The trip to Philadelphia was a qualified success. As you'll recall, Starman received his green card last month and saw that USCIS wanted him to channel Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue." He then did something so profoundly stupid he'll never live it down.
He followed directions.
Yes. I know. Shocking, isn't it? He saw that the accompanying letter said, "If there's a problem with your card, call this number." He called that number. The robot instructed him to send in the offending card. He sent in the card. (I did yell at him for not sending it registered/receipt requested, but that's a minor point.)
Imagine our surprise, then, when we got to the USCIS office in Philly, and a personage no less imposing than the guy checking our appointment slip yelled at us for mailing back the green card. It seems that we should have brought it straight to them. "Well," I wanted to scream at him, "You [as in USCIS] should have told us that!!!"
Luckily, the official we ultimately saw was willing to get past her initial disapproval and see our difficulty. (I also was willing to see that Starman was beating himself up worse than I could do it, so I shifted over to a more cheery attitude, assuring him that everything would be okay.) She verified that the green card had arrived at the Missouri center, but they hadn't started work on it. She stamped his passport -- a year's worth of temporary green card! -- and advised us to try with the Social Security office again with just the passport, but if that doesn't work, to wait until we get the green card again.
Whatever we do, she intoned solemnly, don't ask for the file. Once a regional office asks for the file, it will take much longer to get the green card back.
And there was something about a G-845, but I think that was mooted by later developments. Which is just as well, because I never entirely understood what the G-845 was supposed to do.
Here, then, is where we are: We are okay to travel in January, and again in April. We can see if the temporary green card in his passport is sufficient to get the social security number, but we're assured that if not, the green card will get back to us soon. And we learned never to follow directions again, but rather, to do what they tell us to do instead.
And no meeting with the nice designer guy. Maybe later...