Four days away from an international trip and Bob and I have no passports. Scary. They were perfectly good and valid still for five years, until they were punctured and made invalid by Federal agents in Los Angeles. The only thing wrong with them was that they had too little space for new immigration stamps. We’d both received additional page inserts multiple times, and now we were required to get new passports.
Fine. All we needed was enough time to send them in, or better yet, bring them in and get them while we wait. That’s the tricky part, given that there is no passport office in Las Vegas. And our itinerary is packed with international trips, so there’s no time to send them in for replacement.
Time for a trip to Los Angeles, then. We gave two presentations at the California Tourism Safety and Security Conference in Anaheim May 7. Perfect timing for a visit to the passport office.
In Las Vegas, we prepared by getting official passport photos. Official, to be certain they’d be the right size, with the right background, etc. No time for mistakes. We used the “official passport photo service” at the local UPS store. When the lackadaisical employee handed over the two pairs of photos, Bob and I gawked. Our heads were small, surrounded by lots of white space, the images were contrasty, and almost black & white.
“These look terrible,” we said.
“They’re fine,” the employee assured us. “We do this all the time. Our photos are never rejected.”
We reluctantly paid $10 each and left.
The U.S. Passport Office rejected the photos. It didn’t take much time to get new ones at the handy passport photo service just outside the Federal Building. The new ones were bright, clear, and large. We had our new passports several hours later.
Back at the UPS store, I complained and asked for a refund. The same slovenly employee shuffled off to the back room, unsure how to react. His mono-tasking mind forced him to set aside the job he was about to do: namely, sort customers’ mail into their rented mailboxes. So he set the thick stack of envelopes on the counter beside me and left me alone with it. I stood staring at the gas bill on top of the stack, wondering what could be gleaned from that heap were I an ID thief. I had plenty of time to consider the lack of security with which that mail was handled.
The manager (or franchise owner) appeared and, when I pointed out the stack of mail, said “puh-lease!” As if she had no idea that Las Vegas is at the forefront of fraud and identity theft. Or that her mailbox-rental customers had some expectation of the private and secure handling of their mail.