I can't believe that I'm writing this (or that this could actually happen), but my passport was almost full after my last trip to Ireland in May. The standard rule is that a traveler must have up to two blank pages in a passport when traveling, at which point he/she must apply for additional pages or a new passport. Originally, I was planning to hold off on mailing in my new passport until I returned to the U.S. when it wasn't as vital to my everyday life anymore. But when I read that passport fees will be raised on July 13 and that the fee for additional visa pages would skyrocket from free to $82, I realized it might be best to act now.
After taking a look at the U.S. Embassy's site for France, it turned out I could go in person with my passport to have the pages added since I live in Paris. Anywhere else, you have to mail it to the Embassy or the closest consulate (only Marseille and Strasbourg now). However, I still wasn't sure if I had to buy the specified envelope mentioned on the website. Along with an application form that I did print out (but turned out to be available in bulk at the Embassy), it stipulated to buy a "Chronopost" envelope from La Poste (translation: an express mail envelope from the post office). But these cost 20€ minimum. Betting on the slim hope that either I wouldn't need it or it would be available at the Embassy, I walked out of post office without one.
Getting in for my appointment was even easier than making one. Normally, if you stroll in without an appointment (i.e. maybe your passport was lost), you'll have to wait hours on end. When I arrived this morning, the waiting room must have been packed with nearly a hundred people already, and the second waiting room was already starting to fill. Interestingly, I heard many more French voices than American ones.
But with an appointment, I pretty much bypassed everyone in line, at security and was in front of a teller window with an agent all within 10 minutes. It was like I worked for the State Department in D.C. again - except this time I had to turn in my iPhone and then retrieve it with a yellow ticket upon leaving. (Note: Don't ever bring your laptop here. Security won't allow them in, and they won't keep them at the holding spot for you).
The one thing I did notice while walking past everyone was that they were all holding a blue and orange Chronopost envelope in their hands already. I got nervous. The worst case scenario was that I'd have to do this all over again. No, the worst case scenario would be not only would I have to do all of this again, but that La Poste would go on strike, lose my passport and I'd be stuck in France until I could get a new one. Of course, this thought ran through my head repeatedly.
But my worries were soon put to rest as the friendly agent highlighted my name and passport number printed on the application, gave me another form to turn in at another window and said my passport would be ready shortly. Just like that! Same day service! And within just an hour, my passport was much fatter with those blank new pages filled with historic landmarks and purple mountain majesty. After a year of nightmarish paperwork experiences, it was refreshing and astounding to get such good service so quickly.
[Image via Wikipedia]