Friday, March 09, 2007

Passport Confessionals

At about 6:30 this morning I embarked on a trip to Ottawa to finish the application process for my passport. Traffic was smooth sailing, aside from wasting about 1 minute pulling into a gas station that hadn't opened yet (I was trying to get gas, of course) and a 5 minute traffic slow down on the 417 (my velocity never approached zero, which is enough to keep me satisfied in slow traffic, unlike driving through another unmentioned capital city located in Ontario).

After reading reports from as late as the beginning of this week that people were spending 4-5 hours lined up at the passport offices waiting to be served, I had planned to be standing or sitting in line until some time between 12:00 and 1:00 in the afternoon. When I arrived at the office, the lineup outside of the office seemed to be rather short. Everyone must be inside, I figured. As I got closer to the office, I found out that this was not the case, as most of the people were actually outside the office. All told, I don't think I spent more than an hour in line before I got to speak to a Passport Canada employee. Certainly no more than an hour and a half. Not bad, I thought. The employee looked at my application, made sure that I had the relevant documentation with me, gave me a number, and told me to have a seat in the chairs. I sat down, looked up, and realized that my number was next, looked down, looked up again, and saw that it was my turn already. It was going way better than I expected. I went to the appropriate wicket and handed the agent my application. She told me that the passport would be ready by April 4, more than two weeks before my travel date of April 20. Well this just keeps getting better and better. After reading and hearing the stories of other people who applied by mail months ago and still haven't received theirs, I thought that I would be lucky to get it on time, unless I forked out some extra dough. There was one last bit of information that needed to be entered into the computers, namely the info about my guarantor, which I had chosen to be my supervisor. And then... the computer made a beep. It was not a happy beep. It was a beep of disapproval. You see, my supervisor is a professor emeritus. Emeritus in university speak means retired. Retired folks don't qualify, perhaps on the basis that they might too senile to reliably identify the ones they are the guarantors for. You don't find this information on the application form, however. You have to go to the FAQs on the Passport Canada's website. It never crossed my mind to A that Q. It might have, if he weren't active (he still comes in to work most days). But if he weren't active, he wouldn't be my supervisor, and I wouldn't have asked him to be my guarantor. (Proving that it would not have crossed my mind under any circumstances. QED).

Now I need to find someone else to agree to be a guarantor for me. And make another trip.

I'm surprised at how angry I wasn't after all that. I'm not pleased. But I wasn't really angry. On my way there, I imagined myself cursing and swearing, if not out loud, then in my head, at some unfortunate agent as she told me that something was wrong, especially since I got up about two hours earlier than usual and assumed I would be tired and irritable. Yet I felt no such impulse. Perhaps it was the fact that everything else up to that point had proceeded better than expected, even though it amounted to nothing. Though I would have preferred for everything to go as expected, even if it would have meant a lot of unpleasantness simply because I don't feel like paying for gas to make the second trip. Then I wouldn't have to go back get a passport.

If I had wanted to, I could have left right away and been home by noon. Instead, I descended to the lowest level of the building containing the passport offices, found a Timothy's coffee stand, ordered the largest possible coffee they offered, sat down, drank my coffee, and tried to understand the relationship between the fractional chromatic number and the vector chromatic number. I didn't figure it out completely; the coffee ran out before I could. But I understand the relationship enough to satisfy myself for the time being. I don't think I would have totally figured it out anyway.

At some point before the coffee was done, I turned on my cell phone, which made more noise than I expected and attracted the attention of a young woman sitting nearby. I smiled, more out of embarrassment than anything else. After that, she seemed to be looking at me quite a lot. Perhaps she misinterpreted my smile.

When the coffee was done, 11ish, I guess, I took a stroll around Ottawa for about an hour and a half, then headed back to my car and drove home.

Some other things to mention:

  • I needed to pay for the parking up front. I paid for much more parking time than I needed to. Part of the reason I didn't just leave right away. If I wanted to, I could have parked my car there until 6:00. Or, as the ticket said, until 18:00. Stupid 24 hours clocks. As I was leaving, someone else was pulling in. I gave her my parking slip. She gave me $3.00. It didn't pay for all of the extra time that I paid for, but it's $3.00 more than I was going to ask for.
  • There are certain establishments in Ottawa that I've only ever read about. Upon seeing some of them for the first time, I realized that in my mind these places were virtually fictional. In fact, the people who write about the places, mostly journalists are also, in my mind, fictional characters who are written by real people. Anonymous people, but real.
  • Timothy's coffee is celebrating its 30th year. 30 years! I hadn't even heard of this place until 3, maybe 4, years ago. What was it doing for the last 27, maybe 26, years? Why didn't I notice? The nominal similarity with another popular coffee chain is also curious.
  • If you want your passport to be processed in a timely manner, use the online application process if you are eligible. Don't just download the pdf (I could link to this, but why would I?) of the application form that Passport Canada has on its website. Fill in the application online, etc. Doing this is why my passport was going to be ready so much more quickly than I expected. You have to submit in person, however, and there are other restrictions.
  • I had visions of a on office that opened into the street and a lineup that spilled out into said street. The passport office is located inside the C.D. Howe building, in a portion of the building that resembles a small enclosed mall. My visions inspired me to dress warmly. This was unnecessary. Mind you I didn't overheat until I was driving home, and the sun was beating down on me while the heat was on. I turned down the heat and all was well. In any case, if I ever offer you advice based on one of my visions, it's probably not a good idea to follow it.
  • I parked in a municipal lot. But the municipal parking lots are only part of the parking story. For example, the C.D. Howe building has underground parking. I wonder if this is the kind of parking lot where you pay when you leave, based on how long you've been there. If so, I'll park there next time to avoid paying for parking until 18:00 hours. It's also closer. Can't get any closer, really , unless I drive through the front doors, and then I've got other problems on my hands.
  • Express highways have personalities.
  • You get what you pay for/fill in warranty cards. I bought a car stereo last year with lots of features for little money. It seems to have a hard time playing CDs these days. I think it has something to do with the weather (it's worse when it's cold). It's still within the warranty period, but I didn't fill in the warranty card soon enough, so I can't get them to fix/replace it.
Well now. I've really gone on haven't I? I'll bet you're looking forward to tomorrow's blog post where I give a detailed run down of my trip to the grocery store. Don't worry though. I won't tell you about doing my laundry. That would be boring.


L said...

haha. randy you make laugh:
"how angry i wasn't"
"go on and on about my trip to the grocery store"

daniel said...

As promised: SPAM! But not merciless spam, since that kind of spam requires thought and a great deal of effort. Rather, this is just gratuitous spam. Spam for the sake of spam. Spam because I promised spam, and I loath to make a liar of myself, especially concerning spam. So once again: SPAM!