Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It goes without saying that losing your passport sucks, but having actually experienced it, I now have a real appreciation for what a massive pain in the ass dealing with the government can be- particularly when you need something done quickly. "Quickly" does not seem to be one of the words the State Department likes to apply to it's efforts; I can only imagine some dry board meeting where it was decided that the phrase would be banned from Federal offices, the practice of expediting controlled as tightly as discrimination or thrift. A passport order is expected to take six weeks at the least. I was pretty distraught to realize it would take that long, until I noticed there was an option- surprise!- to expedite your passport application. My joy was short lived; in addition to costing four times as much, an "expedited" passport still takes three weeks to arrive.

So, I went to my old friend Google, the modern-day oracle to which we all owe so much. And believe it or not, there are roughly a quibillion private organizations willing to take large chunks of your money to arrange for a passport on even shorter notice! I was extremely dubious at first (and still am, as my passport has not actually arrived yet) but as soon as I'd put my application in (accompanied, it need not be said, by a significant cash advance) I recieved a call from a very helpful-sounding guy from Washington just exploding with enthusiasm for getting my passport processed and delivered in less than a week. I've hit more than a few snags, what with losing my driver's license as well, but it's moving along quite nicely. The stack of information you need to get an expedited passport is pretty absurd, though- you need five alternate forms of identification which can include some pretty weird stuff:

1. A photocopy of a page in a high school yearbook depicting you
2. Any newspaper article or publicity about you
3. Your report card, as far back as ninth grade
4. Military medals. If only I hadn't misplaced that Legion of Honor...

In any case, this last weekend has been a crazy adventure as I struggle to get all these disparate forms of identification, while applying for a new driver's license. Oddly enough, the New Jersey DMV was fast, effective, friendly, and cheap. I had a new license in, like, half an hour. Who'd have thought?

In more pleasant news, I spent a bunch of time roaming around the cities of Jersey and Union, and took a bunch of pictures which are now on the blog photostream. Union City has this combination of often lovely old brick apartments and absolutely hideous plastic-sided tenements, along with a great number of old, repurposed factories. I've noticed that bizzarely, the older a building is in Union City the better it looks. Even the old Yardley Soap Factory down the road has a certain grandeur that new construction does not match. In Jersey City I saw a bunch of pretty amazing all-brick churches and cathedrals which are the closest I've seen to a local architectural style. I'll endeavour to truck on down to Journal Square with my camera and show some of them off.

Anyways, the information for my passport has all been sent off via FedEx. All that remains is the horrible waiting, to see if the passport arrives as rapidly as promied.

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