A few weeks ago, Sarge and I were at the post office before most people are awake on a Saturday morning.
‘Nobody’s here,’ he said.
‘Everyone’s in bed. It’s 9.03 in the morning.’
We were dropping off my passport renewal form before boarding a train to Glasgow for the weekend.
I checked the envelope for the thousandth time.
‘I forgot to cut and staple one of the two photos to the form,’ I was quoting the form. The same form that rejected my first attempt at a photo, because my face was too big. Yes, really.
‘The bottom of your chin to the top of your head (including hair) should not be less than 1 inch and not more than 1 3/8 inches.’ So says page 2 of the 4 pages of instructions that go along with the 2 page form.
Did you know that 1 3/8 inches is the exact size of a standard heel on a shoe? I know this because that’s how the woman who took the second photo measured my face. With the heel of a shoe. No, she didn’t take hers off, she had heels around. It was a shoe/jewellery repair/passport photo shop, where I spent a lot of time making sure my face was just the right size.
Back at the nearly deserted post office, Sarge cut and stapled and sealed before the whole thing started to look like an abstract art project.
And now, I wait.
My last passport was issued when I was 19. I took the photos in a photo booth, took my just-right face to the US Embassy, filled out the forms and got my passport the next day, for reasons I don’t want to repeat. The point is, I’ve never had to wait for a passport before, and I’ve used one since before I knew what waiting felt like.
I’ve said elsewhere that my passport is one of my favourite things. And I like it best when it’s in the same building as I am.
I count the stamps and remember my journeys. There was that time I was searching the Louvre for the accessible toilet and found the Mona Lisa instead, and the time I slept in a bathroom on another trip to Paris. My passport has been with me in Italy, Prague and Seattle, where a waiter who was younger than me asked to see it when I ordered beer with dinner. My passport nearly fell off the back of a speed boat in Ireland, but has never been through the wash.
I thought it arrived today, when the postman actually knocked instead of shoving stuff through the door. I’ve never been so disappointed to see an early birthday parcel. I appreciate it, but it’s not my passport.
I want it back, along with my new one. It needs new ink and I have new trips to take. Perhaps I’ll send a post-card to the lovely lady who finally got my face to fit in the photo.
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