Upon finding out the professor (or a legal document containing his permission) needed to accompany us on operation renew-the-Hen’s-passport-before-July, I had no choice but to retrace my steps back to the overpriced parking garage, to drive all the way home and pick up Herr Johnson and his mini-me. (If I had to choose a movie to sum up the story that is my life it would probably be Groundhog Day.)
But first, I had to get to my car.
To add insult to injury, I had managed to park in the one structure in Calgary that is accessible only via a single entrance: two blocks south of the actual garage. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. And I didn’t figure it out until after I’d circled the garage (which has many, many doors for exiting purposes. It’s little wonder I started humming Hotel California: ‘you can check out anytime you want, but you can never….get back in.’)
I finally had to ask someone how to get back in the parking garage and he told me I had to walk 2 blocks south. And obviously he didn’t design the structure or the entrance, but I was genuinely mad at him, at whoever did design the structure, at the City of Calgary and the Consulate-which-shall-not-be-named.
Because this day had turned plain ridiculous. And my patent leather loafers were not made for walking. And you try ‘encouraging’ a five year old to walk more than five minutes at a reasonable clip without complaining about how tired he is.
Eventually we found the teal special and I retrieved my cell phone hidden in the glovebox compartment to call the professor and inform him his presence was required.
We retrieved our party of two and got back on Bow Trail towards downtown and all I could think was ‘Look kids, Big Ben!’ because forget Groundhog Day, my life is a Chevy Chase movie.
This time I boycotted the parking garage and parked on a surface lot (nothing but entrances) three blocks south of the Consulate. I guess the irony in the situation is that I walked even more for the second appointment, but I was not about to patronize the entrance-less parking garage again.
Welcome to my world.
Back to the same office building and the same security guards and the same protocol. ‘Please line up against the wall,’ the Secret-Service-Agent-in Training ordered the seven of us standing in line. And then, he decided to make the most of his white shirt and bullet proof vest and give a little protocol speech to the minions against the glass wall.
He spoke as if addressing a crowd of hundreds, but there were literally four or five adults before him. And, in keeping with my habit of having inappropriate reactions to public situations, I felt an enormous snort-laugh coming on. And the professor was annoyed, muttering charming things like ‘the terrorists have already won’ and I’m pinching my nose and looking puzzled in an attempt to diffuse the laughter brewing in my belly. And the Hen is asking – out loud – ‘why can’t we have dynamite?’
Because there it is, on the verboten list. Dynamite. With a red diagonal slash running through the picture. No dynamite allowed.
I looked through the glass windows at the people sitting in chairs waiting for their names to be called. ‘There’s Yevgeny!’ I whispered to the professor, pointing to the bagless man with the purple shirt, looking somewhat defeated. Apparently the messenger bag stand-off had been resolved.
And then we were sent through to security (again) and my small red purse was checked (again) and I was airport-searched (again). And we checked in with the same receptionist (again) and she said ‘they found you,’ to the professor. And I had to laugh, because he was not looking his best, and when she said ‘they found you’ it made it sound like we’d pulled him out of a dumpster somewhere.
Minutes later we were escorted upstairs for another scan of our belongings and persons, before being allowed to enter the real waiting room. I paid the $105 for the passport and handed over the $25 photos of the kid with the dirty mouth and the $13 express envelope I’d purchased in the building’s lobby. ‘It’s going to be a $200 day,’ I muttered to the professor as we sat waiting for our number to be called to complete the application process.
Sitting in the row in front of us, was a well-dressed white-haired man. And a lawyer. People-watcher that I am, I considered the situation. Why would a man come to the Consulate with a lawyer? I strained to look at the binder in the lawyer’s lap.
Apparently if you want to renounce your citizenship from a certain country, you can’t just go all Gerard Depardieu and write a letter to the paper and become BFFs with a guy named Vladimir. No, you’re going to need a lawyer and a very thick binder with colorful tabs. I’m guessing the white-haired guy’s day cost a lot more than $200.
After I solved the mystery of the man and the lawyer, I turned my attention to the news. It was a feature story about the woman who’d just had a face transplant after her ex-husband doused her with lye. The Hen was watching too. [Thank you, Consulate.] A barrage of questions followed: ‘What happened to that woman’s face?’ She got burned and then doctors tried to fix her face. ‘How did she get burned?’ Um….chemicals…by….accident?
Eventually it was our turn (again). The agent held up the Hen’s old passport. The one containing the picture where he’s three or four weeks old, with baby acne and a slightly alien look on his face. ‘You look a little different,’ he said. And I thought of the dirty mouth. Some day we’re going to get an earful about his less-than-stellar passport pictures.
We held up our right hands and swore that we’d been truthful on the application.
Five days later, there was a passport in our mailbox.