We are not Canadians. Well, Percy probably technically is a Canadian since he was born here, but we all carry passports from another land not too far from here. Passports, no matter which country issues them, expire. And if you’re a child carrying a passport from a certain land not too far from here, they expire every.five.years.
I was looking for the Hen’s immunization records a couple of weeks ago because he was due for a vaccine. The papers were nowhere to be seen, but I did find his passport and remembered it had expired in September.
As we’re hoping to re-enact our epic journey across the border this summer, I had to address the expired passport situation; this time there could be no ‘I’ll deal with that later.’
Now, if you carry a passport from the land not too far from here, things get complicated where travel documentation is concerned. It’s not a matter of stuffing your child in a carseat and hightailing it to the nearest passport acceptance facility. No, you must make an appointment. Online. And interface with an ugly, non-user-friendly website and read the fine print regarding what you may and may not do. And identify everyone who will attend the appointment, by name.
So I made an appointment. I printed out the ‘required’ appointment sheet and I made a mental note to take the Hen for passport pictures. A week went by and the day before the appointment, as I was chaperoning a gaggle of third graders on a fieldtrip, before coaching a gaggle of five-year-old’s on the soccer field, I remembered about the photos.
I whipped out my non-smart-phone. ‘Can you take the Hen to get passport pics.’ I texted the professor who was on manny duty chez nous. ‘Sure,’ he replied.
And I patted myself on the back. Because this is what manager-types [aka adults] do. They delegate tasks. They don’t try to do everything themselves. They recognize their limits and ask other people to help, rather than running around like an over-committed crazy person.
I returned from the fieldtrip around the time the men-folk returned from their passport photo outing.
I looked at the $25 pictures. I squinted at what appeared to be a shadow, or possibly dirt, on the Hen’s face. ‘Twas not a shadow.
‘His.face.is.dirty!’ I fumed, flabbergasted that neither photographer nor father had noticed the hot chocolate on the kid’s face. And I had visions of the photo being rejected due to the Starbucks after-effects. And I feared for the professor’s safety if the 5 year old’s passport application was denied on the grounds of a faulty photo.
This was precisely why I run around like an over-committed crazy person.
The night before the 9:00am appointment, I gathered all the necessary documents and filled out the application. As I tried to remember my and the professor’s birthdates and official names, I stumbled upon a puzzling section of text:
‘The minor and both parents (or guardians) must appear in person to submit Form DS-11.’
Conundrum # 1: I’d only put my and the Hen’s names on ‘the list’ of people who’d attend the appointment.
Conundrum #2: This was a renewal of an existing passport, surely they only required both parents when a new passport is issued?
[This is the part where I should add I hated true-false tests as a child because I always managed to talk myself out of the correct answer by imagining extenuating circumstances in which the correct answer would be incorrect.]
I consulted the professor on the matter. He determined that since it was a passport renewal, it should be fine for one of us [meaning, me] to be there.
[This is the part where I should add the professor will do or say anything to get out of having to leave the house with his children in tow.]
So the Hen and I headed downtown where I spent a small fortune on parking the teal Volvo. I reviewed my belongings to ensure they met the verystringent requirements of the Consulate: small purse, no lipstick, no electronic car opening device, no cell phone.
All I had was a car key, a small handbag containing the necessary documentation, and my wallet and a pen.
The Hen and I arrived at the office, slightly out of breath from running all around the two-block radius looking for the entrance. A bulletproof-vest-wearing security guard ordered people to line-up against the wall. There was a purple-shirted man with a maroon passport a few people ahead of us. The guards had just informed him that his black messenger bag did not meet the size requirements for admission into the Consulate. The man, who I named Yevgeny (just for fun) was not happy. Because he’d have to rent a locker for his belongings……in a hostel…..that was 2 kilometers from the building.
Yevgeny voiced his displeasure. The guard ordered him out of the line ‘immediately’. Yevgeny decided to ‘secretly’ leave his verboten bag against the wall a few feet away and get back in line.
I waited to see what would happen, but the Hen and I were ushered inside for the first part of the screening process. Another vest-wearing security guard checked off our names, searched my small bag and wallet, all whilst talking to the other guards via ear and mouth pieces about Yevgeny.
How do you solve a problem like Yev-gen-y?
The Hen and I endured the airport-security-style search of our person and then we chatted with an intake person at the reception desk.
‘Do you have your passport application?’ ‘Yes!’
‘Do you have a birth certificate?’ ‘Yes!’
‘Do you have a photograph?’ ‘Yes!’
‘Do you have a method of payment?’ ‘Yes!’
And, as I’m flying through her questions, I’m patting myself on the back for being a-w-e-s-o-m-e. I got this! I thought to myself.
‘Do you have a postage paid express envelope?’ ‘No.’
‘Is your husband here?’ ‘No…….I thought since it was just a renewal he wouldn’t need to be here?’
‘Both parents have to be here.’
‘What should I do?’
‘Can you get him?’
‘Probably within the hour?’