Well, I got my TWIC card, anyways. Only took 1000 miles of driving, 3 lost days of productivity, a couple of sleepy nights... and $500.
To recap, again, the TWIC is a port-entry ID required for anyone who works on, in or for our nations' ports. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks didn't focus on our ports, and there's never been an incident, threat or attempted security breach involving a terror plot in our nation's ports, the thinking was that "we MUST make our ports more secure!" Also, "we MUST come up with a job for our #3 defense contractor, since they can't seem to make an airplane in the past 40 years that anyone would ever, EVER want to buy!"
Well, you get where I'm going with that.
At any rate, the theme of the nation's TWIC network of offices is "accountability," by which I mean, "be directed to an 800 number that no one ever answers." Well, I kid, but not by much. The shortest wait time I had was 35 minutes on hold. The longest? 1 hour 20 minutes.
Now that's service, baby.
What happened was that I went in to renew my card- great service, rapid turnaround in the suburban Boston area-office. Then I wait for a phone call telling me that my card is ready for pickup... a few days to a few weeks later. OK, I get my call in about a week. So far so good... and we get a 24-hour window of down time at work in NY, so I drive the 4 hours to Boston, catch a quick nap with the Mrs, and go get my ID... but I do not get to pass go or collect $200. The administrator isn't in that day, you see, so I'm not getting my card. Tough shitski. I wait a day, now burning some goodwill with my employer. I return to the office the next day. The card is in, according to the computer, but it ain't in the office. I am given the direct number to the regional administrator for the TWIC program... amazingly, she answers, seems nice... but her computer is down.
I give up, return to NY and the now much-dreaded daytime drive down rt. 95 between Boston and NY.
Along the way, the administrator calls me directly. For some reason, my card was sent to Cape Cod, but the office there is only open on Fridays and Mondays... WTF? OK I'm 1/2way to NYC, so I'm not turning around anyhow. The next day the nice lady calls me again, to confirm that my card is there, and I can go get it whenever I want... but they can't mail it to another office, so I have to drive down or start the process over again if I want to pick up the card in NY.
So as fate would have it (and by fate I mean calling in a favor to a friend), we have a 15 hour window of free time between Sunday night and Monday afternoon. I take advantage of this and race home, sleep, and drive to Cape Cod the next morning.
Long story short, I got my card, but there was drama. I got there early, before the crowd, and also before the ONE girl at that office opened up. She's overworked and stressed, and apologizing to everyone saying that she's so overloaded that many cards that are supposed to be ready are not. I have a silent heart attack and possibly a stroke. I wait 15 minutes while she takes care of the 2 guys who were ahead of me, and, amazingly, she calls my name- and notes that her boss told her to have the card ready for me, so I'm getting the VIP treatment.
The TWIC is a 'smart card,' by which I mean it has a revolutionary computer chip in it that justifies it costing like $150. By which I mean it has the same programming as a phone card in Brazil or a rail card in London from 1990, which cost me 1 pound, about $1.50 US at the time. Inflation, I guess.
This amazing brandy-newie technology designed to make our ports safer than a baby's crib in a bank vault contains amazing volumes of data... by which I mean your fingerprints from your index fingers.
OK, sailors sometimes do this shit with their hands called 'handling lines' or 'using tools' which, amazingly, must be done in the rain or between September and June in temperate climates. Shockingly, mysteriously, this sometimes has the effect of making your fingers callused or dry, which makes fingerprints not work so well.
So, yeah, my fingerprints aren't readable the other day. The girl asks me why I don't ever use lotion. I say (and this is no shit) "ummm... because I'm not gay?" not being sarcastic or sexist or anything, just an off the cuff, unpremeditated answer. She bursts out laughing, but has to call her boss for a special code number to put in the computer because I'm like a smooth criminal or something. Amazingly her boss answers, again.
Good worker, that boss. For an organization that has overall sucks harder than Linda Lovelace, who pretty much fucked up every step since day one, they've got some decent folk, no shit, if you can et a hold of them. I walk out with my card a few minutes later, get in the truck, and drive to NY, where there's a hot tugboat waiting at my barge, and, on climbing aboard, we go to work.
*checks watch* Only twenty years to go, thank God.
7 minutes ago