My thrilling trip to Italy this summer ended with my passport leaving me at O’Hare Airport on 1 July. Could not find it recently and Chicago immigration point after Rome to ORD flight was last time I had it in my hand.
So, off we go to figger out replacement. Last time I lost it in 2009, made an appointment at my trusty little post office in Imperial Beach, CA and had new passport in a couple of weeks, EZ.
It took 2 hours one morning this week to get on the phone to get through to the Imperial Beach PO. Contact person, not Owney, the official Post Office mascot in photo right, told me that they no longer handle passports and gave me an 800#. BARK, GROWL!
Called the 800#, with tail dragging, low expectations. Result was even lower. “Please leave your name and phone number, so that we can call you back to make an appointment for your passport.”.
Good Gawd, could you invent more inefficiency than this? Well, Amtrak comes to mind.
Why would you not have an online pasport application? Fill out the form, attach a recent photo jpg, Paypal or credit card the fee and within a week, ok 2?, go to designated guvmint office with ID and pick up your new passport.
Heck, credit card companies handle this within 1 hour to 24 hours to give you an answer on your credit worthiness and mail your new card for shopping pronto.
Imagine calling an airline, bookstore, computer retail shop, “Sheets, Shower Curtains and Spoons” store or “Wine and Sex Toy” vendor and coming to the dead end of “If you leave a message, we will call you back”. That is nearly as fatal as the famous Microsoft blue screen of death.
Astonishing news flash! The passport clerks called me back the same day. And they had the best news ever. “This is the passport appointment center. If you still need help, call us back, at 1 800 800 one 9800 one. Thanks a lot.”
geewillickers and goshdarnits. That was so kind of them to invite me to call them again(wtf is up with that 800-801-9800-1 phone #?) so that I could leave another message for them to call me back. Guess it’s a shovel ready jobs project to have a phone bank of clerks instead of a user-friendly website. Speakin of shovels, my favorite take on bureaucracies comes from economist Milton Friedman:
The story goes that Milton Friedman was once taken to see a massive government project somewhere in Asia. Thousands of workers using shovels were building a canal. Friedman was puzzled. Why weren’t there any excavators or any mechanized earth-moving equipment? A government official explained that using shovels created more jobs. Friedman’s response: “Then why not use spoons instead of shovels?” typepad.com
But, guvmint bureaucratic sludge spawns entrepreneurs. There now exist agencies, non guv, who will “expedite” your new passport for a fancy fee. OK, if I were headed off to Thailand or Barcelona soon, I might jump on an expeditor. But, it’s just me, an overfed, long haired, leaping gnome, needing a passport for my next undesignated adventure next year.
For whatever reason, I decided to continue an online search approach for my replacement passport. Good fortune was mine, as I found a website showing a handful of locations in San Diego that still do the passport thing. Chula Vista library at the Otay Lakes shopping mall does it all.
Called the library, was greeted pleasantly, told I did not need an appointment and please bring a check for the service. When was the last time I was in a library? I look forward to seeing what a library has to offer in 2016.
Will report back on my experience and turnaround time for application to delivery.
written by Crusty Curmudgeon, our staff chronic whiner