Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Passport Purgatory!

Originally uploaded by gravitywave
With all the terrorist threats from within and without, it is somewhat ironic to me that I, a taxpaying citizen born in the United States with no criminal record or even a traffic ticket to my name, would encounter significant snafus when trying to get a passport to travel to Amsterdam this month for a vacation.

I’d planned the trip several months before, but shortly after submitting my passport application on April 17, I decided to postpone my May 14 trip indefinitely since I’d just spent a bundle moving to my new coop — plus which my boyfriend had balked at going in the first place. It turned out to be a wise move on my part.

Granted, I should have applied earlier, but supposedly if one paid extra for rush service, one could obtain a passport in about two weeks' time. I had an old passport which I’d received without incident years ago for my first and, thus far, last trip abroad to England, but it was still packed away somewhere — who knows where — and was likely expired in any case. So I went to the post office, submitted the required forms and documents, and waited for my passport to arrive via prepaid express mail within about two weeks.

A fortnight later, on May 1, I received a call from the National Passport Center in New Hampshire which was processing my application. A woman informed me that the ID I’d submitted was not sufficient to establish my identity. I’d provided a New York State non-driver’s ID, which I thought was identical for all intents and purposes to a regular driver’s license. I’d certainly gone through hell to procure it a few years ago — having been compelled to do so after my bank insisted that it was now needed to open an account or withdraw funds — due, of course, to post-9/11 precautions. It had served me well since I’d obtained it, and I assumed it was as good as gold as far as establishing that I was, indeed, who I purported to be. Granted, the photo was horrible, but better mortified than stuck at the bank with no cash with a dumb look on my non-identifiable face.

The postal worker who processed my form two weeks before had enclosed a photocopy of my New York State ID along with an original copy of my birth certificate (which she assured me would be returned when I received my new passport) and sent my application out via express mail.

In any case, the woman on the phone this fine May morning informed me that I needed to submit five more forms of ID with my signature or photo, and rattled off many possible examples of same. When I asked why my ID was not sufficient, she said she didn’t know — that was something the passport analyst determined. She said that a letter with full details would be sent out to me, but had no more information as to why I’d been “singled out” for this special scrutiny.

Later that day, I began to get a funny feeling that maybe this had been a phony call. It just didn’t make any sense to me, since I’d heard and read nothing about extra ID being required for a passport. When I checked the US Department of State’s website, I could find nothing to that effect. Furthermore, many of the links which were provided for more information did not work — at least not on my computer on that evening. I suspected that many other fellow citizens anxious to finalize their vacation plans abroad had been jamming up the site; perhaps, I thought, it was simply overloaded with inquiries.