Posted by: canthold | February 24, 2006

Wire Cutter

I dislike suspenseful movies. When I watch films I put myself into the character and I feel everything that they feel. I think this makes me far more scared than those people who can disconnect and say “It’s just a movie.” I felt very uncomfortable with the suspense in Match Point, the new Woody Allen film and it put a damper on my enjoyment somewhat.

The worst scenes, besides when someone is about to get his ear cut off by a psychopathic criminal after a heist-gone-bad, are the scenes when the average Joe is trying to dismantle a bomb without the bomb squad training. I know the hero is not going to get blown up, but there is the decision involved between which wires to cut and which ones to leave intact. The whole world is at stake and the suspense kills me.

That is the level of pressure that I have been feeling in the past three or four days. It all started with the home inspection. Our anticipated expenditures on immediate repairs doubled. I consulted with three contractors and waited on pins and needles for the written inspection report that I got last night. After a lot of consideration and back-of-the-envelope calculating, we decided to walk from the deal or cut the live wire, so to speak. The two Realtors thought that the seller might make one of the major repairs and after feeling immense disappointement at our decision, there was hope again. Wait! Don’t cut that one! It was dashed just a moment ago when an email arrived saying that the seller was going to try his luck on the market again. Snip.

I’m strangely relieved. This housebuying business is an emotional roller coaster!

Then there was the whole missing passport fiasco. As if our lives aren’t exciting enough with the house ordeal, we decided to book a last-minute trip out of the country. My inlaws are going to take the kids for the week we’re gone, and my husband and I are going to meet his brother and aunt in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

While I’m usually a last minute packer, I decided to start early this time. Sure, there was only a week to prepare, but I would pace myself and we’d be packed, ready, and on the airplane on time. Not packing moments before climbing into the car, speeding to the airport, and running to the gate like we usually do. This time was going to be different.

On Wednesday, I went to get my passport and it wasn’t where I thought it was. I looked around my desk then realized that I probably left it in the carry-on bag that we usually use when we go anywhere. The bag was no where to be found. Wednesday night I performed my second top-to-bottom search for both stray documents and the carry-on. I’m starting to get worried by this point. Where could it be?

Thursday morning I turned the house upside-down for the third time and panic started to give me a high like ten cups of coffee. I looked up passport replacement on the internet, just in case. They posted a phone number to call for information. I was told that seeing an agent was by appointment only and the next available time was two weeks from my travel date. More panic. The live agent that I spoke with told me to start calling for an appointment at 7am (Friday) for an appointment on Friday. She also said that if I couldn’t get one that I was out of luck.

My rule-breaker husband told me just to show up. My rule-follower self was skeptical, but I filled out the forms and had my four-year-old take seven blurry pictures of me before I held my arms out for a self-portrait that was halfway decent. Documents in hand and kids in tow, I drove to San Francisco (about 30 miles away) to procure a new passport.

Upon arrival, the guard told me it was appointment only and wouldn’t let me through. Then on the sly told me to come back at 10am. That’s when they take emergencies. This was an emergency if ever there was one in Passport Land. I drove home.

Today I got up early and looked some more, then packed the kids in the car, again, to try my luck at an emergency appointment. The woman at the window was fantastically nice and understanding. When she completed her part, she gave me a receipt and I heard her say “Come back to the Will Call window after four.” I was finished in less than 30 minutes and paid the Highway Robber Parking Garage $10, then drove home.

At about 2:30pm, I thought I should get started to go early. One thing led to another and we were out the door at 3pm on the nose. Before I started my engine, I checked my receipt. It wasn’t come back at 4pm, it was they close at four and come back after three! I am ashamed of myself for all the speeding that I did in those 30 miles. By now, on my third trip to the passport office, I knew the shortcuts and made very good time. My ten cups of coffee high was nothing compared to the stress I felt on this trip.

I arrived at Highway Robber Parking Garage and jumped out, handed the guy my keys and said I was in a hurry – could he please park it for me? When we got out of the car, it was seven minutes until four. I grabbed my four-year-old’s hand and picked up my 30-pound two-year-old and ran a half of a block. (Not an easy task by any stretch.)

At the top of the elevator, a huge line awaited me. I am on cloud nine because we made it. The line could have been a mile long for all I cared at that point. Strangely enough, after recounting my story to someone in front of me, I was told that the 3pm people can move ahead of the line. In disbelief, I ask everyone I pass if they mind and they just let me go like it was no big deal. The transaction took less than a minute.

We stopped off at the little girls room for some songs then hit the elevator to go down at seven minutes after. The guard was there with a key to shut it off. If I had been a mere fourteen minutes later than I was, I would not be going to Argentina. I had just barely cut the right wire before my bomb exploded with my whole world at stake.

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