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Dumpster diving for notarials

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

I’ve been working full time in ACS for a few weeks now. I still work in the visa section some days, to help process massive amounts of student visas, but I’m mostly helping American citizens these days.

ACS has a good reputation among consular officers. Many diplomats find it satisfying to help American citizens register their new born child, print an emergency passport, and find people who went missing overseas. I agree, I think.

The only reason I’m not sure yet is because it’s been stressful so far. One reason is all the unexpected prison visits I had to make. The other is the incredible volume of birth certificates and passports we have to issue to catch up after the COVID-related closure since March last year.

The consulate was never really closed, of course, because there are always things that can’t wait, but there are tons of people who need appointments and we’re behind already.

So, with all this pressure, I do stupid things sometimes. Avoiding errors feels important because I don’t want to mess with people’s travel plans or official documents, but it’s likely to happen when processing high volumes of paperwork.

One such mistake had me delving into the trash yesterday. I’d accidentally discarded a notarized document. I’d meant to do that, except I tossed the wrong document. I was horrified to think that the friendly gentleman, who had already gone through the trouble of coming to the embassy and notarizing two forms, would have to do it all over again because of me!

I tend to dress nicely. In fact, that day I was wearing my Gucci loafers—outrageously expensive shoes I gifted myself when I joined the Foreign Service. But I headed down to the garbage department to plead my case. I inspected trash containers, ready to go through every bag. But they had been emptied. Not a single piece of paper was left.

Deflated, I went back to my desk. Then a very helpful colleague from facilities called—there was hope, he said. Today’s trash was still here. We went to check it out and found several bags stuffed in a closet. He offered me rubber gloves and reinforcement from the cleaning crew. Through divine intervention, or so it felt like, I soon discovered a transparent bag with papers I recognized. I tore the bag open and there it was… the notarized document I was looking for!

I was elated. Problem solved. If only all problems could be solved like that!


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