Passport Hell

In early January, my editor at Serious Eats contacted me about a press trip to Jalisco, to visit a tequila distillery. She had been invited, but the timing wasn’t going to work for her, so she wanted to pass along the opportunity to me.

Only problem was, the last time I was able to travel internationally was in December 2001, and I had let my passport expire since that trip. Oh, and I’ve lost it somewhere along the way, too. Well, that’s understandable. Since December 2001, I’ve moved — hm, let’s see — six times. You lose shit when you move.

Jen had a day off, and so I went to the Brooklyn Public Library’s passport office. This alone turned into a comedy of stupid because I forgot my checkbook. So I had to go to a bank to withdraw some cash and then to a pharmacy to buy two money orders, and then go back to the passport office.

I had to fill out the form twice, unfortunately. I was having the packaged addressed to my wife at work because mail delivery at our place is unreliable, and an active passport is not a thing you want to lose. But because I had Jen’s name listed as the c/o, and her firm’s name and floor number in the address, everything on the address lines got way complicated, and the workers in the passport office needed everything spelled out exactly in a certain way.

In the midst of all this hustle and shuffle, though, I managed to fill in the wrong address on the passport form. Not that I realized that, in that moment. So thinking everything was hunky AND dory, I came home.

And waited.

The passport office sent me an update at the end of January, telling me that my passport application had been processed. Then I got another email with a tracking number, telling me it was en route. It reached New York, NY, on February 8, and then nothing.

Went out for delivery on the following Saturday, and then it disappeared. No new tracking information on the website. After a week of no updates, I called USPS customer service. This was how I learned the passport had been misaddressed. It should have gone through the FDR Post Office on Third Avenue, but because the street address was incorrect (a 4 in place of a 6), it went to the Grand Central Terminal Post Office instead.

We had phone numbers for people at both post offices. One person called Jen to tell her FDR didn’t have it. No one ever contacted us from GCT.

Then the morning of February 26, I got a call from Charlotte, South Carolina. A woman left a voicemail saying she was from the passport office and my birth certificate had been returned to them, because it was also misaddressed. (That pesky 4, again.)

So the birth certificate went out after the passport but was returned to sender before the passport was. When I called back, she was very helpful. She readdressed the birth certificate, which I received a week later.

Then she said, okay, you still have five weeks before travel. That’s plenty of time for us to cancel the old passport and issue a new one, if we need to. So just wait a few days to see if it finally reaches you.

I called the main line for the passport office on Friday, February 28. I spoke to a different person who said, try going to the post offices to ask for a trace on the package.

I spent the better part of a Saturday morning bouncing between post offices while Jen stayed home with the kids. No luck.

The following Monday was March 3, one week ago. I called the passport office again, told them I had had no luck with USPS. The woman said, “Okay, wait a few days and then fill out a Statement of Non-Receipt of Passport and mail it to this address.”

Not even an hour later, a woman called from Charlotte again, asking for the latest on my passport. When I told her, she laughed and said, “Don’t worry about USPS or going to our site to download the form. I’ll email it to you, and you can email it back, or fax it. That’ll be much faster.”

Wednesday, I sent the form back to her via email, fax, belt, and suspenders. She called a couple of hours later to say, “We’re issuing you a new passport. It’ll go Express Mail. You should have it Friday or Monday.”

Passport arrived today, at Jen’s office, at the correct address. (Fuck you, 4.)

Oh, and someone apparently eventually found the old one at GCT, because it finally got returned to the passport office. Yesterday. Who knows how long it will take to get there?

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