The Terrible Experience of Getting an American Passport

To get to UX Lisbon, I needed to get my first passport in years and years. It turns out getting a passport in the USA is a process that they manage to screw up at almost every step.

For starters, I can’t do this online. In 2015. The idea that I can’t access a wide range of government services from a computer, at my convenience, is ridiculous. No, instead I had to leave work early and show up between 9:00am and 3:00pm. Apparently the township clerk office provided these hours because they had to wrap up the paperwork before the postal service picked up the mail. Because they couldn’t hold the paperwork overnight. Because… well, there’s no real reason for that. The clerk said “because that’s the policy” which is basically another way to say “because screw you, that’s why.”

I filled out this paperwork by hand. Which means that when this physical form arrived at some office, someone had to type it in before they could use computers to check to see if I’m some sort of enemy of America. The clerk also had to take my picture, and print it out, and staple that picture to the form. Because… that’s a thing we’re doing in 2015? I mean, the thought that there are devices that will take pictures and then send digital copies of those pictures anywhere is crazy, right?

I also had to include a copy of my birth certificate. The one copy I have – a delicate, worn piece of paper from decades ago. A forgeable scrap of paper that somehow proves that someone with my name was born in the USA. Because… what, it’s impossible to keep these records online? Somehow, Amazon can figure out if I have an account but the USA can’t look up in a database to find out if I’m a citizen.

To top it all off, I had to write a great big check for over a hundred dollars for the privilege of filling out this paperwork. Because obviously funding government services through a system of taxation would just be bizarre, am I right? Oh, wait, I do pay taxes. A lot of them. For all sorts of garbage that I find morally repugnant. I just don’t pay taxes for some person sitting in an office to type in the data from my paperwork, I guess, even though we wouldn’t even need this person to type the data if we did this online, which we would in a sane system.

So, to summarize: We can spend trillions of dollars to wage disastrous imperialist wars overseas, but we can’t figure out how to make a system that would make life easier for Americans and not actually hurt anyone.