When we arrived, Passport Lady greeted my children (ages 5 and 9 years old) by saying, "Okay, you can't come back here making a lot of noise. I have a lot of paperwork to do and need it quiet so we can focus." Up to this point, the girls had quite literally said nothing. Not one word was spoken out of either of their mouths because they had nothing to say. I, on the other hand, was gently (and in my "I'm in a working office" voice) guiding them to where they needed to go. When she started the visit with that greeting, I looked at her with my obvious, "Are you f-ing kidding me? Did you really just speak at my kids that way?" facial expression and she jumped to explain herself:
Passport Lady: "There is a lot of paperwork, and I wanted to make sure they knew to keep it down."
Me: "I'm sure they'll be fine. I have good kids."
Passport Lady: "Do they have coloring books and toys to keep them occupied?"
Passport Lady: "What? You didn't bring coloring books and toys?! Why not?"
Me: "I wasn't told to. Is it a requirement?"
Passport Lady: "Well how are they going to stay occupied?"
Passport Lady: "Well how are they going to stay occupied?"
Me: "I have good kids. I'm sure they'll be fine."
Passport Lady: "It's going to be, like, 45 minutes! Fine."
*For the record, we were there for 2 hours and not once did I have to tell them to behave.*
We got started with the paperwork, and right away I had questions for her. She wanted to put in the application that we didn't already have passports. But I did. They were expired, but I had them. She said that since they are expired, I needed to put in that I don't have one. But we ended up turning in the passports that I just said on the application that I don't have as one of the official forms of identification.
Despite the several times I told her that The Elder and I had Official Passports (which were expired), and the The Wee never had an Official Passport, Passport Lady kept asking to see my no-fee passports. I would pick up mine and The Elder's passports and hand them to her, explaining that those were the no-fee ones. But they had blue jackets on them. Which apparently, in the eyes of Passport Lady, meant that they simply could not be no-fee passports. Despite the fact that the instructions for the no-fee passport was clearly printed in the correct spot at the back of the book. She still wouldn't listen.
She typed with her index fingers. And she looked for the keys as she typed. This slowed down the process substantially since I had to wait for her to ask me for the information, and she had to search for the keys to type it in. I'm surprised that with the über-technological way we live, employers don't have an expectation that the employees they hire have, and maintain, a minimum typing skills assessment if their main duties in the workplace require that they use a computer. At the risk of judging her by her age (she started it with the way she spoke to and about my children), I'm sure she has been working in that office since typewriters were a luxury. But that doesn't excuse her from being able to provide services efficiently and effectively.
At one point she stopped her painfully slow typing, turned to me, and said, "You're really lucky. I don't do this for anybody." F-bombs were being swallowed at this point. I didn't mind doing this paperwork at home. In fact, it would probably have been more efficient and it definitely would have been easier on the girls. They can handle boring errands, but they find ugliness very difficult to understand. The paperwork that she so generously filled out "for me" that day was online, via the State Department's website. It wasn't some super secret form. I just needed to know where to find it and I could have done it myself. But she insisted that she do it for me during our appointment.
When it came time to sign the applications for the girls, I was told to give a copy of the POA that Sweet Baboo gave me so I could sign for him. I thought this was odd; can a POA authorize me to get my kids a passport? My mind went through all of the ugly things I've watched wives to do their husbands with a POA in their hands: cleaned out bank accounts, changed names on vehicle titles, take out big loans, etc. Then my mind raced through every creepy Lifetime Original Movie where one parent goes behind the other parent's back and runs off with the kids. No forwarding address... no way to figure out where they went. A passport would allow me to do just that, on an international level. Wouldn't our State Department have safeguards in place to keep things like that from happening?
Turns out, they do. But Passport Lady either didn't know about them, or she didn't want to bother with them. Either way, I find it hard to believe that she is still employed at her job because she really offered me no actual assistance of value throughout the entire process. The DS-3053, Statement of Consent Application Form, needs to be filled out and notarized by the non-attending parent(s) for a child under the age of 16 to get a passport. I learned that when I went to the post office to apply for our tourist passports. And for Sweet Baboo to get me the DS-3053, he had to hunt down a JAG Officer in the final hour of the duty day just before a Korean holiday. Then he had to scan and email it to me. But that happened for Day 8: Tourist Passports... because Passport Lady either didn't know that I needed it, or didn't care to bring it up. And when I did sign my name, she stopped and dramatically said, "That is your signature?"
Me: "Yes. Why?"
Passport Lady: "Really? That's how you sign your name?"
Me: "Do you want me to prove it? I have that same signature on three picture IDs."
Passport Lady: ~grunt~
After everything was signed, and I was just about to walk out of her office, I asked her how long the expedited process will take. She looked at me funny, and I reminded her that on Day 4 I mentioned possibly needing the passports to be expedited because 6-8 weeks would be cutting it really close. She said, "where's your memo signed by a 4-Star General?" Wait. What? Apparently, I need a General to approve applying for an expedited no-fee, and when I asked her about the expediting process two days earlier she failed to mention that. The list of information that I was lacking, despite my best efforts to gather it, was growing by the minute.
So needless to say, I am not even sure I'll be getting my no-fee passports in time. They will process in 6-8 weeks. That would put them to me between Day 48 and Day 62... if they are even approved. Stressed, I told Sweet Baboo what happened. We decided that I would file for our tourist passports, and spend the money to get them expedited. This should be fun...