I could have looked into taking some kind of an action at this moment, then in hindsight that wouldn't have made a difference.
The morning comes, I check out and find the nearest coffee shop for faster wifi and a caffeine kick. I call the US consulate general in Osaka which is 20min subway ride away, the robot makes me push a few numbers before I get to a person who, in a very thick Japanese-accented English tells me that they do NOT deal with green card issues. I switch to my mother tongue and ask for clarification, but she remains uncooperative. I call the Embassy in Tokyo, some white dude answers and basically says the same thing, sounding annoyed to even speak to me, and suggest that I call USCIS. It's 6pm PDT, They JUST CLOSED. Ticked off and helpless, I start to dig in online. Turns out I need to file the ONLY USCIS form ("boarding foil") that needs to be submitted physically in person to a US Embassy, and it takes at least 14 business days to process. My face couldn't have sunk in deeper into my palms, sitting outside Tully's with countless cherry trees in full bloom.
I had to make a call to miss my return flight and retreat to Toyama, and sort things out. I also had the slightest of doubt that I have left it back home when I re-packed. I had my mom look through the place already, but the place is bit of a mess, and she might not recognize it. So I hopped on a train back to where I was, not even two weeks prior.
Why is my identity, well-being and rights so contingent on this one piece of plastic?
Why do we let these plastics own our lives?
The Admissibility Review room I was taken to reminded me of a DMV; out of 7 windows only 2 were manned, all the exhausted travelers seated uncomfortably, one guard kept threatening to take cellphones out of whoever was using it. Some names get called and they are let go, some are interrogated further. The officers were chatting and goofing around with each other, some more friendly to the travelers than others. The situation didn't seem any more graver than just another example of inefficient bureaucracy that we have to live with.
I waited about 2 hours before my name was called. Upon seating in front of a plexiglass with a hole, the officer asked me (for the third time) if I was aware that my green card was expired. I calmly started to explain the ordeal from the moment that I left the country with the renewed GC, but once again he didn't even let me finish and asked if I had applied for a replacement. I said yes, then he went "Yea I see that you did (in our database)."
THEN WHY DO YOU EVEN ASK ME?
He handed me my document and said "have a good day."