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Budget Standoff Spells Shipwreck For His Dream Job

THURSDAY, NOV. 16, 1995

He gave his boss notice. He sublet his apartment.

All his bags are packed, he’s ready to go.

There’s just one niggling detail keeping Drew Van Dyche, 29, from his exciting new life as a fitness director aboard a tropical cruise ship: A passport.

Recent layoffs of “nonessential” federal employees suspended the normal processing of passport applications. The Spokane man may have to say bon voyage to his new job because of this.

“The government is getting in the way of people’s dreams,” Drew complains. “I’ve given up my life here. I’ve got airplane tickets. Everything is settled. Everything but this last hurdle.”

Drew is a buyer for Egghead Software and an aerobics instructor at Gold’s Gym. He also is one of the innocent pawns caught in the High Noon showdown between Bill Clinton and Republicans controlling Congress.

Their political tug of war led to a partial government shutdown Tuesday as Republicans attempt to pressure Clinton.

Republicans want to balance the budget in seven years, one of the fundamental promises of their “Contract with America.”

Clinton has countered with nasty television ads that tar the GOP as a pack of heartless jackals. It’s pure sleaze, sure, but a gullible public seems to be swallowing it.

Drew doesn’t care about Newt, Bob or Bubba. He just wants a passport. Without the legal document, he won’t be able to board the MS Imagination when it pulls out of Miami on Nov. 25.

“Why is it necessary for our leaders to do these kinds of power plays?” he wonders. “These are high school or junior high tactics.”

Steiner Transocean Limited - a British-owned company that runs beauty salons and spas for cruise lines - wants Drew as a physical fitness director.

The unexpected job offer came early this month. Drew was on a vacation cruise with friends when he conducted a few high-energy workout sessions. Some of Transocean’s fitness instructors attended his classes and liked the man’s style.

When the cruise ended Nov. 4, Drew was given an opportunity many of us dream about: being paid to float the azure seas around Jamaica.

The kicker was that he had to have a passport.

“This is a dream in my heart that suddenly manifested,” he says of the big decision to leave behind his comfortable, computer-based job.

But for a weird snag, Drew would have had his passport well before the government shutdown.

While living in California, Drew changed his name on his driver’s license from Drew Dyche to Drew Van Dyche. “I used to get teased a lot,” he says, explaining why he didn’t like his given name.

Federal agents took a dim view. They told Drew he had to get his name changed in a courtroom to qualify for a passport. That cost Drew an extra week.

On Monday morning, with his name legally changed, Drew filed for a passport. He paid extra to get the papers processed in three days.

Then the government shut down.

According to news reports, Republicans may try to help those who are nervously awaiting passports.

“I feel so sorry for these people,” says Sue Nichols of Spokane’s passport office.

She compares the Clinton-Republican squabble to “two little boys drawing a line in the dirt and yelling, ‘Neener-neener-neener”’ at each other.

To Drew, the situation is more heartbreaking. “I can’t give up hope, I’ve gone too far,” he says. “Even if I don’t get the passport, I’ll probably still go to Miami and see what happens.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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