Friday, April 10, 2009


The cruel taskmasters at the office have finally allowed me some time off.

I've always wanted to spend April in Paris, so I'm going to Nice instead!

With the economy in decline and the fact that it isn't high season, incredible deals are available. I couldn't resist.

Unusually for me, I planned in advance this time. Almost 2 whole weeks in advance!

Somehow, that almost wasn't enough time. After buying my non-refundable ticket, I realized that I couldn't find my passport. I looked everywhere for it, even in the place where it was supposed to be. I turned my whole house upside down for two days looking, with no luck.

I had to quickly research the shady world of passport expediting services. If you happen to live close to one of the passport-issuing offices, you should be able to get an emergency appointment for a renewal when you are traveling within two weeks. If you don't live nearby, you can hire one of these services to stand in line for you, for a big fee.

Fair enough. That serves a legitimate need. The problem is, these guys get priority treatment at the passport offices, and they scoop up many of the appointments. When I tried to get one for myself, there was no chance. So I committed myself to using the service, and started getting all the paperwork in order. Luckily, I still had an old passport to prove my identity. (Otherwise it would have been a major ordeal.)

I had a day off last Friday, and I wanted to get it done that morning. Plus, I realized that Thursday was the absolute last day to get my smog check without paying a fee, so I took my car in for that around 4, and headed off for passport photos. First I had to get a haircut, another thing I've been too busy to do; can't have bad hair on a photo I'll be carrying for 10 years.

When I got those pictures back, man I was speechless. I knew I was ugly, but come on! I was wet (from the cheapo haircut), pale and puffy like a corpse dragged from a lake, with big raccoon-like bags under my eyes.

I almost canceled the trip just to avoid using those photos.

Started again Friday morning. Got new photos, not quite as ugly, and went to the post office to get my forms "observed" by the agent. I'm trying to rush so I can get the forms sent to the expediting service on time and still have some time to enjoy my day off. No luck. The lady at the post office explained to me that the lady who does the passport papers is off that day, and that while there was a temporary replacement for her, I'd be a fool to let that lady come anywhere near my paperwork. So I took her advice and looked for another place to take my papers. I discovered I could go to the clerk's office in Albany. But I had to hurry. Due to budget cuts, they'd be closing early.

Once there, though, things finally got better. A very competent and helpful clerk told me there was no need to pay through the nose for an expediting service. She could call the passport office manager and get me an appointment for Monday, and she did. (She also told me that the professional passport photos I'd paid for, both the ugly and the less ugly sets, didn't actually meet the specifications and might be declined.) Of course, that meant I had to go to the city on Monday to deposit the forms and then go again on Wednesday to pick it up, but finally it was done!

(So, if vacations are supposed to relieve stress, why are they so stressful?)

No comments: