Since I'm sure you're [sarcasm] waiting with bated breath [/sarcasm] to learn the outcome of the Missing Passports Saga, I will now issue forth:
Went to Belmont post office at 9:15 am, but was told that passport services were not available until 10:00 and that I should make an appointment. The first available was 10:30. Drove from Belmont to Ranch 99 in Foster City to purchase 20 lbs. of red rice (don't ask). Drove back to Belmont and read a story from Words Without Borders (I am loving this anthology; pick up a copy!) until 10:25. Emerged from my car and entered a now packed post office. Two guys ahead of me in the passport services line. In a smiling and friendly manner I say to the one in front of me, "Do you have an appointment?"
"There are no appointments."
"Yes there are. I have one for 10:30," I say. The man looks at me like I'm trying to steal his baby. "Do you mind if I just ask the clerk if I'm supposed to go back into the office?"
"This is the only line where they are accepting passports."
"So that's a 'no'?" I ask. Whatever.
When it's the man's turn, karma rears its head. He has come to apply for a passport for his daughter, but he is alone, and both parents and the child must be present in order to apply. He slinks away, and I approach the counter. "Hello Gracie!" I say. I try to jog her memory. I say remember I came in a few months ago and you figured out some way we're related blah blah blah, but Gracie also looks at me like I'm trying to steal her baby.
Since the family card appears to be getting me nowhere, I explain my circumstances. Gracie nods sagely. "You have to wake up at 4:00 in the morning because that will be 7:00 in the East Coast, and that's right when the call center opens. If that doesn't work, you have to go to the San Francisco Passport Agency and just elbow your way in."
"But they don't have any appointments until April 5th," I say. Panic rises, folks. Because this is the house we have already rented and paid for. And you can't see him, but there is also a chef we have paid for, and a housekeeper. And we did this because it is our long-awaited family vacation.
"Doesn't matter," says Gracie. She shrugs her shoulders. "Even if they give you an appointment, all it does is ensure that you can enter the building. There's never any guarantee that you'll be seen. I know a bunch of people who waited from opening 'til closing and never saw anyone."
And so I leave the Belmont post office quite disheartened. I head to my Pilates session to release the tension, but there I grow briefly worried because my trainer's increasingly bizarre directives are beginning to make perfect sense to me. Diamond on my back. Shoulders gliding. A tattoo that starts at the base of my spine and grows. Shorten the space between 6 and 12. Heavy sternum.
I leave there with determination in my step and my eyes on the prize. Pick up Lea at preschool, stop at Mollie Stone's for fresh fish, leeks, etc. Head directly home, put the stuff in the fridge, and guiltily inform Lea that she can watch tv because Mommy really has to make an important call and cannot be interrupted. She happily complies.
And then it begins. For two solid hours I work the phone trying to find a path of glory through the maze that is the passport call center's menu. I visualize speaking to an actual person. I whisper prayers. I make promises to the universe that I cannot possibly keep. And finally, finally, I hear a real voice.
"Hello? Hello?!" I say.
"Hello, ma'am. Are you calling to check on the status of your passports?"
"Yes! Yes! Five of them, actually!" I scream in delight. "I have the locator numbers! Shall I read them to you?"
I don't understand why the man is not as excited to speak to me as I am to speak to him; this makes no sense to me. But I forget all about that when he says the magic words. He says, "Okay, let's take care of this for you. When are you traveling?"
It takes 30 minutes more (by this time Lea's brain has turned to mush, an unfortunate side effect that I will spend the rest of the day correcting), but he finds all the passports, discovers that they were not scheduled to be sent out until April 12th (far, far too late for our long-awaited family vacation), and expedites the process to ensure they will arrive by the end of this week.
I guess it won't be a true happy ending until I'm holding the passports in my hand, but I'm going to hedge my bets and proclaim...trumpets blare...a small victory.