Lost

I lugged my laptop all over Australia with the intention of trying to live blog.  this reinforced what I already knew, that I love travel because I can be in the moment.  I don’t like feeling like I have to post before I can do anything else.  So my laptop just added four pounds to my load.

I had flipped it open once, to add an extra night in Palm Cove and change my return flight.

Now, after tearing my room apart to no avail in search of my passport, I flipped it open a second time to visit the US State Department website.  If you like stories about people fighting with their internet provider or getting root canals—well, what’s wrong with you?—but you will appreciate this story.

The US Government gets a lot of flak for treating foreigners badly and being a bureaucratic abyss.  Surely things would go better for me—a US citizen—right?

I read the lost passport info and learned I would have to appear in person in Sydney to get a replacement.    This was the auto reply to my email in which I asked if I could possibly see them on Friday, the day I was already scheduled to arrive in Sydney.

The answers to most inquiries can be found on our website:

  • If your inquiry can be answered through one of the links, you will not receive another reply. 
  • If your query warrants a more detailed response, we will endeavor to provide a personal reply within two (2) business days.
  • If you have emailed about renouncing your U.S. citizenship, please allow 10 business days for a response.

I wondered how often people send an email to renounce their US citizenship.  Related to my concerns—two business days before I could expect a response?

But then someone named Alex did respond: “Due to routine maintenance in the building our office occupies, there will be a complete supervised power outage beginning Friday afternoon.  We expect to return to normal functionality by Monday afternoon.”

Seriously?  In Australia?

I would have to go to Sydney early.

Alex also listed the things I would need to bring with me to my appointment:

  • Completed (but not signed) Form DS-11: Application for a U.S. passport;
  • Completed and signed Form DS-64: Statement Regarding Lost or Stolen Passport. Please include the Police Incident/Report number on this form;
  • Evidence of identity (if available);
  • 1 x U.S. sized passport photograph. (Note: these are a different size from Australian passport photographs);
  • Applicable fee. (All fees are subject to change without notice)

The only form that could be submitted online was the missing passport one.  I submit six- and seven-figure grant applications online all the time; I know how to submit online forms. I got an error message, and when I emailed the Help contact I got an autoresponse saying they would get back to me in two days.  No one ever did.  Even if I found my passport now, I had no way of knowing if it was cancelled or not.

I wept a bit as I booked the last available appointment this week at the consulate in Sydney.  It was for 10am in two days’ time.  I filed a police report online.  I tried to change my flight, but Expedia required I call them, so I wiped my face, traipsed down to the office, and asked Jim if I could use their landline.  I don’t regret not paying ATT $10 a day for phone service in Australia. After 20 minutes the flight was changed back to my original date with, amazingly, no charge.  Jim print out the forms I needed, cancelled my last three nights, and booked a van ride to the airport for 3:30am.

“Do you still want to go to the reef tomorrow?” he inquired delicately.  I must have looked like I was on the verge of a meltdown.

Yes,” I replied without hesitation.

I moved through my last day there in a zen-like state.  This was it—my last chance to enjoy the sun, warmth, humidity, scenery—I appreciated how lucky I was.

I was going snorkeling on the fucking Great Barrier Reef!

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