Milady and I are due to travel to Merry old England on Friday. We just found out that my passport expired a few weeks ago.
In a panic, I called the Passport office in the UK to find out my options. Things have changed; they have farmed out the onerous task of talking to the public to a third-party firm that requires a credit card payment. The call cost nearly $6. I don’t mind paying for Service, but that seems a little bit steep for answering a single question. Is this the future of Customer Service? I hope not, but to their credit, they answered speedily and did not leave me on hold – which may be worth a few dollars. They told me that my only chance is to get a travel document from the nearest Consulate, in Chicago. Fortunately we are flying out from there.
I called the Consulate; they returned my call, and a very nice chap by the name of Peter took my details and said that he needed about an hour to check my passport info and that he would get back to me.
Five hours went by with no call, so I called back and left another message. Peter called back and set up a meeting on Thursday morning.
Tuesday and Wednesday passed in a blur of Pack-o-mania. We had planned on leaving on Friday morning, but the Thursday morning appointment in Chicago means leaving on Wednesday… which means we have a day to pack instead of the three we were planning on. Milady hates packing – she says she would rather clean a house than pack a suitcase – but as usual she did a sterling job; we finally pulled out of the driveway at about 5PM on Wednesday, a mere two hours later than expected, and rolled into the hotel parking lot five hours later.
My first trip on the Blue Line (aka the “L”). At $2.25 per journey, it is surprisingly affordable, and a good example of tax dollars well spent. It was drizzling when we arrived, so we took a taxi from the station to the consulate; the driver seemed to be unwell; I did not ask for change.
When we arrived at the consulate, Peter was in a meeting, so we went for a walk down North Michigan Avenue. Lots of “fashionable” (i.e., bloody expensive and bloody useless), stores, and a Starbucks on every corner (all full of starving students camping out on the comfortable chairs).
And then it really started raining.
Peter called back, his meeting over. Before long we were at the Consular office; the staff there were very pleasant and before long I was clutching an Emergency Passport, good for this trip only, in my hot little hands. It sounds so James-Bond-esque, “Double-Oh-Seven, the wallies at the Foreign Office couldn’t get their fingers out in time, so the Consulate has issued you with an emergency passport. Now get out there and save the world, there’s a good chap.”
Peter, you are my hero. And life goes on…