I just came across this article in the Seattle Times, which says that - surprise! - right now it's taking a really long time for people to get their passports. Assistant Secretary of State Maura Harty, who according to the article is in charge of U.S. passports, made the following statement: "Over the past several months, many travelers who applied for a passport did not receive their document in time for their planned travel. I deeply regret that." The article also quotes her as saying, "I accept complete responsibility for this." So apparently she's the one I should write to for a reimbursement of whichever of my travel expenses are non-refundable.
The article had some other happy news: "the national information center cut training time so it could quickly add people to answer calls," and in some cases the new employees ended up misinforming callers. Nice!
According to the article, applications started to come in faster than they were going out in October of 2007. Then there was a huge increase in applications during the first three months of 2007. The State Department underestimated the demand, and "by summer, more than 2 million people were waiting for passports; half a million had waited more than three months since applying for a document that typically was ready in six weeks." Lucky me.
I really want to cry.