Who’s your bet to win the Masters?
I’m going to depart from taxi matters briefly this month as something good actually came out of a recent encounter I had with the Federal government I think you might be interested in.
Let’s start with me saying I have had very few dealings with any level of government I feel comfortable with saying were in any way positive. Ever.
My wife and I have had long standing plans to take a few days off over March break, sharing a condo with in-laws down in St. Augustine, Florida.
Here’s where I must admit to being a total ass. I didn’t check my passport to ensure all was in order. I honestly thought it was good for at least another year and like a total idiot, didn’t bother to check.
So we loaded up the van on a Friday evening, planning to get five or six hours of the drive south done, crash at some inexpensive motel, likely just north of Pittsburg, and then do the rest of the drive Saturday.
So my lady, just out of curiosity, asked if I had my passport in the car. I said yes, but couldn’t immediately find it in my baggage and went back to retrieve it. But she did find it, right where it was supposed to be, and just out of curiosity again, she checked the expiry date. I got back to the van after a vain search – I was sure I’d packed it, but before I could say anything she said “Did you know your passport expired March 1st? (This was the 10th.)
Have you ever had one of those total brain freeze moments when you realize you’ve just made a horrible mistake? At least a US official at the border didn’t discover it and turn us back. THAT would have been a very awkward drive back home.
My lady got on to the net and looked up the process for getting a new passport urgently. Yes, there is one. I then spent the next 1½ hours going though a long and gawd-awful set of instructions over the phone. I did manage to leave a message at a passport office number in Ottawa (there is a Toronto urgent passport office number but I hit the wrong button on the phone) and then rushed out to get a new set of passport photos taken and a (short form) passport application.
I filled out the application, got my references lined up and we debated putting her on to a plane south, while I could drive down the following Monday or Tuesday once I got the new passport. At least her time off wouldn’t be totally screwed. But this plan didn’t go anywhere as we decided to figure out what the story was on Saturday.
On a faint hope next morning I drove up to Brampton’s passport office as the web site says it is open Saturdays. It is NOT open Saturday. But about 9:30 am, my lady got a call from the Ottawa passport office telling me to be at a passport office at 1:30 at a nondescript mall in Mississauga, with all my properly filled in documentation and our itinerary. I drove home and on the off chance I might be able to get the passport immediately, she decided to come along with me. Gee, she’s smart.
This office is not marked in any way. Just a locked door, but another couple was there waiting. They told us they had the same problem and we were to wait. As an aside, other people arrived as we were waiting, we had a very nice talk and it was gratifying to see I’m not the only screw-up out there.
At 1:20, two very nice ladies came out of the door with a couple of portable tables and went though our documentation. I asked, and was told no, I don’t have to come back Sunday or Monday, but to hang around for an hour or an hour and half and it should be ready, providing my references checked out!
So we hung around and within an hour (!!!) my new passport was in my hands. We were on the road by 2. My stupidity only cost us a day and my lady didn’t shoot, strangle, poison or otherwise harm me. She now says we worked together to solve a problem. I was very smart to marry her. Why she married me is another question.
But who would have thought any government agency could be as helpful or accommodating as these passport people were, (once that stupid telephone message was negotiated).
The service wasn’t cheap, but I am truly impressed with how well we were served. This is something the folks at the City of Toronto should take note of. These were government employees who understand that people are fallible and make mistakes, and they are there to serve us, not the other way around.
Oh, and I did get a column and a good conversation topic out of it.
One other note: if you do happen to go to the US in the near future, please do not, under any circumstances, talk politics with any US citizen. Too many people south of the border are carrying guns legally. In my experience, both sides of the pro/anti Trump debate are rabid and certifiable. I got out of a couple of possible scrapes by sincerely declaring that in Canada we have our own problems deciding which rascal(s) running for political office to vote against. If really pressed, I said I didn’t like either Clinton or Trump, but as long as the US keeps its mitts off of the Great Lakes, their President was their problem, not mine. That seemed to keep things civil and we could go on to discuss important issues, like who is going to win the Masters golf tournament in April.