Due to some rather heavy over scheduling, I realized that April would be the only month free of foreign travel where I wouldn’t need my passport. As such, as soon as we returned from our trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar on April 1, I promptly sent off my passport for a new one. It was quite hard to do as my old passport is nice and fat with visas and stamps and exotic locations but I have to have a new one this year. The U.S. embassy in London stated that you should allow a month to get your passport back. By special delivery, my passport got to them on April 3 and we are leaving on May 4 for our next trip.
Around April 18, I got a call from the embassy telling me I needed to send in another photo as the one I had sent wasn’t good for their new technology. I had to run around to the place they “recommended” (they aren’t allowed to recommend but he did hint broadly that this particular place did good work), find a post office and send them another application with my new photo and new charge card details. He assured me that I would still be able to get my passport in time for our trip.
May 1st came and went without a passport showing up and now I am getting nervous but still hopeful. I must get it on May 2 or I will have to go into London on the 3rd to get an emergency passport or else my husband will be going off on holiday by himself. May 2 the postman actually came to the door with another package but it wasn’t my passport. GULP. I immediately got online and did the “request for emergency passport”. Two hours later I had the reply and an appointment for the next day at 2 p.m. I do ahead and do all the preparation for our trip like packing and getting the proper cash and boarding passes, etc. etc.
This morning I had to drive my husband to work so I would have the car to take the train into London. I worked out all the time schedules on the train so I would have plenty of time to get to the embassy. I waited until the last minute and while some packages did arrive at the house, no postman. So I am off to the train station and to London Waterloo and to Bond Street and to the embassy. I made good time and got there at 1:30 p.m. and they are pretty much closed for lunch. Dang. the guard tells me to return at 1:55p.m. there’s not really anywhere to go so I just go to the park and sit and read and keep watching the time and the door. Finally at 10 till 2, I look at the embassy and figured I could go and maybe get inside. By the time I turned off my kindle and put it in my purse and stood up and walked the 20 yards back to the embassy, there were 8 people standing there in line!! Stealth citizens! they all came out of nowhere. But they are starting to let people into the embassy and I know that even with a 2 p.m. appointment, if I am in line, I am good to get into the embassy. Still, it takes 25 minutes to get in because they only let in one person (or group) at a time to go through security and a couple with a baby took 15 minutes for some reason.
Finally I am into security and hand over my car keys, phone and kindle and get my claim tag and get into the embassy and get my magic number. I had not sat down more than 5 minutes when my number was called. YEA! and the on line information had said you could wait 2-4 hours! I go to the window and explain that my passport had not been returned even though the man said it would. She explained that if I had an emergency passport that it would cancel out my new one and that I would then have to begin again in the while process but she would check and see the status of where was my old passport and new one. Took her awhile and talking to 4 people at their desks but when she returned, she said to me that my passports had been mailed yesterday! She asked me what time I had left the house. 11:30 I replied. Oh, she replied, it says here they delivered it at 12:45!!! OMG. of course they did! if I’d only had faith! She is trying to reassure me that I can probably pick it up in the morning before we leave but we have to be at the airport by 9. Thank goodness we didn’t have a 2 or 3 a. m. flight. So I’m thinking maybe I can get it this evening if I take a taxi home from London which will cost me about 140 pounds.
So I head out of the embassy and collect my things and call my husband immediately and give him the skinny. His computer is down for a work break but says he will start tracking it down for me and see what are my chances. I make my way back to London Waterloo.
Reaching London Waterloo, I call again. his computer is still on a work break. I can’t get a train back to our area for another 20 minutes and I, of course, didn’t go to the further train station today but to the one close to home so there are no fast trains. it will take me at least an hour and 10 minutes to get back to the car park. After getting totally frustrated and upset and hanging up on my hubby who was only trying hard to help me, I popped onto the train and called him back and asked if he could go pick it up. I explained that it was NOT the post office in the mall or any of the small ones in shops but it was in some industrial district and he’d have to go home first and get the slip they put through the door that said they’d tried to deliver it. He was so gracious and immediately called a taxi and left work.
Now I am on the train and on my way and wishing I had a glass of wine or something. He calls and says he’s at home and has the paperwork and the taxi is now going to take him to the station to pick up the car so he can go get it. Maybe we are saved after all.
Now we come to the Good Taxi part. The taxi driver took him to our station. There are two parking lots. I only knew about one of them which is located behind the train station and across the tracks. it is not the main parking lot. the taxi driver and my husband only knew about the main parking station which is by the train station and on the same side of the tracks. They pulled into the parking lot and my husband does not see our car. The taxi driver, and my husband was still on the meter and the driver had waited for him at our house while he retrieved the paperwork from the post office, remembered there was another parking lot and drove to it and wow, there’s our car.
My husband now gets out and pays the taxi driver. By now, the driver has been told the story of the passport and knows that my husband is trying to get it before anything closes and that his wife is a little wacky and upset and freaked out too. He volunteers to drive over to the post office in the industrial park and have my husband follow him in our car. This is totally off the meter and off the payment plan! What a very, very nice man and a good person! It wasn’t far from the train station because I have been there but it is hard to find if you have no clue where to go. The taxi driver drove right to it with my hubby following and took him right into the parking lot and then left him there to go find another far. This driver is going to get some good karma for his deeds today.
My hubby goes into the post office and retrieves my passports. I have to carry the old one with me because it has my England visa in it but my new one is all ready now for more exotic locations and stamps and visas. Yea! Thank you U.S. Embassy, thank you royal mail special delivery, thank you my wonderful husband, and thank you unknown taxi driver. We travel anon!!