So, I’ve been pretty stressed over the AWOL passport. The process has been ulcer-inducing from the very beginning, when I was told that my birth certificate was the wrong size, through the interminable wait to now–when the universe had one last surprise to make sure the process was consistently stressful, right to the end.
For the record, it took around 14 weeks and countless packets of QuikEze.
A couple of weeks ago, I sent a complaint to the APO’s feedback email address. They never responded. But the following day, I forwarded it to the staffer from my local MP’s parliamentary office who’d been quite responsive, and sent him a FYI: here’s where it’s at.
The next day, I had a call from someone in the MP’s local office, who told me that the MP was very determined to help, and had interceded with the Minister. She further told me that despite the website never updating or progressing in terms of the passport’s status, that it had been approved. She then warned me it could still take a while to get through the printing queue and mailing and it could be another two weeks.
That night, I was at a function with said local Member, where I personally thanked her for being the Passport Fairy. “Oh,” she said “I’ve been the passport fairy a lot this week. I just don’t understand why people wait until two days before they’re leaving to contact us.” And so it was that I got to tell her about the new advice on the APO website which says, don’t call your local Member, it’ll just drag staff off processing and won’t make things faster. But let me tell you, Dear Reader, in my experience it’s the only thing that makes things go faster.
On Thursday of last week, I got a follow-up call from a caseworker at the APO, who reiterated that it was in the printing queue in Melbourne. “It takes about ten days to get through printing,” he told me, as my heart sank. Then he added “but it’s already been there about nine.”
He then told me that he was going on leave for the next three days, but would be sure to check when he got back on Wednesday of this week. My grandfather used to have a saying that ran through my head at that exact moment: “I’d rather believe you than look for the truth.”
On Wednesday, we had to get up at 3.30am to take Tony to a very inconveniently-timed medical appointment in Wollongong. I spent four pre-breakfast hours in the waiting room and when he was returned to me at the end of the procedure, he announced: “It was a general anaesthetic! It was like it was only a few minutes!”
“It was a lot longer than that,” I told him. “You were in there so long, I got a passport.Well, sort of.”
Both the email and the text to say printing was finished and the passport was with Australia Post came through while I had been sitting there, cooling my heels. Tracking was not activated until Wednesday night, when suddenly the passport appeared to be in Strathfield. No mention of Melbourne.
Thursday morning I was in a Zoom meeting when my phone went off, with a Canberra number. It was the APO caseworker, back from leave and calling to check I’d received tracking. “Last I checked it was in Strathfield,” I told him, “but it’s been a busy morning so I haven’t been able to keep an eye on it.”
“It’s still in Strathfield,” he told me.
Until about 6am this morning. When it suddenly showed as having made it to the Nowra Distribution Centre. The passport and I were in the same postcode.
This morning as my husband was leaving I ran in, waving the phone excitedly. “It’s out for delivery.”
That was at 7.09am.
I promptly reorganised my day to work from home. No way I was letting this thing sit in the Cambewarra Post Office all weekend; I was going to be here to welcome it home.
I was a bit distracted all morning; one ear out the whole time, not game to run and put a load of washing on between work tasks. And then at 11am I checked my phone and it said the passport had been delivered.
Where? I thought. I’ve been sitting here this whole time, at a desk strategically positioned to be able to see anyone pulling into the driveway. Answer: Cambewarra Post Office. At 7.59am. Processed and ready to be picked up at 8.02am, not that I had received any notification to that effect. Still haven’t, come to think of it.
So off to the next suburb I hared.
Initially, the lady struggled to find it. I could hear her rummaging and I was trying to recalibrate my expectations and figure out next steps. And then she appeared, with a way-too-small-for-the-stress-it-has-caused envelope.
“I’ve been waiting nearly four months for this,” I told her, as she saw a range of reactions flash across my face.
She was incredibly empathetic.
Turns out, she’d applied in April, and hers had taken four months, too.