Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Count Your Wins*

 Moving on to Wednesday.

Let's just say that yesterday did not turn out at all as I expected!

There I was,  skipping happily through the morning,  looking forward to my walk with great anticipation ( I haven't taken one yet this year, in spite of daily intentions, but that is what happens when you are as busy as I am!)  and knowing that the excellent blog post I was composing in my mind was going to be a barn-burner! What a promising morning!  There was sunshine streaming across the garden, birds chirping,  and even the 28-degree weather was much warmer than the same 28-degrees last week in frigid February (plus I noticed that the birds refuse to sing in February - not that I can blame them - but that all changed at the crack of dawn on March 1).

I planned to be on my merry way as soon as I finished the blog entry above (below?  who cares), and I only stopped a couple of times for various little things that caught my attention (ever notice how shuffled and untidy your cookbooks get after a few months?  I had 'em re-aligned in a jiffy, right after I dashed around the house collecting little caches of old VHS movies and such that I had been gathering up to send for reformatting- I had to stop short of completing that task because I just remembered that I was going for a walk)--but I was headed out that door!

Just as I put my hand on the doorknob, with some recycling in one hand and a bag of garbage in the other (it only takes a moment - I don't understand why other people fail to get more done in a day- and then I would have nipped back in jig time to put on my coat and get Minnie on her leash), a thought struck me:  OMGs!  Is my passport expired?

Hang on a second--while getting cream for my tea, I just noticed that the fridge is really a mess. Won't take me but a moment to clean it.  Back in a jiffy.

So, where was I?   Egad, yes!  My passport.  The horror of that moment!  Because even as I drew back my hand and was turning around for the frantic dash to the den to check, I knew with sickly dread that it was expired and -what is more- that it was likely that others' were expired, too.  I had planned to renew all of our passports last summer, in plenty of time before expiry, naturally, but life got in the way.

I did arrange for the renewal of Scott's, Kiki's and Jack's because they all had to have passports with at least one full year left on them in order to travel to Europe as they all planned to do last year.  But I hated to begin the renewal process myself, because with a serious illness in the family back home in Canada,  I really was afraid to send away passports for several weeks leaving us unable to leave the country until they were returned.  Everyone knows how slowly the gears of bureaucracy turn, especially when one is in a hurry!  I decided to wait until autumn and then try to expedite it somehow, if necessary.  All under control.

Rifling through the drawers looking for the passports, my sense of foreboding just kept climbing.  Aha!  My passport!  Oh dear, definitely expired (Feb 23, 2010--ugh).  Frantic scrabble for other passports--same sad story- Jessie's, Edward's and Kenny's all expired, same month, same week, same year.  Blast!

(On a side note:  excellent unconscious planning on my part to suggest to Jess that she not travel this spring break but instead invite a friend to visit us.  My brilliance,  though sometimes unintentional,  is always something of a pleasant surprise.  It's a little thing, but it's one of those little things that are the secret to my superbly organized life.)

Well, obviously, I had to drop everything and start the application process.  No longer eligible for simple renewals, we need to go through the whole tiresome application process again as if we are aliens suddenly pitching like exotic birds on the windowsill of the Canadian consulate, who pretend they have never seen our like before.  I'm not inclined toward criticism of the government, as a rule, but I really have to admit that it is all a bit inconvenient!

The moment I opened our birth certificate file, I knew the problem was much larger than I first imagined.  Last year, when I was thinking about Kiki's and Jack's renewals (Kiki filed for her own renewal, of course, but I still thought about it which is half the work), I discovered that, through no fault of my own, their birth certificates had somehow become misplaced.  I keep very careful files of all essential government documents,  but the fact of the matter is,  things happen.  And some thing happened to those dratted birth certificates!  Lucky for us, Kiki and Jack were able to renew without needing to produce hard copies of all of those documents last year, having valid passports still--but when you think about it,  one has to wonder if the Canadian authorities had ever returned the originals after the first application!   I am not by nature suspicious,  but obviously the first thing anyone would think at a time like that was that those scurrilous public servants had misfiled, misplaced or accidentally destroyed our documents.

So, last spring, one of my many accomplishments was to apply for new copies of the birth certificates.  And yesterday I discovered that they are not in the certificates file.  So, clearly, the Canadian government failed twice--first, they failed to send back the original certificates, and now I find that they failed to send the replacement certificates I ordered last year!  I don't like to stereotype, but this is an obvious example of the shiftlessness of the public service, as anyone can plainly see.  Although J&K's passports have already been renewed, it was obviously of singular importance that I immediately follow that trail and find out what the

You know, this post is really dragging.  I'm not saying the subject isn't important,  just that it isn't...well, frankly, it's a little boring.  I really have more interesting important things to do today and I've already spent far too long on this post.

I'll cut to the chase:  I spent several hours yesterday dealing with exasperating persons in government offices who were  (I hate to point fingers but I must call it as I see it) less than helpful.  After much prompting from me (honestly,  I could go up there and teach that office a thing or two about efficiency!) they directed me to the DHL courier service with a tracking number for the documents they claimed to have sent last May.  I then spent an intensely aggravating hour or two chasing the DHL chain of command around the internet and phone lines and came up empty-handed.  Those people claimed that the tracking numbers were invalid!  I have it on good authority from the Canadian government that they are valid,  9 months stale or not,  and what is more,  I felt bound to inform DHL that I felt pretty sure that the Government of Canada would no doubt cancel their contract,  once they hear back from me about the deplorable deficiencies in their reliability and customer service.  I hate to resort to this sort of (completely justifiable) threat, but a serious situation requires a serious response.  Incredibly, the DHL representative appeared to be unmoved by this information.  I was left with no other option but to ring up the Government of Canada again and basically tell them to let DHL have it with both barrels.

A very polite young man came on the line, at last (unlike the snooty people I spoke to earlier!), and after I explained my difficulties, he told me I had a couple of options:  I could write a long letter to the Government of Ontario (I think I may have been misinformed earlier, but again, what can you expect with public servants? Anyway, Canada/Ontario, what's the diff?) explaining what happened in detail and how it was no fault of mine that I  neither reported it last year nor even remembered that I had applied for the new documents until that very morning.  I wondered if I couldn't simply be transferred and do it by telephone? Frankly, I was privately wondering how I could explain anything when I really couldn't remember anything about it- though, with all the runaround between the government and DHL, who can blame me for being confused?

But, the nice young man gravely explained to me that this is not the sort of problem that can be given the proper attention in a busy phone call-center, and I had to agree with him there!  However, the prospect of writing out a long letter and getting it into the mail (I mean seriously, who even knows what postage to Canada is these days?) was daunting, to say the least, and my helpful public servant picked up on my laziness dilemma right away.  "Or," he added, "you could just re-apply for the documents online like you did the first time and get new ones!  It only takes a moment!  The other ones will become invalid as soon as we issue new ones again, so no need to worry about duplicate copies languishing in some DHL depot somewhere! "

Well, I was both surprised and delighted!  I thanked the young man and went straight to the website to order the new copies.  And here is where the story becomes a little bit amusing,  if I do say so myself.  Something about that website reminded me of doing the same task last year, so just like last year, I had the sudden inspiration to go and check my wallet for the birth certificates just in case I had overlooked them (completely understandable- if I had bothered to look for them before,  I might very easily have overlooked them).  I hurried into the kitchen, got my wallet out of my purse and checked in the stack of credit cards, SS cards and so forth tucked in there.  Right on top of the pile were Jack's and Kiki's wallet-sized birth certificates!

Who knows how they got there.  I certainly didn't put them there or I would have remembered it.  But no matter, I am nothing if not forgiving and although the Government of Ontario barely passed muster yesterday, at least I know that their staff did not misplace our documents a second time!  DHL, on the other hand, will remain forever in my bad books, since they were totally unhelpful, on-time delivery notwithstanding.  The main thing to take away from this whole sad story is that I can congratulate myself on my skillful handling of the situation not to mention that, in the end,  no thanks to the Government of Ontario or DHL,  I found the certificates!

I heard from Kiki in the middle of all this bureaucratic nightmare and I was bemoaning the fact that the stupidity of all these people had cost me a ton of productivity!  No walk, no blog post and who knew if I would ever get back to the photo project!   Instead of saying what I expected ("cut your losses- make a cup of tea"- perfectly understandable response),  she said "Count your wins"!   Well, what an absolutely perfect response to an exasperating day!   She pointed out that I had managed to get 4 loads of laundry done while fighting with the inept people in Ontario and at DHL (this was true- standing still while stuck on the telephone is a no-go for any reasonable person, I'm sure),  I had started supper (who can hang about on the telephone all day?  I needed a break),  I had continued to gather the VHS tapes for the IMemories box and most of all, I had tackled the vexing problem of the missing certificates immediately and with great vigour!  I like her expression so much that I just knew it had to be the title of my next blog post.

Meanwhile,  it is a fact that because of all the drama of the missing certificates,  I forgot about the expired passports.  However, in my usual methodical fashion, I caught up with that brief lapse today and have downloaded the applications and will, I am sure, get the process underway forthwith.

Scott returns from an almost 2-week trip away on Friday and I don't mind admitting that I am desperately looking forward to it.  He had some heart-wrenching news about a friend yesterday, and it is terrible to have to share such a moment via text messages.

Photo Project Update:  You must be joking.

That's it for now-- I have quite a lot of work to do and cannot spend all day scribbling blog posts!

Good Day, All!

* Post title brought to you by the brilliant Katherine Hall.

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