Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles...

...well, not exactly. It was actually Buses, Trolleys and Metrorail. It was the day for us to go to the Port of Miami for our DHS (Department of Homeland Security) interview for the SVRS (Small Vessel Reporting System) so we can check in over the phone when we come back into the US instead of having to show our smiling faces at the DHS office each time. We thought we went well prepared, me being the detail-oriented OCD type that I am, but it turns out that I made more mistakes than not. Fortunately, DHS in Miami has one of the most awesome customer service agents I've ever had the privilege of working with. He was smiling, pleasant, courteous, informative, and freaking fast. Yes, all this in a government office, I kid you not.

A beautiful fountain on the DHS property

OK so here's my mistake confessions:

You must apply for the SVRS number online. They only do it online. Period. No problem, I went into the system and filled out the application for Tim as the captain but when I got to the vessel information it wouldn't let me hit "Add vessel". In fact, none of the buttons at the bottom of the screen worked and the only way to proceed was to hit cancel. On the left there was a "for more information and assistance contact us" link which opened up a mail window. I sent the mail indicating that I was having difficulties. No response for 3 days. I finally figured out I could do the boater part without doing the add vessel form and later put the boat info in the remarks section which I did. We got our appointment for today whereupon the agent informed me that I had done it wrong (no kidding) and that there had been a button labeled "master" that I was supposed to have clicked to indicate Tim was the captain and that after that I would have been able to add the vessel. I admitted I had not seen the button and he said no problem and proceeded to process Tim's application.

After Tim's was processed he returned for my confirmation number. Oops. I thought that only Tim had to have an application since he was the captain. Not. Every crew has to have a separate application and confirmation number. He said no problem, just get online on my phone and fill it out and he would go ahead and process it after I had my confirmation number.  Note: we got there one hour and 15 minutes early for our appointment because we were using unfamiliar public transportation and allowed a lot of extra time. He started processing us early, even though right after we got there about 38 Swedish young people came in to be processed prior to leaving on a flight back home after a 2 month school cruise on a three-masted barque named Gunilla.

OK. Deep breath. I had my iPad and my hotspot so I got online only  to discover that Homeland Security is in a large concrete building that challenged even Verizon's excellent signal, so I had to collect my iPad and hotspot and go outside and sit on a bench to fill out my app. I kid you not, even knowing that the "master" button was supposedly there I did not find it as I filled out my own app. After 20 frustrating moments (the DHS site is not as efficient as their customer service agent), I had my confirmation  number and traipsed back up the stairs, through the throng of Swedish-speaking students and within 5 minutes had my SVRS card.I am more computer literate than the average person, having worked in computers for a good many years and having designed websites on occasion, but this one challenged my patience. The agent said not to worry, a lot of people miss the button.

All in all it was a productive day. We got our SVRS numbers done, and even had it complete before our actual appointment was supposed to start. We learned our way around Miami's truly impressive public transit system. We had a delicious and reasonably priced meal at the Miami Culinary Institute, and we got to meet what I believe to be the only pleasant government official I've ever met in 57 years. Not bad for a Wednesday.


Great Grandma Rennier said...

Deb, if you had all that happen when you are very, very computer literate - just think about all of us "barely can use the computer" types out here and how frustrating this stuff can be. Also, there would not be the ipad option for us.

kcramerus said...

Only pleasant government official you've met, humph.

TJ said...

Kacey, you're family, government official standards don't apply.

raybosailor said...

I resemble that remark