Friday, November 16, 2007

If you catch me at the border, I got visas in my name.

I am sorry this is so long.

The Passport drama lives on. As you may recall, back in May I had to go to a passport office in person to get one in time to leave the country. A few days later, UPS tried to deliver a passport to my house, but I was already on my trip so they returned the package to the Charleston office where my original application was processed. This all happened in mid-May.

Fast forward to early November, nearly six months later, and I get a letter in the mail with a return address of "US Government". They seem to think I received two passports, the one I got in Chicago and the one they mailed to me, and they'd like the one I got in Chicago back. They even go so far as to cite Federal statutes that say you can't have more than one valid passport and threaten that if I try to use the Chicago one I may be "detained by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol." Remember, I never got the one they mailed to me, my Chicago one is the only one I have.

I call the number, that same evil number I had to call every day for two weeks in early May, and speak to the same woman who told me to mail them a letter to get my Birth Certificate back. She tells me I should mail them a letter to explain my situation. Why do you have a phone number, email addresses and a website if you are going to insist that every request is made in a letter? She also tells me that she can see that the original passport was returned to the Charleston office. I ask her why the people who sent me the letter can't see the same thing. She says, "Washington DC doesn't know it was returned." Okay, I guess computers haven't made it there yet.

On this letter from the Feds, there is actually a form that you can fill out to tell them that you only received one passport, so apparently this is not a rare occurrence. I fill out the form and mail it back, but I also include my own letter, which I copied to the State Department in an email. The only reply I got to the email was to please fill out the form and mail it in.

Shortly after getting this letter, I had a dream that I was actually in a Passport Office and I was yelling at some woman about what had happened. In the dream, I was was planning to take a short trip to Canada to make sure my passport was still valid. When I woke up, I realized that is actually a good idea.

Here is the letter I sent them:

Dear CLASP Unit,
My records indicate that I have only received one passport, the one numbered chicago#, from the Passport office in the Federal Building in Chicago. I had to go there to get my passport because the Charleston office did not send it to me within their promised time frame of ten weeks. After repeated phone calls advising that my travel date was fast approaching, I still got no assurance that my passport would even be in the mail by the date I was leaving. So, I went to get it in person.
Once I left on my trip, there were attempts to deliver an express mail package to my residence but they failed since I was not at home. According to the woman I spoke with yesterday at the phone number 877-487-2778, this package was returned to the Charleston office. I assume this package contained the passport number charleston#. If she can see this in her computer system, why can’t your office see the same thing?
Your letter indicates that my passport number chicago# is “in the process of being invalidated”. Please do not do this, but invalidate number charleston# instead. I never received that passport. It was returned to your Charleston office. If you insist on invalidating chicago#, I must insist that you send me charleston#. I paid my application fee, plus many other travel expenses to get to Chicago, so I deserve to have one valid passport.
I also request some kind of assurance that whatever passport you decide to keep valid will not cause me to “be detained by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection” as your letter threatens, since I have done nothing wrong.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Too True

Malcolm Gladwell: "What a gifted child is, in many ways, is a gifted learner. And what a gifted adult is, is a gifted doer. And those are quite separate domains of achievement."