Saturday, March 17, 2007

Passport Absolutionals[1]

Yesterday, or perhaps two days ago if I do not write this fast enough, I made the trek to Ottawa for a second time. Even though I knew that the lineups were going to be shorter and didn't need to leave as early, I decided to leave early anyway, in order to accomodate a passenger, who would cover at least part of the gas expenses. At 6:28 I was scrambling to be out of the apartment by 6:30, when I received a phone call from my passenger telling me the she misread the time (due to daylight savings) and was not ready yet. She estimated she would need at least another hour to pack. So about an hour later, I left to pick her up. I waited in my car for about 15 minutes until I decided eventually to go knock on the door. It was another 15 minutes before she was ready, so it was around 8:00, the time I had originally planned to leave, before we got on the road.

As with last week, the traffic was pretty good, though there were more cars on the road this time around, unsurprisingly. The traffic was more consistent on the 417 than last week, though slower on average. This reminds me of the rule that we learned in driving lessons... right lane is fer drivin', left lane is fer passin'. This is one of those things that makes sense in theory, but rarely pans out in practice, and when it does, it really doesn't matter what lane you drive in. I don't recall ever being told what to do when there are more than 2 lanes, as in the case of the 417, where there are 4 for most of the length that I drove on. What are the right and left lanes? I see that most drivers pick the rightmost lane, which is fine and makes the most sense when they're near their exit, but they seem to stay put despite the fact that the average speed has slowed to lower than the speed limit, while the average speed in the centre and left lanes is higher [2]. Yeah, it can get a bit dicey when my exit is coming up, but I like to spend as much of my time as possible in any lane that allows me to drive at least the speed limit.

This week I chose to park in the underground parking of the C.D. Howe Building (the building that holds the passport offices). The hourly rate is quite a bit steeper than that of last week's parking lot, but I paid less ($6.00), since customers pay when they leave based on how long they stayed.

For some odd reason, my passenger decided to wait out the whole passport business with me. It was nice, since she offered to get me a coffee and a muffin, which she paid for (in the end, she also paid more for gas than I was expecting too), while I went to get in line. The lineup was quite a bit longer this week than last week, but still nothing compared to what it was reported to be like last week. The people standing in front of me and behind me were much more talkative than those from last week, and quite agreeable too, which made the time go faster. We were standing in line for at least an hour and a half, but it felt like no more than a half an hour. As with last week, once I got into the passport office, because I had filled out my forms online, I was served very quickly. Lucky for me too. Unlike last week, the chairs were all taken, and I had to stand. This time everything went through. I noticed the passport agent filling in one entry on the application that I must have forgotten to fill out myself, though this did not turn out to be a problem. Five minutes or so and I was out.

My passenger then offered to serve me some lunch at her sister's place. I wouldn't make that offer to anyone on the first day that I met them [3], but she was at least harmless enough that it was worth the risk for free food.

After I finished lunch I called a friend that I made some somewhat open ended plans with the previous week. They weren't as open as I had taken them to be. I got her voicemail, left a message, waited around for a while in case she called back, and then left Ottawa.

Some other things to mention:

  • It's not what you know, it's who happens to be standing two spots in front of you at the passport office. While I was waiting in line, it came up that I was almost finish a Ph.D. The man two spots ahead of me overheard this and asked me what in, and if it was related to computer science. I responded that it was math, but in an area with a lot in common with computer science. He gave me his business card and told me to send him my CV when I'm finished.
  • If you're applying for a passport during a busy time, fill in your application online if you can. I know I said this last week, but I'm saying it again this week. I was in and out in about five minutes, while those who didn't fill in online had another wait of up to an hour and a half.
  • You can learn as much, if not more, from the Passport Canada employee standing just outside the door of the offices (he has an official title, though I don't recall what it is at the moment) by overhearing what he says to other people. Many of the questions I had before I went were answered by him while I was waiting in line. The guy must have a lot of patience. He always seemed rather calm. I'm sure he spends most of the day answering the same set of questions over and over again. I'd be tempted to punch the third person to ask a question that had already been asked twice.
  • Expect nothing and you will never be dissappointed.
  • It's 11:20 at night and I feel like a coffee. I think I'll pass.
  • Speaking of Coffee. I won a coffee with roll up the rim from a coffee that I bought on the way home. It's only my third cup this year too. Beats last year, where I must have had 15 or 16 cups of coffee before I got a winning cup. If that happened this year, you could have counted on an angry post with the title "Roll up the Rim to Whine". I'm sad that this title has to get stuck at the bottom of a post, but I'm not going to wait until the next string of bad roll up the rim luck happens before I use it. So here it is.
  • I need the passport so that I can go to Tucson (Arizona, not to be confused with Tuscany Italy *sigh*) for a conference. I didn't realize that I had neglected to mention this until my sister pointed it out to me in an email.
  • Despite the fact that this time around I actually finished what I went to Ottawa to do, I got a potential lead on a job, got a chunk of my gas paid for, and won a coffee, I think I had a better time last week than this week.
  • I should hyperlink my footnotes.
  • This post hasn't been thouroughly proofread, but I'm posting it anyway so that I get it in before midnight.
[1] Absolutionals is not a word according to the worldmind.

[2] There's a quote from the movie Driving Miss Daisy, when Miss Daisy says something like "Just because the speed limit is 30 miles per hour doesn't mean you have to drive that fast" that seems fitting here. The worldmind doesn't know it, or I'm not asking nicely enough.

[3] To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I've ever made that offer.

1 comment:

Jonita said...

Wow! What a lot of work it was to get a passport!!! I'm glad that you finally got it, though, and I'm glad that you won something on your coffee! I've won 3 times now, and Jay hasn't won yet. He's getting a little cranky...