Tech and Paper

Us passport iVery unintentionally I recently ran into that moment when the effort to go paperless and leverage technology hits the old school – when tech and paper come together.

It all started a few weeks ago when I had to get updated passports for the girls.  15.0 will be on a trip from camp this year to the Pacific Northwest which includes time in Vancouver – so she’ll need a passport to exit and re-enter the country (although there are times where I think leaving her in Canada would not be the worst outcome).

Anyway – it was off to the post office I would go.  I called first to schedule an appointment and asked about how to get a passport when one parent is deceased meaning there is only one signature on the dotted line.  The answer was to bring a copy of the death certificate with the official raised stamp and that would be inspected, photocopied and sent along.

Those steps are exactly what happened.

The “tech” part of this, is the US Department of State has the ability to sign up to get text alerts let you know about status of your application.  Great, text messaging is a preferred method of communication with me, so I signed up.  To be honest, I had heard nothing from the passport folks, and kind of forgot I signed up – until yesterday.

That’s when I got a text telling me they had sent me an email.

Not an overly effective use of communication – but it is the US government we’re talking about.  So, I log into my email only to find out they put a hold on the passport applications because they needed the original copy of the death certificate.

Follow:  I got a text, telling me to check my email, telling me I had to drop an envelope into the snail mail. I suppose that is where tech and paper collide – but this is the government, so they weren’t done.

It was now on me to print out the letter they scanned and attached to the email to me so I could return their own piece of paper to them with the document they asked for.  So this really is now a text telling me to check email telling me to print a document and mail it and another document back to them – using the same post office that managed to not understand the requirements in the first place.

So I feel really good (or not) about this implementation of technology by the US government – and I would tell my congressman Lee Zeldin about it, except for the fear of what that would mean to the paper and tech mill that is Washington.  I can only imagine getting a letter from my congressman or perhaps one of my senators Schumer or Gillibrand asking me to log into a website and fill out a form only to get more email from the government.

In the meantime, once I worked out the tech and paper – I realized I only had one copy of the official death certificate in the house – so I sent two freshly printed, government authored letters with one death certificate and can only hope for the best that this will get the passports handled.

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