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I was in New York City last weekend for work. A couple of colleagues and I headed north for the New York Times Travel Show. It’s an annual event, and the Bureau of Consular Affairs likes to participate to show the flag and encourage people to apply for or renew their passports. We also try to make contacts with other companies and organizations that might be good partners, and we try to generate media interest in our messages.
Anyway, one of my co-workers and I decided that we’d take advantage of our location and try to get on The Today Show – with one of us dressed as “Passport Pat” – a giant, smiling blue passport book. It seemed like a great idea when we talked about it in DC. But I have to admit, I was dreading the idea of getting up at 4AM to stand in line to wait for The Today Show cameras to capture us. It started to rain Friday night; we agreed that if it was raining when we woke up at 3:30, we wouldn’t go.
Now, here’s where I have to tell you about my colleague. She’s young, energetic, creative, bright, and a lot of fun. She was also very willing to dress up as Passport Pat. She’s just a fantastic person. So, I woke up at 3AM, looked out of my hotel room window, and decided it was raining. I think I was actually willing the skies to open up. I go back to sleep. 3:30AM – my phone rings. It’s my co-worker, who sounds like she’s been up for hours. She says, “Hi! It’s not raining! Do you still want to go?” “Great,” I think to myself, “a morning person.” Sigh.
So yes, we go. (As an aside, we reach the hotel lobby just in time to watch three drunk party girls attempt to find the exit – before they get thrown out – and hail a cab). Anyway, we arrive at Rockefeller Plaza at around 4:45AM. There’s a line! Good thing we got here early. We join the queue and wait. Eventually, some guy comes up behind us and asks, “Is this the line for Saturday Night Live tickets?” Another guy ahead of us tells him it is. Dammit! We’re in the wrong line! Okay, so where’s the line for The Today Show?
There. Is. No. Line. I repeat: there is no line. No one else is waiting to get on The Today Show plaza. Contrary to all the information we found on the interwebs that said you should get there super early because the lines are long and crazy, we are the only ones standing around in the cold waiting to get on that damn show. Fortunately, I am with one of the cheeriest people on earth, so we look on the bright side: at least it’s not freezing cold; at least it’s not raining; at least we have fun stuff to talk about.
So we wait.
Finally, at about 6:45AM, Security comes out and lets us in. But first, we’re told that we can’t wear costumes. Okay. So we’ll just hold up Passport Pat like a sign. Fine. And, because we’re so early, we get a primo spot next to Lenny. Guaranteed camera time. We talk to the cameraman, build a rapport, tell him about Passport Day in the USA, etc. Nice guy. We got this. Unfortunately (for us and for the people in the midwest), there were horrible storms and tornados the night before. Many injuries and deaths. Lester Holt is on scene in Indiana. So of course, they’re not going to go from the devastating tornado stories to Rockefeller Plaza where a bunch of tourists are smiling and waving and holding up stupid signs. Of course not! The cameraman tells us that they’ll go to the Plaza after 8AM. So we wait. Have I mentioned that by now my feet hurt, my hands are cold, and I really just want to crawl back into bed? No? Well, my feet hurt, my hands were cold, and I desperately wanted to go to sleep.
The cameraman pans half of the crowd. He gets Lenny, my colleague, and Passport Pat – then cuts the feed before he gets to me. Ugh! Really dude! Come on! A little later, he does it again. Should I be taking this personally?
Round about 8:25AM, we’re both ready to throw in the towel. So many promises broken. So much for national media for Passport Day. So we pack it in. By now there are crowds of people who are more than happy to take our prime location. As we walk away from the plaza, the cameraman stops us. “Where are you going?” he says. “We’re just about to pan the crowd, the reporters are going to come out.” We don’t believe him. We’ve heard this line before. We thank him, but tell him we’ve got to get going. We get into a cab.
What do you think happened about two minutes later? If you guessed that they panned the ENTIRE crowd on the plaza, you guessed right. Dammit!!!!!
But hey – it’s not too late for the five or six of you who actually read my silly musings. Passport Day in the USA is today, Saturday, March 10. If you’d like to apply for a passport or if you need to renew yours, today is the one day of the year that you can visit one of our 25 domestic passport agencies without an appointment. Or, you can go to one of the thousands of acceptance facilities (e.g., post offices, libraries) to apply. Learn more about it here.