It was April when I got notice I had been accepted for a fellowship in Germany – more than 14 weeks before I'd be taking off from Newark to Tegel Airport in Berlin. The State Department's estimated passport processing time was 10 weeks for standard service. Fine, I thought, plenty of leeway – and I only needed a renewal. I dropped my soon-to-be expired passport in the mail, and bid auf wiedersehen to it for 10 weeks.Anyone who's tried to travel out of the country lately can relate. Check Christine's post for all the details. And check back every week. She'll be posting every Wednesday on her adventures in Germany.
But it didn't return in 10 weeks. Or 11 weeks. Or 12. So I set out to find the little navy blue booklet that would allow me to leave the country.
My trek was mostly virtual – winding from online to phone lines and call centers – but in the end it led me to the very real (though a bit surreal, with all its intense security and vaulted ceilings) State Department headquarters on C Street in Washington, D.C.
More than 12 million Americans get a passport each year. That's more than 33,000 each day, including Saturdays and Sundays. Now consider that the demand for U.S. passports has roughly doubled in the past decade. Now include everyone who lives in a border town and works, plays or does business in both countries. I didn't do the exact math, but I figured the odds weren't on my side.
It did not reassure me when after 12 weeks of waiting I logged into the State Department's Passport site for the first time. It showed no record of my application.