room for the passport windows is like waiting in line at Marshall’s except it’s never your turn.
They give you a number and a letter and you will definitely have the bad letter – the letter for the people that only the really gifted passport people can handle. This letter is probably due to the fact that your husband cannot make it through a security stop ever in life, but you don’t make him feel too bad about that. Your special letter’s advancement goes at about 1/8 of the speed of the better letter.
You will sit in your metal chair for a day and make friends with toddlers because they also need a friend right now.
When it’s your turn, you will be so very kind to your gifted passport person and do everything she tells you to do and not ask questions. You will pay her more money and then you will leave without your passport, living on the promise that it will be sent to you in the mail.
You will survive the traffic on the way home and discover that your cat peed on yet another chair because he has this thing with peeing on things for his father’s attention (don’t they all)
four days later, you will have your passport in hand.
And that’s all it takes to get a passport these days!😅
Look, all actual facts turned into jokes aside, I am beyond grateful that my life allows me to travel.
I’ve been to so many beautiful places our planet has to offer with my little family. And I know it’s a great privilege to have been able to do so.
I don’t think travel alone can make you a better person, that would be elitist of me. But I do believe that if it’s possible, seeing how other people live is beyond an essential ingredient to a well rounded and empathetic human. I didn’t travel until I met my husband. I didn’t have a passport until I was well in my 30’s. And my kids got their first editions when they were single digits.
I still find it fascinatingly hard to wrap my brain around the fact that all of this was to get them NEW ones.
I’m just writing this to hopefully help if you’re in a pickle like we were and share how we got through all the red tape.
Because, seriously… we did all the right things months ago.
It just didn’t matter. There is an extreme passport backlog right now.
And if we didn’t to everything I mentioned in this article, our trip that’s been scheduled for over a year would be impossible.
So. Here’s your quick checklist to make sure you know all the right moves :
- Make your appointment when you can – they are very hard to get – as long as the appointment date lands within 2 weeks of your day of departure. And you better be able to prove that with proof of plane ticket. Note that this is still not considered emergent travel. We were waiting with folks who were flying out THAT DAY.
- Bring more information than you think you need. I’m talking birth certificates, utility bills, proof of insurance, blood type, allergy list, fetishes and fantasies… you never know what rules will change and what mood your passport person may be in.
They own you.
Print and fill out all the forms on your own before you go. These passport people work hard. Don’t add more to their plate. DIY as much as possible.
- Smile at them. Be kind to them. And while it may not be your fault that you’re there… it is most certainly not theirs.
- Make friends with your fellow passport expectors. Friend-making is part of the joy in travel; why not start now!
- Bring snacks.
- Wear comfy shoes.
- Pee first.
- Save the sass for the traffic on the ride home. They own you.
And that’s it!
Good luck to us all as our world still works on trying to function after the pandemic. Life is hard. Sometimes we just have to lean into the chaos to get through.
And one more thing that has not one thing to do with this post, but a lot to do with me.
I wrote something over at medium.com. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the link to :
thanks for reading, y’all. much love x