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Sunday, November 25, 2018

How Not to Apply for a Passport

Scotto and I finally booked a holiday to New Zealand to be spent over the Christmas holidays.

Neither of us have a current passport and applying for a passport; the complex, tortuous bureaucracy entailed in obtaining a passport, is what has put me off overseas travel for almost two decades.

“I’ll agree to go overseas with you if I don’t have to do anything about my passport,” I announced to Scotto. “If you complete ALL the paperwork and brain numbing bureaucratic crap for me, then I’m in.”

Scotto was excited about an impending holiday and fastidiously finalised all the nit-picking, gathering of documents and cautiously informed me that all I had to endure was a quick trip to the post office to have my photo taken, then submit the paperwork in person.

“It’ll be quick and over in a few minutes, Pinky, You won’t feel a thing!” he assured me with a toothy grin.

The man at the post office on the mountain took three goes at taking my photograph. He said the first one was too blurry. The second photograph was also too blurry.

“This is perfect!” he announced beaming and holding up a photograph of a ninety-year-old crone who looked as though she hadn’t slept for a decade. The crone’s hair was greasy and her face bore a sad, resigned expression, like someone who smokes forty cigarettes a day, drinks gin for breakfast and whose children are all in jail for drug trafficking.

‘Never mind,’ I thought. I only have to look at it for ten years. Ten years will go quickly.

The following day, armed with all Scotto's meticulously organised paperwork, I conveyed the photograph of the haggard woman to another post office. 

It was happening. I would finally kick this onerous task to the kerb.

The lovely lady at the post office began to closely inspect my birth certificate.

“This is a copy. It’s not the original certificate,” she said, almost apologetically.

I paled. “No. It’s the original,” I argued in utter disbelief and panic. How could my husband send me on this dreaded errand with the wrong paperwork? Was he trying to kill me?

Another lovely post office lady came over to the counter, fingered the certificate and they both concurred that it was most definitely a copy.

“’S okay…," I whimpered. “I’ll come back tomorrow.”

I arrived home that afternoon and Scotto and I embarked on a maniacal quest of upending every tattered file, creased folder and silverfish-eaten shoe box in the house. 

Some hours later we discovered the original birth certificate ensconced under an ancient, overtly neglected bowel testing kit in my bedside table.

Back to the post office I traipsed the following day in a high state of trepidation. What else could go wrong?

I left the building floating on air. It was done. My dreaded passporting activities were over! The post office ladies were the nicest people in the world! I wanted to buy them flowers!

Two days later, I received and email from the Bureau of Pernickety Passporting.

“Dear Mrs Poinker,

The photograph you have submitted is blurry. If we don’t hear from you and you don’t send another photograph within 48 hours, we will cancel your application and you will have to start the entire process all over again. 

You must download this form, take it to a post office with the new photographs, sign the form in the presence of an officer and if you don’t you will lose the three hundred bucks you’ve already paid.

P.S. This is what happens when you try to dodge our fundamental and mandatory bureaucracy by shirking your personal responsibilities on to your long-suffering husband you indolent, old woman.”

I won’t say there were no tears shed on the receipt of this email, however, I dutifully proceeded to yet another post office to have my second lot of photographs taken. I made sure this post office had an extra-special, state of the art camera that guaranteed NO blurring. I also managed to get the form and photos sent within the 48 hours.

It’s been three days and I haven’t heard anything else. Fingers crossed.

Unbelievably, the second passport photo I had taken was even more insidiously ugly than the first. I have progressed from looking like a ninety-year-old crone to looking like Gollum.

Oh well. Ten years will go quickly.