Passport Panic

A bit of context for you fine people first: five weeks and change ago, Denisa and I applied for passports for MC and DC. Kind of hard to go to Europe without them, you know? When we brought the applications in, the person who took them told us the wait time was 4-6 weeks. We had more than 6 weeks to go, and we asked how accurate that was. She was confident we’d be fine, so we didn’t choose the “expedite” option. ($75 more per passport.)

Fast forward to yesterday. The passports have yet to arrive, and mild panic was beginning to set in. What were we going to do if they didn’t come? It’s not a good feeling to have, especially not when you’re a typical hyper-planner such as myself.

I got on the phone with the passport office. This is 2015, I reasoned. Surely they can give me an update on how far off the passports are. (Their website seemed to say they could. I trust websites.) After being on hold for a half hour (“Your call is important to us”), I spoke with a woman at the great passport office in the sky. She took my information, tapped some things into her computer, and helpfully said, “They’re being processed.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Any idea how long until they’re done?”


A pause on my part, as I waited for her to provide some additional information. When she didn’t add anything, I asked, “Well, how long does it usually take for them to finish this part of the processing.”

“You should have them in two weeks.”

A bigger pause this time, as my brain tried to reconcile “two weeks” with “leaving in 8 days.” I cleared my throat. “I . . . uh . . . what can I do to speed that process up a bit?”

“You can pay $75 per passport to request that they be expedited, but that’s just s request, not a guarantee.”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“You can request we speed things up. We might or might not be able to accommodate your request.”

“And it’s $75 either way?”


This woman was a font of knowledge and advice. I don’t know why in the world I didn’t try calling her sooner. “What are my options otherwise?” I asked. She was the customer service rep for the passport agency. Surely she handled this question all the time.

“We can’t guarantee anything.”

And that’s what it kept coming back to. I could fork over $150 to ask nicely if they wouldn’t mind hurrying things up a bit, but that’s all they could do. Needless to say, I was less than pleased when I hung up the phone (having paid $150, because what else was I going to do?) Applying for the passport, it was all “you’ve got plenty of time!” Now it was “4-6 weeks doesn’t include delivery times. We can’t guarantee anything.”

Once I fought down the panic, I went into research mode, and with a bit of effort, I found out that you can get a passport in a day, if you need to. It just involves going in person to a passport office. The nearest one to us is 2 hours away. This seems like a pain (we might have to pay for the passports twice, for example), but when the worst-case scenario goes from “Don’t go on the trip at all” to “spend a day getting passports and fork over another $400 or so), then you have to admit, it does seem like a better alternative at this point. But the only way I can picture those being the only two opportunities open to me is to recognize that the government is involved in this process. Which it is.

Denisa is on phone duty today, calling the local passport office and finding out if they’re any more inclined to provide helpful information. Cross your fingers. It’ll be hard for it to go any worse than yesterday went.

And if any of you fine folk out there have been in a similar situation and have any tips to offer, I’d love to hear them.

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