Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How I have spent approximately 374 hours in the week

Mr. WG's company has an incentive program thing where departments/people who hit certain revenue targets are part of a "Golden Circle." Last year, the first year Mr. WG was eligible, he qualified, but the trip was to Orlando for 3 days right before we left for Israel, so we couldn't go. This year, he qualified again, and the trip is to the Bahamas in mid-March, and so he and I and Baby A are going on vacation.

Of course, the Bahamas are not technically in the United States, which means that we all need passports. Mr. WG and I, of course, have all our documents in order, but Baby A, being new here and all, did not. So, on Thursday, the day after the trip was announced, Mr. WG went online and filled out an application for a passport, printed it, and then asked me where Baby A's birth certificate was.

We both looked and thought about it, and we agreed that we didn't have it -- the state never sent it. So, we made a few calls, found out where we could go to get a certified copy in person, on the spot, and off we went.

Imagine the longest line you have ever seen. Then double it. That is what we found when we arrived at the Office of Vital Statistics. But we took a number, sat down, and made fun of everyone around us in Hebrew for over an hour and a half.

When we were finally called up, we presented our form and requested our son's birth certificate. The woman behind the counter typed some information into her "computer" -- and I use that term VERY loosely -- and after 15 or 20 minutes determined that she could not find a record of our son's birth.

And yet, the baby in question clearly HAD been born, as he was present.

The woman then left, with no explanation to us, and disappeared for about 15 more minutes. When she reappeared, she explained that A's birth had been registered in Austin, and they could see the record in Austin, but they could not see it in Houston. Makes sense, right? Yeah, we didn't think so either. Was there perhaps some kind of solution? Well, she allowed, they could ask Austin to fax the record over...tomorrow.

We left.

The next day was Friday. The caterpillar ate... no, wait, wrong story. Sorry. Anyway. Friday. I picked J up from school and took him with me to pick up the birth certificate. At the door, I told the security guard that I had been there previously, briefly explained what had happened, and told him that they were supposed to have my certificate by now. He sent me to Window 10.

At Window 10, the woman had NO IDEA what I wanted from her. After several explanations, she called someone else to come talk to me. That woman told me that Austin still hadn't faxed over the information, but she would call them RIGHT NOW.

Apparently, RIGHT NOW means "sometime in the next hour" when you work in a government office, because it was a good 54 minutes before I saw her again.

"I'm waiting for that fax," she said.

Another 30 minutes passed. She called me into a back room. "Here's the thing," she said. "They sent me this record, but I can't print it, because it's certified by the state, not the city."

Um, what now?

"Well, the system is down. So you can keep waiting, and maybe I'll get it, or you can come back next week to get it."

It was late already, and Friday is Friday, and Shabbat comes in, so I left. Monday morning, Mr. WG went to pick it up, and miraculously, it was there. So we had a birth certificate. Onward, to the passport office!

According to their Web site, the passport office at the closest post office is open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. We arrived at 12:20. On the number dispenser was a handwritten sign: No numbers. Please sign in inside."

Mr. WG went in and asked the woman behind the counter where the sign in sheet was. "I need to take my lunch," she said. "I get 30 minutes for lunch. I'm going to take care of these people, and then I'm going to take my lunch, and the longer you delay me, the longer the delay will be."

We gaped at her. I mean, truly, we GAPED at her. "So... where is the sign in sheet?" Mr. WG asked again.

"I'll put it back out when I leave for lunch," said the woman.

Mr. WG was actually laughing as we left because it was just that unbelievable.

But wait. There's more.

We decided that we would go this morning, first thing in the morning. We got there a few minutes before 9 am. There was a single car in the parking lot. We waited in the car until another car pulled in, then I got out to claim our spot in line. But when I opened the outer door to the building, I saw a handwritten sign on the interior door: "Will re-open Wednesday, 2/24/10."

"Oh. My. GOD." I said, except that it sounded a little more like WTF? (I'm classy when I'm annoyed.)

Mr. WG called the first phone number listed on the official signage, and we listened as it rang, unanswered, on his cell and in the locked office. Then we called the second number listed, an 800 number. After about 7 minutes of navigating menu options, Mr. WG got a live person who was happy to tell him what he needed to get a passport for his infant (complete an application, bring 2 photos, the birth certificate, proof of both parents' citizenship....). "That's great," said Mr. WG, "but you haven't answered my question, which is Why is this woman allowed to arbitrarily CLOSE HER OFFICE for the day?"

"Well, maybe this is her lunch break," came the helpful reply.

We managed to find another post office that processes passports, and our application went out today. Believe me, people, I will have EARNED this vacation by the time we leave.

4 comments:

Shosh said...

When Im waiting in line at governemnt offices or when Im on hold on the phone with them is when I have abuot 90% of my homicidal thoughts.

I hope you get your passport soon!!!

DESJ and Company said...

Only you!!!!

Maybe I should get my kids their passports?

Anonymous said...

I must be some kind of sick, b/c I love your whining.

I find it thoroughly enjoyable. You do it with such venomous style.

I think you're fabulous!

Alexandra

Ellen said...

I got all worked up just reading this!!! You made it funny, though.

This puts our hour-long wait for passports the other year all in perspective. That was so easy!