Don't Forget to Change the Stamper Date

When I worked as a park ranger, I found that mornings were typically my favorite time of day. Before the peak visitor hours of mid-afternoon I had some time to relax. I could take my time opening the visitor center, brew a pot of coffee, and read the overnight park reports. At that time of day, when people wandered in with a question there was much more time to talk and give a thoughtful answer. It's the kind of thing that puts a smile on a ranger's face. But there is one thing that can quickly eliminate this state of bliss, one thing that can quickly turn a particular visitor from being my friend to one wanting to strangle me.

"What happened", I would think, "what did I do to make this person so mad?" And then I would see it sitting there on the counter. A Passport Book! Immediately it would dawn on me that I had forgotten to change the date on the passport stamper! I had remembered everything else: to turn on the lights, set up the cash register, boot up the computers, and unlock the doors, but by neglecting the date change, I was gonna hear about it. There are a lot of folks who take collecting the passport stamps seriously. As Nancy Bandley wrote earlier this week, there are many who have been at it for 20 years. And for this particular group having yesterday's date officially recorded for a visit today just does not cut it! A strong wave of guilt would crash upon me when this stamp collector with the wrong date in her book would look up at me as if to say "how could you? What kind of mean ranger plays a dirty trick like this?"

Fortunately there were a couple solutions that usually worked.
  1. Fix the stamper date ASAP!
  2. Grab the whiteout (which was typically and conveniently located in the same storage drawer as the stamper and ink pad)
  3. Carefully white-out the wrong date and then with the precision of a surgeon, re-apply the correct date
  4. Or, alternatively, get a small scrap of paper, stamp the correct date and then tape it over the wrong stamp
Many experienced stampers have had this happen to them before. These folks were easy to pick out, as they were the ones to flip the stamp over first and double-check the date before applying it to their books. They had presumably learned that a naturalist without a full cup of coffee in his system was bound to have left some things undone on his morning to-do list. In my short career as a ranger, this date debacle happened no more than a total of three times, but the frantic efforts made to fix those early morning mistakes will be a memory not forgotten any time soon.


Though I retired in '03, this piece sent a few chills up my back!

The flag may not have been raised, the theater may not be ready, and if the passport stamp is not reading the correct date guard your head. All joking aside - the Passport Progam has created a wonderful following and I thank each and every one of the passport holders.