(Note: As of 2019, the Google Text service no longer exists.)
Okay, not my entire life, but a quality two hours of my life were saved from post office purgatory due to that wondrous little widget known as Google Text, which I first heard about a few weeks ago on Gadling. For the first few days, I played with Google Text as if it were 20Q [Note: This site is now defunct.], trying to stump it with any question I could think of. What are the locations of every Yolato in NYC? Is there still a Daffy’s on Sixth Ave.? What is Elton John’s real name?
Part of my challenge was seeing how little info I could send to QT and still get an accurate response. When I made the Elton inquiry, I simply typed “Elton John’s real name.” In under 15 seconds, I had my response. (Reginald Kenneth Dwight, for those not near their cell.)
I used GT more like a game than an actual practical device for the first few weeks. Co-workers and interns alike were getting irked by my insistence to “see if Google Text knows it!” When one intern pointed out how it had failed her the night before, I had her retrace her steps, then pointed out what she’d done wrong before assuring her GT wouldn’t let her down next time.
It was only today that I discovered how GT could be a life-saving device — and not only for myself. I believe this free service may have saved the woman behind the passport desk from my attempting homicide.
I’d already had an altercation with the passport police the week before. Yes, I’ve legally changed my name, I told them, but, no, I didn’t have the paperwork because it was never given to me. (All true.) Why did I need this extra layer of evidence — beyond all the documentation I’d already had shipped from my home — when I hadn’t needed it three years ago, for the same exact thing? I’d been issued my passport then with no problem — I simply provided the proof of the use of my new, legal name and just a few weeks later I was graced with the document to flee the country. This time, however, I wasn’t in LA. Instead, I was up against the clerks of the NYC central post office.
And so I stood in line yet again today, the air about me seeming to gel from the oppressive humidity. I watched for 20 minutes as the clerk helped the same two customers, with little action being done by parties on either side of the counter. There were still two customers ahead of me and an increasing number behind. I hadn’t moved a step. Another five minutes passed. Then another. Everyone about me fidgeted from discomfort and impatience. Where had I read about a similar uncomfortable experience about travel?
Ah, that Gadling post about Google Text! In my research on full-service passport locations, I had read about the Greeley post office, just a few blocks away on 6th and Broadway. But I was hesitant to give up my place in line only to find myself in the same predicament, just different scenery. So I texted Google, “Greeley Post Office, NYC.” I had to choose the “More” option before I got the listing, but there it was, local phone number and all.
A few seconds later, I was on the phone with a clerk who was far less surly than the woman who was still “helping” the same two clients. “You do passports there, right?” When he told me yes, I asked how long the line was. “No line at all?” I said a little too loudly. The others in the line turned to look at me. What magical world could I be calling?
Before they could put the clues together, I was out of there, fleeing down the majestic steps of the main post office for Greeley. I glanced behind me every few yards to make sure my fellow line-waiters weren’t tailing me. Fifteen minutes later, I was leaving Greeley with my paperwork completed, a smile on my face from having dealt with the extremely pleasant courteous clerk.
Had it not been for Google Text, I might still be standing in that line in the main post office.