Nothing but problems |

Nothing but problems

Alison Osius
Alison Osius
Staff Photo |

There’s a problem, my son, 21, texts me. He can’t renew his driver’s license online. He is shocked that such a thing, or really anything, can’t be done online.

Ted is soon to fly home from college. We have gotten his ticket. To fly, anyone needs a government-issued photo ID.

“Just use your passport,” I tell him unconcernedly.

There’s a problem. His passport must be turned in immediately to the Spanish consulate for a visa to study in Spain next semester.


I am in a gym climbing with my intern Monica, 22, as these texts arrive.

“What ID can people use to fly these days?” I wonder aloud. I murmur about looking around on the Internet.

“You do that kind of thing for him?” she says. “My dad has me deal with all that stuff.”

“I’ll make him do it,” I say stoutly, guiltily, of my son.

Ten minutes after returning home I am on the Division of Motor Vehicles website. Indeed the expired driver’s license can’t be renewed online; renewal requires a vision test. Nor is there even time for him to get the eye test from a practitioner, at cost (but not as much as a plane ticket). Nor can any other provisions apply. I peruse the TSA website and trudge out to our garage, where my spouse has unaccountably piled my file cabinets in a tall, tall tower. I drag a ladder over to the corner to reach the file that contains copies of birth certificates and Social Security cards, and fish out copies to mail.

“We might really have a problem,” I tell my husband.

“They might not let him on the plane,” he says.

“They might not let you on the plane!” I roar to my son, if such can be done via text. But now I have another idea: “Make a copy of your passport and get it notarized. Your bank can do that.”

He is extremely busy, he informs me, with exams. He will do it next week before leaving Tuesday for the consulate in Boston, catching a ride with a friend. On the Monday, he is shocked that the banks are closed. For Columbus Day.

“Boy, couldn’t have seen that one coming,” I text, if snarkiness can show via text.

He, his friend, and the friend’s cousin, in a great flurry, hie off to Boston. My son hands in his passport. No copy has been notarized.

“Do you have a copy?” I text, horrified.

“One but it got a lil crumpled.”

“Smooth it out, go to the bank, and beg them to notarize.”


I send long texts of instruction, asking him to bring the expired license, his college ID, the birth certificate and SS card to the notary. “If you explain, they might help you. Don’t lose anything!”

Yet he is very busy, writing papers and applying to internships. ”I’m on my way to the library,” he notes pointedly.

The night before he is to fly, I text: “Bring everything and get there early. Passport copy notarized?”

“I’ll be fine,” he replies, admonishing: “Chill.”

This is the guy who is about to go overseas. For months.

My friends have horribly funny stories. One year Heather drove Weaver, then 16, to Denver to travel to Uganda. By Detroit he had lost his passport. He had to fly back to Denver; Heather had to return there to fetch and rebook him and expedite another passport. Days later they returned to Denver. He boarded.

Heather recalls, “I headed back over the mountains only to get a call at Eisenhower that his flight had mechanical difficulties and had to return to Denver.” He’d miss his connections to Africa. She returned to Denver a third time. Next try, Weaver made it to Entebbe, though his luggage didn’t.

Another friend’s son flew off to Russia with his ski team only to find he’d left behind his duffel, a black team-logo bag just like all the others piled by the van, and which his parents then sent after him.

Of my own blithe son, I ask a friend, “What’s he going to do when he’s over there, and we aren’t around?”

“They have to do it themselves,” he says. And we have to let them.

My son, sans notarized passport, enters the airport. Ahead may be a hard lesson.

He shows his expired license, passes security. He later tells me, smiling, “They didn’t even mention it.”

Femaelstrom appears on the third Friday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at

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