Home > Pre-Japan > I wonder if Bureaucracy is powered by the screams of common people…

I wonder if Bureaucracy is powered by the screams of common people…

It’s like a real life Monsters’ Inc. Today I would like to tell you  a little story. I’ll call it: “None Shall Passport“. The story begins in the wee hours of the morning. Or 7:30 AM, which is actually quite late considering I am used to waking up around 5:30 AM.

Step 1: Search the internet frantically for the address of the Dutch Consulate in Boston. Locate the: “Locate your local Consulate” button, only to find that the only information given is a phone number and e-mail address. I feel a strange quivering in my stomach. I feel funny. And not ha-ha funny.

Step 2: Use a crafty google search: “The location of the Dutch Consulate in Boston” in a last ditch effort to prove two things: One, that the Dutch embassy website is terrible, and Two, that google will rule the world one day. This google search comes up with two addresses. Dutch Consulate split personality? Or maybe a sneaky plan to weed out all the idiot Dutch citizens in America? I choose the one that sounds more likely: Park Plaza, in downtown Boston. That strange quivering in my stomach sneaks up towards the depths of my lungs, realizing a chance to escape is nigh.

Step 3: I arrive at the Consulate after scowering the entirety of the 5th floor of the large building the consulate is located in. I found the Guam Consulate. I also found the Mexican Consulate. I also found the bathroom. Finally, having exhausted all but one remaining corridor, I find the correct door, which is solid wood, and closed. A sign next to the door cheerfully says: “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.” Well maybe it said: “Dutch Consulate, and Netherlands Insurance Company. Ring bell for assistance.” I tentatively ring the bell, and am startled by an obnoxiously loud buzzing sound coming from the door. I open the door and enter the room. My bedroom is bigger than this place! I know Holland is used to small, but my goodness they could have at least invested in a building larger than a walk in closet. I go up to the counter and give all of my materials. Application for passport request, old Dutch passport, American passport. The lady behind the counter peruses my application quickly, brandishing a black pen, crossing off apparent mistakes in my application. Then she hands me another one. “The people in The Hague have this thing about single leafed paper” she says, handing me a second application in booklet form. “Could you re-fill in your application on here please?” (I would like to draw the reader’s attention now to the bolded sentence on the Dutch embassy website, exclaiming that all information MUST be filled out prior to arrival at the Consulate. I wonder if they expect us to magically create this booklet-like application after printing it out at home.  I dilligently set out to once again complete the application. In the middle, the lady behind the counter asks if I brought two pictures. I aquiesce, and hand them over. According to her, in the history of this Dutch Consulate, there has never been an instance where pictures which were brought from outside the office building (there’s a photographer on the 14th floor) were acceptable for printing on a passport. I quiver. She asks if the darker parts of my face (suspiciously located about where a normal person has a beard) was a shadow. Shadows are not allowed on the passport picture, she tells me. I assure her that it is hair, and as far as I know, perfectly natural. She then places a transparent plate over the photos to see if my face will fit in the correct parameters. She continues to be skeptical. Out comes the tape measure. “Borderline” she says. “Borderline, but we’ll go with it.” What grace of the Gods is this?! Tears stream down my face as I become the first person ever to have had an acceptable picture taken outside this mystical office building. With renewed zest I finish my application, and excitedly place the finished application on the counter. Joy streams through my body. A re-invigorated outlook on life!

Step 4: “Where were you born?” She asks me. “Leiden.” I reply. “Oh” is the dejected response. “Oh?” I quiver. “You need another form if you were born in Holland,” she says. “Since you are an American citizen born abroad, you need the ‘American Citizen Born Abroad Certificate’.” “The what? I’m a Dutch citizen, I’ve had both my whole life, why do I need a certificate that’s concerned about my American citizenship to get a Dutch passport?” “You just do. Here’s my card, e-mail address is on the back. Send or fax it to us, and we can process your passport renewal application. Do it as quickly as possible please, we will soon be changing the way the passport system works, and your application may get clogged up in the process. Have a nice day.” My mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water, I retreat to collect my bag. As I take the one step required to reach the door of the Consulate/closet, a family of clearly Dutch citizens (they are tall) squeezes in. I look up at them, having just been dismissed without reaching my objective, with a quivering lip, and the mixture of my short lived tears of joy and recent tears of dispair still heavy on my eyes. Their smiles quickly turn to frowns as I shoot them a small sympathy smile and hurry out the door, eager to breathe the fresh outside air once again. That funny feeling in my stomach slowly dissipates as I depart farther and farther away from that place. There will be no scream today. Perhaps tomorrow it will have another chance to escape, when I call the Consulate desperately trying to find out what exactly a “Certificate of American Citizens Born Abroad” is. It does not seem to exist online.

Alright well maybe it wasn’t quite like that. The woman behind the counter was very nice, it was wonderful to be able to speak a little Dutch again after going so long without it, and I was able to get rid of my application and Dutch passport so that all I have to do is get this certiticate. Still, so many pieces of today were completely unnecessary and painful, I’d rather not have to repeat that any time soon. I have a five year respite until the next time I have to renew my passport.

Categories: Pre-Japan
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