The Project Manager and the Passports

brown passport
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on

Last week we took our kids to get their passports. We are planning a trip for next year, and wanted to check this item off the list. When it comes to filling out forms, and getting things organized for an appointment like this, I’m the one in the family who takes care of it.

As anyone who has applied for passports for their kids knows, this can be an involved process. There are lots of instructions and Kelly is not an instructions-reader. But it is my speciality. The first step was to make the appointment in the first place. We actually needed a 45-minute slot to get all three kids taken care of, and we finally found on at the local post office on Washington Blvd, where not long ago, I took the Littlest Miss to see what a post office was like. The appointment was for Friday morning at 9 am. It means having the kids go to school late since they needed to be there with us at the appointment. The post office opens at 9 am, so we had the first appointment of the day. Interestingly, the confirmation message instructed us to arrive 10 minutes early, but since the doors weren’t unlocked until 9 am, I’m not sure that mattered.

Next, we needed photos. One evening last week, we headed over to a local Walgreens and got passport photos for all 3 kids. We had dinner at a local beer garden while we waited for the photos to be processed. It was a beautiful evening out and it was nice to be able to kill two birds with one stone.

On Wednesday, I completed all of the forms. The DS-11s really aren’t that bad. The hardest part was remembering how tall my kids were at the moment. Fortunately, I had recent wall-marks to use as a reference. I got the forms completed, checked them, and printed them. I made sure not to sign then per the instructions.

I wrote checks the U.S. Department of State, one for each kid, labeling them as indicated on the website. I gathered up their birth certificates, made photocopies for each kid, then made 3 copies each of our driver’s licenses. I organized everything into neat piles: check, photo, DS-11, original birth certificate, photo copy of birth certificate, and photo copy of driver’s licenses. I put each pile into a carefully labeled manilla envelope.

On Friday morning, I stuffed all three envelopes into my backpack. I added the checkbook, and an extra passport photo for each kid, just in case. At 8:45a we headed into the car, and drove to the post office on Washington Blvd. I had prepared everything. This was going to be easy.

It turned out, after waiting until 9 am when the post office opened, that we were at the wrong post office.

I has assumed that the post office on Washington Blvd was our local post office. I never even thought to check. So at 9:05, we scrambled back into the car and drove to the other post office on Washington Blvd, about 2 miles away. It was on that drive that I ended up hitting a squirrel.

We arrived at 9:20 am, and when we said we were there for our passport appointment, they chided us for being late (fair) and almost wouldn’t take us because they had a 9:45 am appointment and insisted it took 45 minutes for three kids. But everyone was there, and we were led into the passport room. They seemed a bit mollified to learn the we didn’t need photos.

At 9:29 am, we were back in the car. The entire passport appointment, the one that the post office people insisted takes 45 minutes for 3 kids, took exactly 7 minutes. I timed it. I had everything organized and ready. The seven minutes involved the passport person hand copying information from our licenses onto the 3 DS-11 forms, stapling the photos, re-organizing the stacks of paperworks, having us swear that the photos of the kids were in fact our kids (even though the kids were right there) and signing the paperwork. That was it.

They say the best laid plans don’t survive contact with the enemy. As a project manager, I defeated myself this time, and it was only the good graces of the postal workers that saved the day. I didn’t mind. I was in a good mood. Even though things went awry, I was proud that my organization cut a 45 minute appointment down to 7 minutes.

If only all meetings could be that efficient.

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