As we get ready to go to Scotland in a few days I can’t help but think about the last time we flew internationally. I am a planner and a list maker. I like to know everything is organized and ready to go. Imagine my surprise then when we were just 12 days from going to the UK for a month when I realized that my passport was going to expire while we were there! And just to make it interesting, the day I discovered this was December 20th. I swear my heart stopped for a minute. We had spent thousands of dollars on flights, hotels, and apartment rentals. My mind started racing through all of the possibilities. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my husband, that maybe he would be flying alone with a 1 year old and a 3 year old to visit his parents. Not to mention that a huge part of the reason we were going was because I had received a grant to do research in London, which would be difficult to do if I couldn’t get there. I immediately got on the internet hoping for a miracle. Most of the so called expedited services couldn’t guarantee anything quicker than 2 weeks. The Department of State website offered a ray of hope. For expedited service you could go in person to a passport center, if you could get an appointment. I held my breath and called the number. First, I tried the office in New York City. After wading through a gigantic phone tree an automated voice gave me the option of making an appointment in a week, just 2 days before the trip. That didn’t seem like a viable choice to me so I hung up and started the call over. This time I picked Boston and luck was on my side. They had an appointment in 48 hours, but it was unclear if I would be walking out of it with a new passport. After I had the appointment booked I went and told my husband that he would be doing the daycare run on Tuesday, because I needed to drive six hours round trip to Boston to get a new passport. He wasn’t too pleased about the whole situation. Then I raced off to my local CVS to get the world’s worst passport pictures taken. When you unexpectedly get a picture taken at 8:30 pm after a long, stressful day it really is destined to be bad. Imagine half a step better than a mug shot and you will have the general idea.
That Tuesday I got up at the crack of dawn and drove to the Tip O’Neil Federal Building in Boston. I waited anxiously, in a room of other anxious people for my name to be called. When it was my turn I went up to the little glass window, like you generally find at convenience stores in the less savory parts of town. I pushed my pile of documents through the space in the glass and waited. I tried for a friendly smile, while also attempting to seem non-threatening but desperate, in the hopes that he would take pity on me. After looking through my papers and asking me a few questions, the guy almost seemed a bit apologetic when he said “you will have to come back at 4 o’clock to pick it up. Is that ok?” I wanted to scream “are you kidding, that’s fantastic” but I refrained and just said “great, thank you, so much for your help.” That meant that I had all afternoon to kill in Boston. I was quite close to Quincy Market, so I walked there. I went into Union Oyster House and had a lunch of oysters, champagne and clam chowder. It was delicious and no toddlers were there to have a fit because their grilled cheese came with cheese on it, or any other such nonsense. Then I walked around the market and bought some stocking stuffers. Then I got a coffee and found a chair on the second floor of the market to relax. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas and there was some delightful live music playing. After a bit I called my sister and had a nice chat with no interruptions to wipe butts or break up fights. Shortly before 4 I went back to the Federal Building and found a place in line. At 4 on the dot, a couple people came out of the office and each person in line went forward and got their passport. Easy peasy. When I had my passport in my hand a great wave of relief washed over me. We were going to be able to go on our trip after all. On top of that I had a great day that was totally unexpected. Of course it wasn’t all fantastic. Because I was leaving Boston at rush hour it added almost 2 hours onto my drive home. Still, I put a podcast on in the car and enjoyed the ride.