You Never Know When You’ll Need Your Passport

As I was renewing my California driver’s license last week, my thoughts turned to airport security and the TSA. Pretty much at the exact time the clerk punched a hole through the expiration date on my license and handed me a piece of paper to carry along with it for the next 30 days. It didn’t look very official at all.

I glanced down at the flimsy piece of paper that apparently was now my official government ID and asked if I could actually use it as a valid ID when I was traveling. The clerk shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know, call the airport.” Well, even I know, the airport won’t be able to address that, because it’s a TSA question. But her flip and somewhat uneducated response didn’t instill a lot of confidence in me.

It didn’t help that the man standing next to me over overheard the conversation and chuckled a bit. He then interjected. “Good luck. The cop who stopped me for a burned out tail light last week wouldn’t accept mine. That’s why I’m back here.” Great — our own police officers won’t even accept it!

What little hope I once had was quickly slipping away.

As luck would have it (or not) I had to have some papers notarized, so I stopped at my local bank on the way home. The notary was somewhat baffled by my official government ID. “This is what they gave you?” she queried me in a state of disbelief. I just kind of shrugged my shoulders and rolled my eyes.

Apparently the notary had never encountered this situation before, so she dialed up her notary hotline. She posed the question to the powers that be, and the decision came back. No, she could not accept it, unless the original license was issued less than five years ago. Well, of course it wasn’t — a CA drivers license is valid for eight years, and I had run my renewal right down to the wire.

Not a huge problem, as I just had to pop home and get my passport for the notary. But I have to say that after these experiences, there’s just no way I’m even going to attempt to use my temporary documents at the airport. I think it would create more trouble than it’s even worth. Especially with the new “exact match” on names they are now doing. And I don’t want to make trouble with the TSA. Really.

In any case, I will just fly with my passport until my real ID comes in the mail. But if I didn’t have a passport, it might be a problem. And although I’ve had to use my passport countless times for foreign travels, it’s also good to have for backup ID. Just for cases like these.

So, my advice to you is twofold. If you don’t have a passport, then get one; and if you do have one, keep it current. You never know when you may need it.