There’s this story in my mother’s family about my great-great uncle. He and his wife once forgot their passports and nearly missed a plane rushing home to get them. Thereafter, each demanded of the other several times before any long journey, “Did you get the passports?” It became a running joke, a family-wide reference to anything small, important and forgotten. Tickets to a play? “Honey, don’t forget the passports.” Social Security Card? “Honey, don’t forget your passport.” Turning off the appliances before my grandparents’ annual pilgrimage to Floria? “Passports!” In fact, neither of my grandparents nor my Mom had a passport, serving to further confuse friends who happened to overhear the reference.

In my Dad’s family, in contrast, it’s considered sinful to lack a passport. I guess they want to be prepared to flee the country. Mom flipped when Dad got me my first one at the age of ten. She thought he was going to kidnap me across national boundaries or something. I used it exactly once, going to Canada with my paternal grandfather long before a kid needed a passport for such a crossing.

In spite of this lack of use, the absence of a passport in my life has nagged me ever since the old one expired when I was fifteen or so. (Sometimes, it takes a lot of nagging to get action out of me.) This year, Scott and I bit the bullet (and the expense) and got our whole family passports. We have no international travel planned in the immediate future, but we would like to be ready should an opportunity arise. (Please, opportunity, find me!)

So we dragged the kids out on a day we were already taking family pictures (or maybe it was the other way around) and got our passport photos at the same time. The woman taking our photos at the post office could only be described as a harridan. She was shorter than I was, meaning she had to look up at practically everybody, making already unflattering photos even worse. She stalled and shooshed, scathed and snarled, and she consistently refused to do retakes, even in the case of the woman whose head got chopped off above the eyes, until her supervisor intervened.

“No smiling!” That was her biggest edict. And have you ever tried to not smile when somebody is screeching at you about it? It’s like white polar bears. As soon as somebody says “no”, it’s all I can do. She finally got three of us straight-faced long enough to take her shot. But Sam, who she had to perch up on a stool anyway, was too nervous to stop cackling. She had to retake him twice without argument because he kept flipping forward to grab interesting things under the stool and vanishing from the photograph. So when his final picture came up with a half-smirk, she let it ride.

We sent out the forms and such, and the passport folks eventually returned the completed applications (along with our birth certificates, thank you very much). They also gave back the ‘extra’ pictures, since you have to submit two, but the office only uses one.

Oops, I scanned Sam upside down

Oops. I scanned Sam upside down

They’re horrible. Even Caroline looks bad. Sam’s is saved by the half smile, but all of us still look like felons.

The felons confess

 Family Convicted of Something Really Bad

Deputy T.W. Trogdolyte didn’t bother with a trial when he picked up this group. “Between the famer’s tan on the man, the frown line and double chin on the woman, and those pale, pale children, I knew I’d found my rat.”

This reporter was lucky enough to gain access to the prison to ask the group about their horrific deeds. The man said, “I can’t believe they caught us.” His wife added “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of my eyes!” The daughter said, “I accept responsibility for my actions and look now to the future, the future.”

But the son’s reaction was the most astonishing of all. He smiled directly at the camera and told me, “I’d do it again for a bag of Skittles.”


10 thoughts on “Passports

  1. So funny! The best one we have around our house was an i.d. my hubs had in college. The lady told him to “look up” meaning with his eyes. He tipped his entire head back and she snapped a clear shot right up his nose!

  2. Hilarious. Why are those people always so MEAN??? When I renewed mine, I did the whole thing online and avoided those hideous people at the post office.

    I wish for you an out-of-country jaunt in 2012. One never knows……… 🙂

  3. Hehe. I don’t know which is worse, the booth or the person taking version. Either case, you never end up with a flattering photo! Most of my male relations look like very suspect terrorists in theirs, the only decent one was when me and my husband spend an entire morning trying to do one for my father with a white bedsheet backdrop and tin foil. He actually looked civilised for once! 😉

    • I can just imagine you holding the tin foil out to reflect natural sunlight appropriately on his face!! I think we may try something similar in a decade when we do this again. (We’ll just staple the kids in a photo booth, since theirs expire every five years.)

  4. I always smile in photos… passport, driver’s license, whatever… I would have just told the old witch to deal with it, I am a smiler. 🙂

    • That was the hell of it. She had just delayed things TWENTY MINUTES for this poor woman who couldn’t get the grin off her face (and it didn’t help that the rest of us kept snickering, making the woman smile even more). She refused to take the picture if you were smiling, and then wouldn’t do retakes when they were clearly needed until the victim got the supervisor involved. So the rest of us were trying to keep things moving along and wishing we could conk her with her own camera and just take the photos ourselves.

  5. I got my daughter a passport as a toddler because we did have international travel plans. Her picture? Looks like one of those drunk driving arrest celebrity mugshots. We had to bribe her with cookies to get her to stand and look at the camera. Thankfully she found the whole process so horrendous that she never once cracked a smile.

    The no smiling rule is funny – and it’s one of those 9/11 things, I think, because my last passport (from college) had a huge goofy grin on it and it was never an issue.

    • I think you’re right – my last passport was a ‘smiler’ too. It’s a dumb dumb rule. Because … what? You dont’ look like yourself when smiling? Because that creature in the photo looks even remotely like me? I can imagine the “just stand up for the camera!” conversations with a toddler, though. They must have been ten times worse than our experience. Aside from the long wait and wanting to H-U-R-T this lady, our biggest problem was when Sam suddenly realized he didn’t have his tie and sent Scott racing back to the car for it. (What four year old WANTS to wear a tie? I’m sure he won’t want this when he is fifteen.)

For the love of Mike, TALK to me! (Concrit welcome on fiction)

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