Once again, the post office, in conjunction with the US Passport Agency, has let me down. My passport failed to show up in my mailbox by Thursday, so I was forced to make the trek up to LA to utilize my Friday morning appointment that I made the other week. Adding to the excitement was the need to finalize everything with my place in San Diego so the new tenants could move in later this week. Amazingly, I got everything done and started the trek up to LA late Thursday afternoon; oh, did I mention the need to stop through Hemet to pick up my birth certificate since my old passport was now lost in the system somewhere?
Traffic was lousy getting out of San Diego, but once I got to Temecula things opened up and I was at Chris' place in Pasadena in less than two hours. Chris was nice enough to put me up for the night and to not act too put out the following morning when my alarm went off at 6:00AM.
The passport office proved interesting; it was the most organized cluster f**k I've ever had the displeasure of being a part of. Initially, things seemed to go very smoothly and after waiting in three sets of lines over the course of about an hour I was finally able to turn in my application. I also learned that my original application was still in limbo somewhere in North Carolina. Since it had never been processed, they didn't bother charging me for the second go-around that I was now more intimately involved in. Spending all that time in line, I did get to hear a few interesting stories. There was the family that drove in from Arizona at 3:00AM that morning to get their passports for their flight to Iran the next morning, as well as the guy who was getting married the next day and instead of partaking in his rehearsal ceremony, he was standing in line with the rest of us.
After submitting my application, I was instructed to come back that afternoon between 1:00PM and 3:00PM and my passport would be ready for pickup. Having not eaten breakfast, I decided to take the opportunity to walk around and find a bite to eat. A few blocks later, I found myself at Jerry's Famous Deli where I got a very satisfying breakfast and was able to relax for a bit. The lack of sleep from the previous night finally started catching up to me and I decided to head back to the car and take a nap until it was time to pick up my passport.
The rest of the day was not nearly as pleasant. When I returned to the will call area at 12:45PM, a line had already started to form and wrapped halfway around the building; I pulled out my receipt and joined the masses, eager to get the whole process over with. About 45 minutes later, I found myself at the front of the line presenting my claim ticket to the woman at the will call window. She punched my information into her computer, wrote something illegible on my ticket and told me to get back in line. Deflated, I trudged to the back of the line which was now about twice as long as it had originally been.
I made it through the complete cycle again after about another hour. When I approached the window for the second time, my passport had yet to show up and I was again sent to the back of the line. This repeated itself one more time and by then it was well after 3:00PM; on this occasion, however, I was given another piece of paper and told to return to the area where I'd applied earlier that morning, feeling quite familiar with what purgatory must feel like.
Back in the holding pen within the building, I found myself sitting around with about 75 other people who had yet to receive their passports; the majority of whom seemed to be accompanied by loud, restless children. It was during this waiting period that I witnessed what had to be the highlight of my day – a true diamond in the rough. While doing my best to lose myself in a book and shut out my surroundings, I happened to glance over at the little boy next to me. Clearly, I was paying more attention to him than his mother, because as I looked over, I saw him feverishly digging around the underside of the chair next to me. When his hands reemerged, they held a marble-sized, gleaming, bright pink ball of chewed bubble gum. And then things got good. The little guy took his newfound plaything and stuck it to the middle of the chair. He then grabbed the topmost portion and started to pull. I'll be damned if he wasn't able to get a good ten feet from the chair with the gum still intact and it looked like it was going to hold for another ten. With the wall standing in the way of testing that theory, he did the next best thing, doubled back and started to wrap the bubble gum string around his sister who was innocently sitting by, playing with her doll. I think he successfully got it entangled in her hair and the doll's hair before the mother finally caught on to what was going on. Clearly enraged, the mother did her best to simultaneously punish her son while detangling her daughter from the pink mass that now tied the entire family together. Somehow those last ten minutes of waiting for my passport seemed to pass by pretty quickly.
Eventually, my name was called to retrieve my passport sometime around 3:30 that afternoon. After picking it up and verifying that all the information was correct, I got in the car to embark on what turned out to be a 4+ hour drive back to lovely Hemet.