What makes you wince, sends a shiver down your spine and wriggle around a little uncomfortably? Is it fingernails down a blackboard, you know when we had blackboards in classrooms and not just chalkboard paint on my kitchen wall? Is it the sound of paper ripping (yes yes YES Mr 11 screams from his corner of the room)? Or is it what happened to me today at the Australia Post Office in Runaway Bay, the sound and sight of scissors to my passport, cutting off the computer read strip?
The cutting away of the strip means until my new passport arrives in my hot little hands I am country bound, a very uncomfortable feeling in my world. Even though the country I am in is my homeland, it is not my current country of residence or the country where my husband is right now. It just feels weird, and I don’t like it.
After recently consulting my passport I determined if all goes to plan flight wise, I will land back in the US with six months and four days on my existing precious and battered document. Most countries require six months validity to accept you through their immigration queues, so if there is a delayed flight or a change of plans I could be in a very sticky situation. Then there is that I actually have no long term residency rights in the US beyond my visa, valid for another year right now, but I really want to be really sure that I can get on a plane anytime, anywhere and go if I need to.
There are so many stories of passport problems I have heard over the years that you would think I would be more on top of things, but I wasn’t. I am flying next Friday, and a priority passport takes 4 days according to the Post Office guy, 2 days processing time after receipt according to the very friendly and helpful customer service Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade representative I spoke to this morning.
So this afternoon with greasy hair and no make up I rushed around trying to find somewhere to take a passport photo of me that will take me INTO MY 50′s! The current one was taken when I was 33 and living in Hong Kong, where I was obviously doing a lot more work on the maintenance side of my life. I was wearing make up, had reasonably done hair and appeared very calm in my photo.
Today a lady in the Sanctuary Cove pharmacy took my photo and I nearly cried. Literally (as my kids say all the time and it drives me nuts) tears were welling in my eyes. Although I should have had a clue to the outcome when she was lining up close – ish to my face about a foot below my chin line.
Don’t worry love, they all look like mug shots.
No, no they don’t. My last photo is almost beautiful compared to this.
Well, if you don’t want to take it…..
No, I don’t want to take it, but I have to, my passport interview is in thirty minutes, at a location twenty minutes away.
I don’t think I can re-visit the Sanctuary Cove pharmacy, ever. My terrible passport photo is probably on the wall with a big red mark on it, chances are though if I returned to purchase some big earrings or very expensive sunblock that they wouldn’t recognize me, because I didn’t.
It sounds so vain even to me, but it’s not like I put it in a drawer and forget about it for years at a time. As an expat I kind of use it quite a bit. I began to understand why I had make up on in the current shot and had perhaps even blow dried my hair that day.
As I drive onto Runaway Bay for my Post Office interview I thought about my options. If I got there ahead of time I could find another pharmacy and try again, as luck would have it – there was one just around the corner. I rushed in, bought some oversized clips to prop up my hair a bit and asked if they did passport photos.
Yeah, we do, but the camera’s broken.
Of course it was.
Beaten I trudged to the Post Office where the line was lengthy but I kept getting closer to the photo from hell on my passport until I am IN MY 50′s, did I say that already? When I got to the front I asked, in a very small voice…..
Do you do passport photos?
Yes we do, $14.95.
The lighting was better, the man was taller, I have 2-3 less chins in the second shot. It’s not perfect but it’s so much better than what could have been.
So all things going well – next Friday we will be returning to the US, 3 travelers with 5 passports between us. The old elastic band on the second passport for the visa trick, an expat oldie but goodie.