Tuesday, April 19, 2011


The passport office was locked up tight and vacant when I walked in. The sign on the door said they were open until four and I'd called earlier in the day to make sure I had everything I needed to get a passport.

I stood there, documents in my hand and wondered where the clerk was.

"We can't tell you how long the line will be," the woman on the phone said. "But it usually only takes about ten to fifteen minutes once we get you in the office."

That sounded good to me, even though the money --about a hundred and fifty dollars -- sounded like a lot to put down. It was scary. In my head, I could number off half a dozen things where I could probably spend the money --bills to catch up, credit cards to pay down, money to save up for future car repairs and unexpected setbacks --but this was for me. It was a lottery ticket for a dream.

Nobody moved toward the office until a hot mama in a tight blouse with too few buttons stepped toward the office, dragging a shy, nervous boy with her. At that point, the guy supposed to be overseeing the passport office came around at something just shy of a trot.

He unlocked the door and ushered the two of them in while I added, "Hey, I'm here for a passport, too."

He looked at me like he could care less --but I didn't mind. He was where he needed to be and I was where I needed to be.

As I slouched there on the bench, wondering if this was the right thing to do, if this was the right time to get a passport, a jovial man sat down next to me. He told me he was just here to update his photo.

"This is my first passport," I told him.

He smiled and asked me where I was going.

"I don't know yet," I said. "I don't have any plans. I just want to see something, you know?"

He nodded and told me he'd been to a lot of places. He did a lot of mission work and went to Africa a couple of times a year. He named countries I'd never heard of and spoke of incredible French cuisine and witchcraft.

"Real witches," he said and shook his head. "It ain't like it is over here. They got witches who sacrifice women and children. Around election time, people lock up their wives and kids --otherwise, they can lose them."

He was deadly serious, then smiled and told me, "You should go to India. The people there are just so kind, so hospitable. They'd like you."

I thought, I'd like them, too. What's not to like about ashrams, the Ganges river and the Kama Sutra? I love curry.

Eventually, the woman and her son left the office and I began the tiresome process of handing over documents, which I hoped would be sufficient, and waiting to see if this was going to work.

It seemed to go okay. He took my money and my picture.

While I was waiting for him to go over the paperwork, I said to the guy, "This is probably a dumb question, but do you have a passport?"

He groaned and sagged in his chair.

"No," he said. "I don't and I should." He shook his head. "I'd love to take my wife somewhere, but we both need them to go, you know, to the Bahamas or something." The clerk signed. "You'd think I might get a discount doing this..."

But apparently not.

Finally, everything was done and I was told I should get my passport in about a month.

On my way out, I wished the missionary on the bench a safe journey.

"Good luck to you, too," he said.

I hope so.

1 comment:

Wv Sky said...

Don't go to the touristy places. Go to Estonia for a real treat.