There are some things in life that are sent to humble you, put you in your place. Filling out a passport application is one of those things. I have made it a point, since Gill moved to the UK, to keep my passport up to date. You never know when she might have a crisis, some life or death event such as a health emergency, a wedding (I know, I shouldn’t hold my breath), a legal snafoo that might require me to dash across the pond to post bail.
“Really, Ma? You haven’t come here to visit me in eight years but you’d drop everything to come in a crisis? You’re the LAST person I’d need in a crisis…no offense meant. But your tendency to panic and exaggerate is legendary.”
“Well, surely you’d want your mother with you in time of need…I feel it’s my duty to be ready to go, just in case.”
With that said, I checked my passport the other day to find it had expired a couple of weeks before. I rushed out to get a renewal form and got busy filling it out. I am now suffering from deep depression and am about ready to tear the entire form up.
The first thing that caused me consternation was the renewal period…5 or 10 years. I still think of myself as being relatively young, very fit, and nowhere near my ‘best by’ or (gasp!) termination date. But this option set me to thinking. In ten years, I WILL be too old to travel. I will have become one of those frail little old ladies on my last cruise, the ones needing help to make it into the tender boats to go ashore. I marvelled at their stupidity and optimism that they could attempt such rigorous expeditions. Or perhaps that was their retirement plan…to orchestrate a serious fall and file a lawsuit for millions. So, a five year passport was my reluctant choice.
Then I faced the issue of having my photo taken. Thinking I at least had control over one thing, I went to the photo studio immediately after having my hair done. How bad could I look with perfectly coiffed hair?
Bad. Really bad.
Turns out the hair shouldn’t have been at the top of my worries. There were so many other possibilities. First was the fact that you’re not allowed to smile. For anyone over 50, that means you look angry, with all the ridges and wrinkles dragging your features down. And then, since I suffer from one drooping eyelid, my face looked out of kilter. I had it surgically fixed years ago, but it would appear the surgeon lied. It wasn’t permanent. My solution has been to pencil in my eyebrows (or the few hairs that remain) with care, trying to change the arch to compensate for the disparity. I must have been drunk that day because they weren’t the same…and I looked, dare I say, half cocked. Not a good luck in a photo that will haunt you for five years. And I won’t even mention the neck wrinkles…I had worn a lovely white blouse thinking it would frame my face attractively. I should have worn my trusty turtleneck, the kind Nora Ephron immortalized in her book. All the blouse did was showcase my ridges and wattle.
Thank the gods that having a sponsor sign the pictures is no longer a requirement. I couldn’t imagine the humiliation of having a friend (or worse, The Man in My Life) sign this photo. Then I thought, “OMG! Does he really see me as looking like this? The man is a saint to be seen in public with me!”
The only thing good about the passport application, as opposed to visas and immigration forms, is that I don’t have to declare that I am not a terrorist, drug dealer, or prostitute eager to ply my trade in another unsuspecting country. Of course, if the authorities took a glance at the aforementioned photo, that would put paid to the prostitution option right there.
I remember the palaver Gill went through to get her recent UK visa. After all the forms, the money, the hassle, she still had to travel overnight to a distant city, stay in a hotel, and undergo a personal interview with the authorities. She was worried that they might sense something nefarious or suspicious in her demeanor that would get her deported on the spot. Our Gill? Never!
When I talked to her yesterday, I mentioned that my passport might be delayed a bit. Or there was the possibility that I might not bother at all. “What? You mean you won’t be coming to visit me? Ma, I’m crushed!”
“Actually, I think you’ll find I’m the one who is crushed. I find, and now have photographic evidence to prove, that I am an aged troll…an angry, aged troll. My travelling days are over. I wouldn’t want to scare the natives…”
“Oh, Ma! You’re just being too sensitive and overly dramatic. Everybody’s passport pics are terrible.”
“You think so? Here, take a look.” I put my photo in front of the computer camera.
“Well, Ma. You’ve seen a lot of the world anyway. Not to worry…”