I had planned to be heading to Bangalore, India tomorrow afternoon. While there I was going to spend some quality time with the folks at the Yahoo! Software Development Center, the FOSS.in conference, and other friends.

This is the story of how my Visa (and passport, of course) ended up sitting in a FedEx building somewhere in the Bay Area on the night before I'm supposedly heading out.

I originally thought to title this post something like "When 'ovenight' really means 'in five days'" but decided that setting up a joke wasn't worth the effort.

On Monday the 14th, I finished up all the paperwork needed for my Indian Visa. I'd been through this exercise a couple years ago, so it wasn't a big deal. It requires a two-page form, a pair of photographs, and a letter from a company official who promises to cover your butt if something goes horribly wrong.

I waited until the 14th because I was in Taiwan the week before, and a Visa application requires giving up your passport while they consider your request. And since I was heading to Las Vegas the next day, Monday was my only option. That also gave us about six business days for the gears to turn. The travel folks assured me that six was more than enough.

I got all the paperwork done, took it to the travel office, and asked them to look it over one last time before sending it off. They realized I hadn't included a flight itinerary, so I emailed that over as soon as I got back to my desk. (I knew I should have taken my notebook to Sunnyvale with me.)

They shipped it off and I headed to Webmaster World the next day.

On Monday the 21st (6 days before departure and 7 days after sending the paperwork off), I got a call from the travel folks. They called to notify me that the folks at the Visa Network found a problem with my paperwork. Apparently, if one is going to a foreign country with the intent of speaking at a conference, they require a letter from the conference (as proof) inviting you to speak.

Despite the fact that I'd been advertised as a speaker on the official conference site for a couple months, I couldn't just print that out and turn it in.

So I had two options. The first was to get a letter from the conference folks inviting me to speak. That might have worked, but given the 12 hour time difference I opted for the other option: drop everything to redo the second page of the Visa application, redo the letter from a company official, find someone to sign the letter (again), and get it all to the travel folks in Sunnyvale before the end of the day so they could get a courier to run it up to San Francisco.

As you might imagine, a fair chunk of my morning was devoted to redoing paperwork. I, once again, hopped on the shuttle to the Sunnyvale campus (I actually work in Santa Clara now, which I guess has been only mentioned photographically thus far) and paid a visit to the travel office.

By the afternoon of Wednesday the 23rd (also known as the day before Thanksgiving), I hadn't heard anything back. So I emailed my contact in the travel office and asked what she knew. I got a phone call a few hours later saying that the Visa was all set (but still in San Francisco) and they could FedEx it to my house for arrival on Friday.

Not a problem. I provided my home address and they waived the signature requirement, since I had plans to be away from the house for about 3 hours on Friday.

A couple hours ago today (Saturday), I realized that Friday (yesterday) had come and gone and my passport had not arrived.


[This is the part of the soundtrack where the foreboding music plays.]

I hopped on to the FedEx website and plugged in the tracking number I'd been given on Wednesday, only to see this.

Apparently, we were not the only company that had Friday off!

Part of me was amused by the phrase "delivery exception" because it felt as if a Java programmer had invented it. But another part of me also thought "uh oh."

Then I figured that the travel folks and the visa folks actually knew about the no-delivery Friday thing and meant to say it'd arrive on Saturday. That led me to see if FedEx delivers on Saturdays. A quick web search revealed that FedEx has a FedEx Saturday Services page and a good FAQ which tells me that Saturday delivery is possible on some packages, assuming the shipper pays the extra charge.

I have no idea if the shipper paid that charge. But I'm beginning to suspect that they did not. I've further begun to suspect that neither the travel folks nor the visa folks realized that FedEx would be delivering on Friday. Those two suspicions combine to mean that I'm not heading to India as planned.


Now, in theory my stuff will arrive sometime on Monday. That means I could get on a plane Tuesday and be in Bangalore on Thursday. But I will have missed at least half the conference and most of the work week. Plus, I have things scheduled for the first full week of December that would make it difficult to extend the trip.

There are many lessons here:

  • Always assume the worst.
  • Be skeptical and ask "what happens if..."
  • Allow many weeks for paperwork.

I probably should have asked multiple folks in the travel office if my paperwork was okay the first time. This special invite for a conference certainly isn't new. Someone there has surely dealt with it before.

I probably should have offered to drive to San Francisco myself on Wednesday and pick it up in person.

Now I'm hoping I can convince Rasmus to give my talk for me.

The real kicker is that I had this trip in mind when I bough the iPod that led to the massive waste of time over Thanksgiving.

Murphy is quite a guy, isn't he?

Posted by jzawodn at November 26, 2005 09:45 PM | edit

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