Saturday, December 19, 2009

International Woman of Mystery

I was wondering recently, when exactly does one become a drama queen? Is it when the drama takes place? Or only when you tell someone about it? I'm thinking drama queens need an audience. The audience decides whether your drama is worth a crown. But if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one around to hear it, is there any sound? So when the drama takes place but you don't tell anyone, is it no longer a drama? The following is sort of relevant to that. If I don't tell you what happened, does it go away?  Perhaps it's best not to overthink this.  

For the second time in my life my passport went missing. The first time, I had kept it tucked inside a large wallet, which I accidentally left on a table at a restaurant. I walked fifteen feet out the door, turned right back around to get it and the wallet was gone. I knew the restaurant owner and suggested that the busboy may have picked it up, since our plates, etc., were also gone, but no-o-o-o-o, she wouldn't even ask the guy.

I reported the loss that afternoon to the Chicago cops and a detective called me back. "Well, nobody can use it because it's yours," he said. You're kidding right? That was over twenty-five years ago.

Recently I discovered my passport had disappeared again, out of the secret luggage compartment where I kept it, along with the purse it was hidden in. Don't even think about making fun of me. No really. Just shut up. 

Since I have family living out of the country, who occasionally want me to visit as long as I don't stay too long, I filled out the paper work well over a month ago at my local P.O. for a new passport. I also decided to get one of those cards for traveling to Mexico and Canada.

I noticed right away that the passport personnel I had dealt with the last time were no longer working there. Instead of the well-coiffed Asian women in designer suits who spoke with British accents and took care of me from behind large desks in their private offices, I met with a frizzy blond-haired woman in jeans and a sweatshirt with distinct Chicago speech, who looked like a recovering meth addict.

"My passport is gone," I said to Martha the Meth-head, "I think it's been stolen. I need to replace it." I was mesmerized by her wild and woolly hair frizz, which had four inches of gray before it suddenly turned blond. 

I gave her the paperwork I had filled out, along with my birth certificate, all the while trying to figure out how long it had been since she'd done her roots. I also wrote a giant check to cover replacing my passport, getting the visa-like travel card for Canada and Mexico, and having everything expedited. 

After three weeks, I realized things weren't being expedited. So I stopped in at my post office on a recent Saturday to talk to Martha, who still looked like a Meth-head, and ask as nicely as I could, WTF?

She called the secret number for passports and got no answer.  I said, "If it's the state department; they probably don't work on Saturday." Duh. On Monday she reached them and then contacted me.

Apparently there's another form to fill out when your passport is lost or stolen. Martha neglected to have me do that. Her mistake. "I don't know why I forgot." Neither do I, especially since we'd had a long discussion about how my passport was stolen/lost/whatever. 

Turns out Martha also didn't mention that I could track the status of my passport online. I would have discovered there was a problem a lot sooner. Martha's mistake numero dos. 

Here's the best part: apparently the passport bureaucrats were going to SEND me a letter requesting the extra form. They couldn't CALL ME?!! They had MY phone number; not to mention they had the phone number of the post office, too. 

In fact, what was it about paying through the nose to have my passport expedited that made the passport peeps think that SENDING a letter would be timely? During Christmastime. When there are already a gazillion extra pieces of mail that have to be delivered. 

After meeting with Martha and overnighting the missing forms, I checked my passport status online and discovered that it was being processed and would arrive "overnight" within the next three days. 

Arrive overnight in three days. Our government at work. 

As if to mock me, the passport arrived in one day. But there was no visa-card to use for travel to Canada and Mexico. So I stopped by the post office one more time.  "I got my passport, but I didn't get my visa card. Could you check to see why?"

"How much money did you write the check for?"

"A boatload more than it was worth."

"Oh, well, you obviously didn't pay for the visa card, because that would have been $25 more." 

"But I told you I wanted that card."

"Well, the request wasn't made." 

You mean, YOU didn't make the request. 

Martha the Meth-head had made mistake number three. At this point, death was an option. But no, I decided to write an entry about this little drama for my blog. 

Ultimately, the mystery is how a woman like that manages to keep her job. 


Remo said...

Drama Queens come with the prerequisite of an audience. Barring an audience, they tend to resort to calling radio talk shows or calling Cops to "do something about it." Or they write blogs.

I'm betting Martha is an ACORN alumni. You get what you vote for.

Jeannette said...

Hi Mrs. L. I saw your comment on Jon's blog and noticed you are spending Christmas in England with your family and having a traditional English time so I just wanted to send my good wishes from over here in England. Merry Christmas to you and yours. Got me wondering now if they live anywhere near me lol