Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Putting a rush on a passport, and a non-smile | Lisa Scottoline

As soon as the young clerk told me I couldn't smile in the photo, all I could do was smile.

Here's hoping the passport comes in time.
Here's hoping the passport comes in time.Read moreiSTOCKPHOTO

Some people love to travel, but not me.

I'm happy with a simple trip to the refrigerator.

But, as you may remember, I'm going to Italy to research my next book.

Not that I'm complaining. It's carb country.

But I looked at my passport and realized it had expired, which meant I had to get a new one in two weeks, since that's the only time I have to go on the trip.  The problem is that if you need a passport tomorrow, you can get it in a day, but if you need one in two weeks, you have to apply at the passport office in the city and hope your passport comes in time. And you can't even apply for the two-week window unless you've already paid for your airfare and hotel, so I had to do both of those things, then apply.

And now I have to rely on the government or I will lose the thousands of dollars I've already spent on the trip, none of which is refundable.

Would you bet thousands of dollars on the government?

Would you bet any money on the government?

But that's not my point herein.

My point is I'm happy to report that though I have gotten older, I have definitely gotten wiser.

I'll tell you how I know.

Before I went to apply for my new passport, I went to a local place that took passport photos.  The young clerk read me the directions, which are that you have to take your glasses off and you can't smile.

This proves the government is terrorist-savvy.

Because terrorists never smile.

I guess the idea is that if you're a terrorist and you smile in your photo to trick us, the customs officials will figure that you must not be a terrorist and let you through.

Or maybe if you smile in your photo, but aren't smiling when you encounter the customs official, the customs official won't be able to tell who you are.

Like your smile is a disguise.

But what happened is as soon as the young clerk told me I couldn't smile in the photo, all I could do was smile.  Then I started laughing, and so did she, probably because we're both too old to be told  by the government that we can't smile.

Which is itself laughable.

Maybe the same reasoning goes with glasses. In fairness, I guess people do look somewhat different with glasses, or there would be no reason for contact lenses. I remember back when I wore contacts and thought I looked better in them than with my glasses.

Now I don't care.

A fact which was driven mercilessly home when the young woman took my passport picture, printed it out, and showed it to me with a frown, asking if I wanted to retake it.

I looked at the photo, and it looked just like me in a bad mood.

Because I wasn't smiling.

Most of the time, I'm smiling.

Proof positive that I'm no terrorist.

So I told her, "No thanks, I don't need it to be retaken."

And she said, "Are you sure? We have time."

I think she was just being nice.

Not suggesting that I definitely needed it retaken.

And it was a moment of truth, because I thought to myself there was a time in my life when I would've actually cared what I looked like in a passport photo.

We all had our photos taken in school, and you may remember Picture Day as well as I do, because we were all actually nervous. We all tried to look good for pictures. We wore our nicest outfits and combed our hair.

They even let us keep the comb.

The day the pictures came back was even scarier. If the photos looked good, we showed them to each other.  If they weren't, we were getting retakes, in which case we put our hand over the plastic window on the envelope, so no one could witness our camera-ready shame.

Now I don't care.

So I kept the bad passport picture and took it to the passport office, where I set it down in front of the passport guy, who frowned at it, too.

He said, "You need to get it retaken."

"But that's what I look like," I told him, launching into my lecture, basically all of the above. "I know it's not a great photo, but it really doesn't matter to me, and that shows that I have finally gained perspective in life."

"Huh?" he asked, still frowning.

"I don't want a retake. This is as good as it gets if I don't smile or wear my glasses disguise."  I was trying to make him laugh, but he wasn't laughing.

"It's not that. The photo is too light. You need to get it retaken."

"Oh," I said.

So I did.

And the retake looked as bad as the first photo, only darker.

So I applied for the new passport and I'm crossing my fingers that it will arrive in time.

In the meantime, I'm going to the refrigerator.

Look for Lisa and Francesca's new humor collection, "I See Life Through Rosé-Colored Glasses," and Lisa's number-one best-selling domestic thriller, "After Anna," and her new Rosato & DiNunzio novel, "Feared," in stores now.