Saturday, June 19, 2010


I spent most of yesterday afternoon renewing my passport. It sounds like a simple thing to do - you can even fill out the form online - but each of the different steps required driving around town. I had to go to the bank to get my old passport from the safe deposit box, then from the bank to Walgreen's to get pictures taken. After hanging around until the pictures were ready (maybe ten minutes), I had to go home to fill out the form, print it, sign it, and find an envelope. Then I had to drive to the next town to go to the post office. (Yes, we have a post office in our city. Several. It's just that I live so near the city line that I'm actually closer to the post office in the next town.) There was a line at the post office, and traffic on the interstate. So it went.

This takes me back to when I first got a passport, in 1986. Prior to that, my only out of the country travel were day trips to Canada and Mexico, and in those days all you needed to cross those borders was a driver's license or student ID. In 1986, however, I decided to go on an Earthwatch expedition to Zimbabwe, and for that I needed a passport.

Having heard of the horrors of passport photos, I was surprised to find that I actually liked mine, despite not liking any pictures of myself, ever. I didn't think to ask if I could get extra copies. Subsequent passport photos have looked more like passport photos. I was also surprised at how quickly I got it. I was told it would take 4-6 weeks. Instead, it took a little over a week. Holding the passport made my trip seem real to me for the very first time. By the time I had to surrender that passport to get a new one, it had been stamped in England, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Brussels, Italy and France. I still have it. It's been stamped "cancelled" and has two holes punched in it, but my picture can still be seen.

The next edition, the one I just surrendered and hope to get back, similarly disabled, has an even more exotic history. It has been stamped in the Carribean, Canada and Mexico (in a less trusting time), Japan, Thailand, Hungary, France, Argentina, Brazil, Port Lockroy, Antarctica, and Cape Horn,  Chile. The Port Lockroy stamp has a penguin picture on it. The Cape Horn stamp has two. I tell people my passport looks like it has been issued by Pixar.

I don't have any exotic trips planned yet for the new passport. I just want to have a current one ready in case I do make plans to travel. It should come in handy if I ever get a yen to go to Fiji. Or Arizona.

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