If there is one thing that the last 6 months have taught me…it’s how to roll with the punches. If there is one thing that the last 2 weeks is taught me…it’s ALWAYS USE FEDEX.
This is Becci, btw…John said he couldn’t write this because every tenth word would have be an f-bomb. Verbal decimation, I suppose.
The master plan for this travel year has gone without a hiccup until the last couple of weeks. 2 weeks before we were due to get on a plane to Bangkok, Thailand, we sent our passports off to obtain our visas for Vietnam. Yes…I realize that this seems a little last minute, but since we were actively using our passports in South America two weeks prior to that time and we were using an expedited visa service, VisaHQ.com, we thought we were in good shape. Then, we decided to trust the USPS…and that’s where it all fell apart.
We were given an estimated delivery of November 3rd. Visa HQ had time to turn around our request and get our passports back home. November 3rd, no progress on the tracking. November 4th, no progress on the tracking. November 5th, I visited our post office to see whether they had any additional information other than the initial Acceptance scan. I had a rather disappointing conversation with a postal employee, who spent the entire 5 minutes glaring at me with an expression most commonly found on Easter Island statuary, who stonily informed me that they had no obligation to deliver the mail by November 4th. In fact, it could take up to 14 business days. Her empathy meter was at zero.
Me: “You see,” I stammered, “it contains our passports…and our flight is in 10 days.”
Easter Island: “Did you ship it overnight?”
Me: (wince) “No”
Easter Island: “Did you ship it Priority?”
Me: (wince wince) “No”
Easter Island: “7-14 business days”
In other words…go piss up a rope.
Not having a rope handy, I shuffled out under the stare of shame and headed back home to break the news. I was sent to the postoffice as the most level-headed member of Team Awesome, and John was at home, stalking around, waiting for the verdict. After many expletives we settled on the following plan: We didn’t actually need to arrange for our Vietnam visas ahead of time, we could have obtained them while on the road in Thailand. Our practice of over-achieving, which usually works in our favor, bit us in the ass. Since we were flying into Bangkok, we didn’t need the visa to get on the plane, but we did need our passports. The folks at Delta tend to get a bit shirty when you attempt to fly internationally without one.
We had 8 days before the deadline, only 5 of those were mail delivery days due to the weekend and Veterans Day. Upon delivery, Visa HQ agreed to ship them overnight to us so we could catch our first flight to LAX on the 12th…and at the very worse case scenario, to LA where we would spend the night before our flight to Bangkok on the 13th. That meant that if our passports had not arrived at Visa HQ by Monday, November 10th, we were SOL.
We checked the USPS tracking page hourly, signed up from email and text alerts…still no movement from Nashville. We initiated an investigation with the USPS to help locate the passports. I spent a lot of time on the phone with my new friend at the post office, Addison, who assured me that, while he didn’t know where our passports were, he did know they were not in our post office as he had searched the office high and low. 8 days after seeing no movement on the tracking number, we started to fear that our passports were lost…which is not only a logistical nightmare (cost to replace, identity theft, loss of flights) but also heart-breaking when considering that all our entry stamps from the past 6 months, including our Machu Picchu stamp, would also be lost.
Monday the 10th came and went…no passports showed up at Visa HQ. It was time to sit down and re-think our plans, cancel our flights, etc.
Tuesday morning, I woke up around 7:30am and picked up my phone. There was a text message from USPS.
The USPS sat on our package, containing our passports for 11 days. What could they have possibly been doing with them? Using them as a doorstop? Taking them on a Country Music Sightseeing Tour? Were our passports at the Grand Ole Opry?!?
To pour salt on the wound, our first update in 12 days was to inform us that our passports had been sitting within 10 miles of us the whole time. To pour lemon juice on top of the salt on the wound…it was Veteran’s day, so we couldn’t do anything about it. Mail is closed. Sorry!
Flights, hotels and plans all cancelled. Your timing, USPS, is exquisite.