Today was "the" day. The day of reckoning. The in-person visit to the Philadelphia Passport Office to plead our case for quickly renewing the girls' passports in order to obtain our visas for Chile.
We were up early, dressed, out the door at 7:30 am in order to make our 9:30 appointment in Philly. We were told we could not be more than 15 minutes early, nor more than 15 minutes late. The website stated that otherwise we would lose our appointment spot.
We lost our appointment spot the minute we stepped out on the sidewalk.
A line of people snaked in front of the building and around the side. People of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Some were actually pulling their suitcases and carryons with them! Others brought books and folding chairs to make the wait more bearable. Many were families with young children, since minors are required to appear in person with their guardians.
One lone employee was manning this line, quite ... strictly. We approached him to ask about our appointment and were told rather curtly to go to the back of the line. He then proceeded to call out for anyone traveling "today, and today only."
We wondered. We stewed. We finally got up the nerve to get his attention again and try to explain that our situation was unique, that we were not traveling until August but we needed passports today in order to get our visas.
He cut us off and in no uncertain terms again stated that only those traveling today would be seen at this time. The tension (and the heat outside) mounted. We commiserated with the gentleman behind us who was already on his second unpaid day off work and had traveled all the way from Hackensack, New Jersey to try and obtain the passport he had paid extra to have expedited - unsuccessfully.
The agency employee came around once more, this time loudly announcing that anyone who gave him "attitude will not, I repeat, will not be receiving a passport today!" We shrank bank and tried not to make eye contact ... and then
... almost imperceptibly he motioned for us to step out of line and follow him to the front. No explanations, nothing. Just walked us to the front of the line and told the guard to let us in. Eva said, "I don't think this is a good idea!" as we entered the darkened foyer and headed toward the metal detector. From there we entered another room, half-full of people waiting to be seen at various windows.
We were directed to a desk where I provided our paperwork to a woman who seemed immediately prepared to dash our hopes yet again. Without a letter from the Chilean consulate, she explained, our case was not urgent enough for us to receive passports today. But she would take the paperwork to her supervisor and see what he said.
We waited some more.
When she returned, she asked me why I hadn't told her that I spoke with a supervisor outside? (I hadn't told her because I wasn't aware that we had!) She told me that the supervisor inside was going to reject our request but that "Derek," the supervisor from outside had heard them talking and told them to let us go through. She even wrote in big letters across our paperwork: DEREK OK'D THIS. And the first thing the guy at the window said was, "Oh, you talked to Derek?!"
Our curt, less-than-patient employee outside the building ... was the supervisor? Who had pled our case, no less?? And when we got into our car just a few hours later WITH PASSPORTS IN HAND we had to agree (and praise the Lord!) that this was indeed
... a modern-day miracle.