Passport renewal trials and tribulations…
Being that we have plans to travel internationally some time in 2015, I had to renew my passport. Mine expired in 2013, and thinking back to the process back in 2003, I don’t remember it being so bad. I wasn’t a fan of the picture I had in the latest iteration of my passport, mainly because I decided to get it taken 2 days after I started a fitness plan, but I digress.
It was pretty easy to find and complete the forms for renewal online. The only snafu there was that it didn’t fully print the address for my emergency contact, but that was easy enough to write in.
So we took our completed forms, old passports, and $110 checks made out to the “Department of State” and headed over to the Colonie Center post office to have our pictures taken and to send everything in. When we arrived, there was a sign indicating the passport picture machine being out of service and diverting people to a place inside of the mall called “I Smile Studio” for this service.
Now, I understand shit happens. Things break. Kids pick up cameras and yank the film out of them all the time (well, they did 20 years ago). I know all that jazz. I also understand that lots of places take passport photos, but in the heat of the moment, you’re in the zone and just want to accomplish the task at hand. So I was annoyed that the only passport office with hours outside of normal business hours for miles couldn’t have their shit together for what would be a busy day. It was a minor annoyance; they offered a plan B that seemed easy enough.
So we found this I Smile Studio and were quickly greeted and served. $16 a piece for 6 identical passport pictures. I don’t know the market for this; it seemed high, but I just wanted to get it done. A young lady helped us step around the seemingly countless parents and children lining up for pictures with Santa and other fictional and non-fictional nouns. She put us in front of a white background and took a couple of pictures. She said it would take 15 minutes or so to print and cut the pictures.
We waited the 15 minutes, and a different girl called us over and said they needed to retake the pictures, no explanation as to why, but we followed. After waiting another 20 minutes, a different girl came out to ask if we were waiting to have our passport pictures taken. At this point I was pretty frustrated. I explained that they had taken the pictures twice and that we had no idea what was going on. She walked in the back and came back out to argue with me that they needed to take our pictures again.
At this point, I wanted to know what was going on. The young lady really didn’t offer up more information other than the fact that the pictures needed to be retaken. A different lady came out with an envelope containing my wife’s pictures and had my pictures in her hand. She showed them to me and said the background in the first picture they took came out a little too grey. I argued that in 2014, changing grey to white on a digital image is easy (I can even do it!). She then explained that the second picture they took of me didn’t show up on the memory card.
So I obliged to a third picture.
Noticing I was pretty visibly upset and a tad argumentative, she had refunded the fee, which was a nice gesture, but I’m more comfortable paying for and receiving a professional service the first or second time.
The resulting image still had a grey background, and I definitely saw the manager adjust the contrast to make it less grey before printing, but I had a picture and was ready to go back to the post office to finish this stupidity.
So I have a passport photo. My feelings about it are in a superposition of quantum states between “love it” and “hate it”. But it might actually be what I send out as a holiday card this year.
There were only two people working the counter at the post office, and it seemed that only one could process passport applications, so the wait was long. While I was on the line, I was fidgeting with the pen they had attached to the table.
Not for nothing, I am in a good financial position and don’t need to take the crappy pen from the counter of a terrible post office, but I could totally have walked off with that stupid pen. If you’re gonna pin it to the table, don’t put the joint of the ball chain on the pen. That’s just dumb and asking for trouble.
I think we spent almost 2 hours, and I learned nothing from the exercise.
But I’m going to Mexico!!!