Best place to renew your passport if you live in San Francisco.
HINT: It’s not in San Francisco.
It’s March. When I called to make an in-person appointment, the earliest available was in May. We’re leaving in June. Yeah, that’s not going to work.
NOTE: we’re renewing a minor’s passport, which you have to do in person. Both parents have to be present. You also need the child’s birth certificate, old passport, the correct form (DS-11) and an $80 money order. Oh, both parents need two pieces of ID each.
Forget any of those items and you’re coming back another day.
I should clarify. If you enjoy waiting in lines, taking your kid out of school on a weekday or have months (and months) to wait, you’re all set. No worries. Just call for an appointment and you’re in good shape.
What else are you doing on vacation?
I completely admit it: I like to do “normal” things on vacation. When I’m in foreign countries, I like to see how “normal” things work. How do you get your oil changed on your car? How does insurance work? I’m a dork. But hey, what we accomplished today would have taken at least three times as long.
But also, I like doing things efficiently. For those of you who live in San Francisco, you might want to shield your eyes from what I’m about to describe.
We got our son’s passport renewed today in South Lake Tahoe, actually in Nevada, while on vacation here for spring break. Here are a few highlights.
- Free Parking: I know, this is hard to understand the English. It means that when you put your car somewhere and step out of it, you don’t have to pay someone to do so. Just read the previous sentence over and over and it’ll sink in.
- Short walk: from that free parking spot (that is, if you didn’t have a heart attack from the shock of #1), walk just a few steps to the administration building. It’s not 8 blocks from your car. It’s not in a back office of a huge building. Oh, and if it were so far, your car is parked for free.
- No line: there was no one in line. Well, that’s not completely true. There was one person there, but he was talking to another clerk. In fact, again, dear San Franciscans, you might just want to skip to the next point here because it gets even more graphic, but the one customer was talking with the clerk about how he hadn’t seen her at the 99-cent store in a while. Turns out, she hadn’t been there in a while. Turns out, that’s OK because the customer brought her a little gift from the shop. They knew each other by name. He was renewing some sort of permit. Crazy, I know. Once I got over the shock at what was happening, I was awoken by the other clerk. Where there was no line. I’ll define “no line” in case you’re stumped: there was no one in between me and the clerk.
- No ticket/number/system: if you already were wondering about those little tickets that you pull out of the red ticker tape machine, they didn’t seem to have one of those. In fact, I don’t know what they would do if there was actually a line of people. See #3.
- Time: the clerk reviewed my son’s application and found a few spots where I missed a box or even filled it out wrong. He helped me fix it and took the time to make sure that it wouldn’t get rejected (and I’d have to start the entire process over).
- Extra mile: apparently, adults have to renew by mail. I had hoped I could just take care of my passport while I was there, but he said I needed to do it by mail. Still, he said he’d look over my application to make sure the process went smoothly and I also wouldn’t get rejected. He even stapled my photo to the paper and then stapled my old passport the correct way, told us where to go to the post office, how much the money order should be and the address to send it to, which type of envelope to use and a last suggestion to get the package certified.
Just to pour salt in your mouth-hanging-agape wound, we then went to the post office where everything was so properly organized that the clerk had me out of there in a flash. This was after I also parked out front, like right in front, for free, listened to a vet singing songs from Oklahoma (I gave him $2).
Please, please stop!
This almost sounds made up at this point, but after the post office, since I was on such a roll, I went to the DMV to see if I could replace my (lost) car’s registration card. I’ll just go for the kill shot and get this over with: parked in front, did get a red-machine ticket, filled out the form, by the time I was done, my number was up, got the actual registration card right then and there (I thought it would come by mail) and the clerk wished me a nice visit (he noticed from my car registration that I was from out of town) and I told him that he helped make my visit better.
Just kill me now.
You’re probably gasping for air by now, so I’ll just finish you off.
Then I went to get my oil changed. Yep, you guessed it. No line, faster turnaround, cheaper service and better parts (OEM gasket for $2 extra), walked our dog in the neighboring woods, made a work phone call and my car was done.
What was I possibly going to do with the rest of the day?