Expired Passport? No Problem

Suitcases waited patiently at our front door. Lengthy house sitting instructions were scrawled on a yellow legal pad on our kitchen counter. The fatigue of packing and preparation hid beneath the excitement of vacation. I grabbed the worn Ziploc bag that held our family’s five passports. To my relief all five were in the bag. A quick flip through revealed all were current. 

Except my wife’s. 

I re-read the expiration date of 12/21/21, again. Disbelief, shock, and sadness careened together in my mind. Then, shame emerged from his den and spit insults about my foolishness and incompetence. Who waits to check their passports until the day before an international trip? 

We were headed to join my wife’s family for a week in Mexico. Snorkels were bought, and days were counted down, as Colorado’s beige and cold landscape would be gladly traded for one vivid and warm. We all were looking forward to the trip. But my wife's anticipation ran deepest. Nephews and nieces once separated by half the country could now be potato sacked over her shoulder and thrown into the pool. She’d finally get a reprieve from covering coworker’s shifts and bosses who asked too much and too often. 

All of that now seemed unlikely. I naively googled options for traveling with an expired passport. The options were as grim as they were limited. I ran a white rag up the flagpole of optimism and began composing my goodbye to her. Her face was streaked in disappointment. But her words were steady with resolve, 

“I’m still going to the airport with you guys to see what if there’s anything I can do.” 

I’d already surrendered to defeat, and didn’t have the energy to try and convince her it was a lost cause. Feeble words and strong sadness filled the car as we drove. How should one engage the next 7 days? To revel or mope each felt dishonoring to her absence. 

Luckily, my wife didn’t choose to mope. After saying goodbye to us at the airport, she called and asked the U.S. Passport Agency what options she had. They replied,

“You need to make an appointment at an agency office to expedite processing of your passport.”

“Great, can I make an appointment in Denver for this afternoon?”

“Ma’am, I’m not sure you understand. There’s not an appointment available in the whole U.S. for the next two weeks.” 

Undeterred, she hung up and proceeded to call back every 15 minutes to see if someone had canceled their appointment. Openings eventually came up in Hawaii, Washington, D.C, but those were too far and too expensive to get to. She continued to call back, unwilling to let feasibility pry away her desire for rest, play, and her family. 

‘Well Ma’am, there is an appointment that just opened up for tomorrow morning at 9:30 in El Paso, Texas.”  

Hope pulsed her fingertips as she looked up directions on her phone. El Paso was only a ten and a half hour drive from Denver. 

“I’ll take it,” she said and ran to her car to begin the drive. 

She pulled into El Paso at 10:30 that night. But not before driving through six inches of nasty spring snow over Raton Pass and frantically getting passport photos taken at a small town Walgreens in Texas. 

Her flip-flopped feet walked into the agency office the next day. The agent scowled upon hearing her reason for the appointment was family vacation, not family emergency. Even so, three hours later she held a valid passport. Twelve hours later we hugged her on the beach, stunned and grateful that she was there. 

Two months later, I'm still in awe of her, of how she fought for time with her family. Travel regulations, disappointment, and a 700 mile drive were unworthy adversaries. Resistance and challenge created an obstacle course I would have conceded to quickly. But not her. 

Not only did she fight and claw to find a solution, she did so without going into 'scorched earth mode.' You've seen others do this before, you've heard them from across the concourse. You've felt their heat radiating glare as they stand in line. They're fueled by anger and frustration, and are content to leave a wake of destruction behind them, so long as they achieve their goal. But not her. She was unwilling to give up or demand her way, choosing instead the intersection of determination and flexibility. I want to be like her. 

When did you last fight for something despite long odds and impracticality? 

 

Jesse French
Restoration Project Executive Director

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