Friday, January 30, 2015

USPS: can't live with/out it

So back in October I needed to renew my passport. I had somehow gotten through LAX customs last year but misplaced it soon after, so I couldn't just renew it. I had to go submit a new application. A few visits to the post office across the street from where I work rendered me impatient. Although it was a no-appointments needed situation, the line was always queued with no less than 20 people. So I got an 800 number to call to make an appointment, then was redirected to calling the post office directly.

There are a couple post offices within blocks of each other in Hollywood, so I made an appointment 4 weeks out from when I called-- the earliest Saturday appointment they had.

I fill out all my paperwork, have my ORIGINAL birth certificate delivered from my parents safe at the bank at home (a copy wouldn't do).

I wake up extra early, get to the post office 30 minutes before my appointment. I actually had forgotten which post office I had made the appointment -- there are 2 in Hollywood just blocks from each other -- hence my desire to be early. But I guessed right the first time, as I waited my turn and asked at the window if I was, indeed, scheduled there. The lady brought out an old clipboard with a basic chart of an appointment schedule that day, names written in various scrawly handwriting. I saw my name, spelled wrong of course, in the 10 am slot. Perfect.

I walk to the nearby drugstore to get some magazine reading material...I am dubious that they will actually be ready for me at 10, so might as well be prepared. I pass all the weird local Hollywood characters you would expect on a Saturday morning. Hollywood Boulevard is the Times Square of LA. It's where tourists want to visit, but where the locals try to avoid.

I arrive back at the post office at 5 minutes to 10. Stand in line again, just to make sure someone will be at the special passports window to help me. I get up to the regular service window in front of a different employee than the first.

I ask where I can stand to be ready for passport applications, and he turns to his coworkers and says, "Yeah, I don't think we're doing passports, today. Are we?"

"Oh, no no no. I have an appointment," I assured him, firmly. "What. The. Hell!" I think to myself, feeling a pang of nervousness. 

"Hmm," he replies.

He turns to his coworker who is helping someone else. She kind of just shrugs with an "I guess?" kind of expression and finishes doing a complicated order for someone. Then I'm finally helped at the special passport window! I have double copies of everything just in case, and to reiterate that yes, I'm an upstanding, responsible American. She unhurriedly shuffles through all the paperwork and compiles everything together.

I speak only when prompted, ask no other questions other than if she needs anything else from me. I've quadruple-checked the checklist already, so I know what she'll be asking for.

A few minutes later, an astute woman comes in and stands a few feet behind me, paperwork in hand.

I just kind of turn around, raise my eyebrows, nod, and give her a knowing look. She reciprocates a nod, confirming that she understands what I'm conveying. "Yeah, this is pretty bullshitty, but you just gotta get through it."

We go to ANOTHER window to pay the fee, and I very emphatically thank the woman helping me several times.

Then, by some miracle, 4 weeks later I actually receive it. Phew. Adventures await!

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