Thoughtfully Lovely is having a birthday! WOW! Thoughtfully Lovely is one today! It feels like a lot longer than a year but, at the same time, it feels like I wrote my first post yesterday. I remember where I was the moment my stomach filled with butterflies and I hit the “publish” button. I was in Chicago by myself in a Starbucks. I had been there all day and not because I wanted to. Have you ever sat in a Starbucks for 4 hours? It’s great for people watching in the city. Let me tell you a funny story about a girl with an expired passport. How to expedite your passport should never be a post….it was a horrifying experience.
My daughter was getting married last year in Cabo. To prepare, we reserved all of the rooms and bought all of the plane tickets, organized with the wedding coordinator and bought the dress. We invited everyone and planned all of the events for the week-long celebration. Along the way I had briefly pulled out one of our passports and checked that the expiration dates were all good. All clear.
We continued to make centerpieces and make the last preparations for the wedding and we were all set to travel July 17. On July 10, one week before we were supposed to go, a thought popped into my head that I better just check all of the passports thoroughly and get them ready to go. There are 7 of us. All of them were current…..EXCEPT MINE!
I went into full panic mode. I guess over the years everyone needed a renewal at different times and I just didn’t think about it. I got online and started researching how long it would take to expedite my passport if I went the next day….3 WEEKS! The mother of the bride may not be able to make her own daughter’s wedding! The ugly crying I did is almost embarrassing and I had NO idea what I was going to do.
So, I Googled because Googling something solves all problems, right?! There were plenty of sites that would easily expedite your passport. Just send them your expired passport, your first-born, all of your savings and the deed to your home. Then they will mail you back a valid passport sometime soon. I am not sending my passport anywhere but I really appreciate you trying to help a girl out. Google did not solve my problems.
I then found out that you can actually go to a Passport Agency. Don’t try to call and expect to speak to a human…..you won’t be able to speak to anyone. You can make an appointment on the phone, but you will never speak to an actual person to answer your questions…and I had a ton of them. So I made an automated appointment for July 12 because that was the first time available. I still had no idea if they would mail me my passport on time (remember we were going to leave July 17.)
Before the appointment I had to go to the Post Office and get a photo taken in the appropriate size for a passport because that is typically where you go to renew your passport. I could have taken it at home, but I didn’t want to take any chances on it not being right. The other bit of information is that there are only passport agencies in certain cities. I could choose between Atlanta or Chicago. I chose Chicago as it is much closer to Indianapolis and could be driven in a morning.
How to Expedite Your Passport
I woke up early July 11, even though my appointment was July 12 and headed up north for the 3 1/2 hour drive. I thought I would take my chances that they would help me. The website did say that they take walk-ins. I was ready to spend the morning there and brought snacks and my computer. I had no idea what to expect and I was willing to do it all again the next day if I didn’t get through.
How I thought it would go:
Walk in to a nice office and wait in a lobby in a soft chair for them to take me back and talk to me with soft music playing overhead. I would hand them my paperwork and be out of there in an hour with a promise of a passport on the way to my home overnight. How many people could be wanting a passport? Turns out….a lot.
How it really went down:
Driving in downtown Chicago is difficult. It is hard to navigate and get around. After the 3 1/2 hour drive to get there before it opened so I could be first in line, I had to try to find parking. Not easy…or cheap. But I didn’t care. I finally found parking for $20/day and headed out to find the building. I found it and so did EVERYONE ELSE in the region. Apparently it is the only agency that serves several surrounding states. Awesome. The line was so long and wrapped around the building but at least the weather was nice (staying positive). I got in line with 200 other people and we were herded like cattle through the line. Police officers with guns on their hips were no joke. It was crazy…and I hadn’t even gotten to the office yet. I wondered what problems they were expecting and for a moment I thought “is this how I go down?”.
One by one they admitted us. If you didn’t have your paperwork filled out properly and a proper photo cropped the right size, they sent you out of the line and said “come back later”. *Bullet dodged.* I got through with my correct paperwork and was ushered to an elevator to head up to the office. I thought, “Now I am good!”. I got off the elevator to two armed guards asking me where I am going. “Do you have an appointment?”, “No” , “Then you need to go to THAT line”. THAT line had 50 people in it. Entire generations of families with 7 kids. People from foreign lands that wanted to get back home. The line for people with appointments? 2 people. “I should have come tomorrow”. This was going to be a long day.
There are so many rules, too. No cellphones, computers or food. Triple whammy. I saw guards and guns on hips everywhere I looked. I even had to get permission to use the bathroom. It was one big room full of people and looked like the DMV, to give you an idea. Hard chairs and 25 windows with 4 agents working. Typical government agency. I waited an hour in that line to have my paperwork looked at, again, and then got a number to wait another 2 hours for it to be called.
I finally got my number called. I handed the agent my papers and check and she stamped it. She said “Come back here at 4:30 and I will give you your passport”. I started crying and was so relieved. I tried to tell her my story but she didn’t seem too interested. She said nothing and just stared at me blankly. Didn’t even smile.
I headed over to Starbucks to spend the day there. I didn’t want to shop or tour the city. I just wanted to wait the 4 hours, get my passport and be on my way. I brought my computer in and continued working on my blog. Then I did it….I pushed “publish”.
It took me a really long time to work up the courage to start this. I asked all the questions you would ever think to ask yourself. “Who would want to read what I have to say?” “What will I talk about?” “Will anyone actually READ this?” “Is this interesting?”…all the questions. But, I did it! And I am so happy I did! If nothing else, I have a really great account of all of my projects in one place and a story for my kids to read, right?!
I packed up my things around 4:20 and headed back to pick up my passport and be on my way home for dinner. What I didn’t know is that every agent had told every person there to be back at 4:30! O.M.G. I walked up to a line literally around the building. Security guards were yelling at everyone. If you stepped out of line, they wouldn’t let you back in. Kids were crying and people were cursing.
The same process used in the morning was being used now. You had to verify what you were there for and they only let a few people at a time through the gate. Again, a line to get a number to get your passport. 3 hours later I had it in my hand. Exhausted, I made my way to my car, paid the $20, navigated through the city and started the 3 1/2 hour trek home. What a nightmare!!
I made it to the wedding! I never told my daughter until we were all in Mexico, relaxing at the pool. She really had no idea. You can see a clip of their beautiful wedding here. I will NEVER make that mistake again and I hope, for your sanity’s sake, you never make it either. Did that story give you anxiety? It gave me some just writing it. Just know that, if it does ever happen to you, you need to find the nearest passport agency, make an appointment, get there early and prepare for a long day! But you will have your passport at the end of it, so there is hope. Or just throw yourself onto a sword….there’s always that and it might be a better experience.