01 August, 2007

Passport Nightmare

Had an absolute shower of a time (world's biggest understatement warning) trying to get my passport sorted for the work trip to NY, Flyingpops (thank goodness) spotted that it no longer had 6 months left on it (*just*, like 1 poxy day off) which means US Immigration would have turned me back upon arrival...how embarrassing would that have been?

Anyway, it being an emergency (as it can take 2 weeks to come back even if you pay for the "check and send" process) I queued at the post office to pick up the form I needed to fill in (took ages, but then that is to be expected), then, seeking pictures, had to stand and debate with 3 small children (who clearly thought the "Photo-me" booth was a playground) in order to get in there and sit down (the last one wouldn't even listen to his mum repeatedly yelling at him to "Michael!!! Geddaaahtovthere!!!!", closed the curtain, adjusted the sticky seat from where they had been spinning it round (until my eyes lined up neatly with the dotted line) and then discovered that the cost of the required shots would be a pound each (daylight robbery!) and the minimum was *four* (when for most purposes one is only required to present two)...Of *course* I didn't have enough change, so, looking back at the 40 minute queue (with a not inconsiderable amount of loathing), I decided to try the queue-free stamp counter, but the lady apparently didn't have any change (yeah, right...), thus I was forced to leave the store completely, pop into a nearby holistic food store and look for something cheap to buy that would result in still having £4 in change (which was much easier said than done, everything, pretty much, was over £1.19), I ended up with a small bag of reduced (near their sell-by date) Flying saucers (the confectionery kind), went back into the Post Office, politely asked the 3 small children if they could "just let me in one more time please" and that "they could come back and play with the seat again in a couple of minutes" (which seemed to do the trick), re-adjusted the seat back down to the correct level, put in my four shiny pound coins and stared straight ahead waiting for some instructions...which didn't come...I peered down at the display and it was reading "Amount due:£1 (No change)", I felt around in the rejected coin bin, just to see if it had been spat out, but nothing...I pushed the "coin return" button two or three times, but again, nothing happened...Wonderful...I groaned, opened the curtain again, and seeing a small queue of people had formed at the stamp counter, I trotted over and joined the back of it (glancing back and grinding my teeth being completely powerless to prevent the 3 small children running back into the booth and starting the process of moving the seat position all the way the wrong direction *again*)...I made sure I made a big show of noticing an old lady in front of me paying with pound coins, got to the front and said "Your Photo-me machine has eaten one of my pound coins, and it says "no change", pushing the reject button doesn't do anything, can you help?"...she (rather begrudgingly) handed me a quid, and I ran back across the Post Office (by this stage feeling rather like Basil Fawlty), asked the kids a little less politely to remove themselves from the booth, pulled the curtain across, *began* adjusting the seat (with my pound coin clutched in sweaty palm) and the machine then made the unmistakable noise of a camera shutter...

Stunned (momentarily) I gaped down at the display, which was now reading "Are you happy with this shot? If not then choose cancel below"...but there was nothing else visible...no buttons, I stabbed desperately at random on the blank touch screen, the only thing I achieved was obviously to confirm that I was happy (by striking an invisible button), and my (not terribly, but still quite) unsatisfactory pictures popped out about 20 seconds later...I couldn't be bothered to fight it any more, they were pictures of me, and they had only cost me £3 instead of £4...it seemed wise to stop right there...

I went and filled out the form, both in black ink and not going outside the boxes, and returned to the store, this time joining the "Travel services" queue (posters all around the place, headed up with the bright and cheery "Travel services" logo, proclaiming the aforementioned "Check and Send" was there available, waited while a succession of people collected bundles of holiday cash, presented the pack to the gentleman, and was told that the "Travel Services" desk was actually *only* a Beureux de change, and didn't do any of the other "Travel Services", he was afraid that I would have to re-join the *main* queue, despite the fact that there was no-one else in the queue behind me, I turned away as he proceeded to sit down and clean his fingernails...40 minutes (and one customer for foreign currency) later and I'm standing at the front, handing over my pack *again*...I put on my most winning smile, the guy behind the counter narrows his eyes and sneers "It's £7 for me to check this, did you know that? That's on top of the £66 fee...", I rolled my eyes and waved at him dismissively (realising that *nothing* about this was going to be simple), he pulled the documents towards him, took one look at my hard-earned photos and said "Oh dear me no, oh no, no, no...they aren't going to like this at all, mate, look - you've obscured part of your face"...and yes, I had indeed obscured some of my face, I had obscured a portion of my forehead with some of my hair, as I *always* do, this being how I *look*..."They'll send these back mate", "You had better get some more done...you could have a scar or other distinguishing feature there or anything", I snatched the pack and photos off the counter with a very stern "Thank you very much" (muttering about "not being bloody Harry Potter" under my breath) and stormed back out of the store...a short while later I came back with *10* pound coins, having tried 2 banks and a building society, all of whom wouldn't give me change unless I could prove I had an account there (ARGH!), slumped down in the Photo-Me machine, did my best to pull my hair away from my forehead and quickly whip my hands down by my side at exactly the right moment, threw the first lot in the bin (having gone through the exact same process as the first time with no options, no ability to cancel or retry), finally got some where there wasn't *too* much hair in the way, joined the back of the queue, waited another 40 minutes, presented the pack (with both sets of photos) to a different member of staff, told him what had happened, and after laughing politely, proceeded to pick up the *first* set of bloody photos I had got, assuming that those were my most recent ones! I honestly did slap my forehead at this point in total and utter disbelief...

You couldn't make it up...

4 comments:

Tom Hopwood said...

Jeez, that really is a nightmare. I checked mine after I read this and found that it's the same. I guess that's the deciding factor in my going to NYC, can't see me going through that hell in the next few days. I will definitely get it sorted soon though, and try and go off peak mid week sometime. Can always hope.

Anonymous said...

Mr Bean or jeremy Beadle?!

Ys said...

Awww-hehehe that's quite a story! Makes me even more scared of the whole renewing-your-passport procedure now...

Sal said...

I could have done it for you and made it so much easier! Hope it wasnt my office you went to, You would have got a much better service at mine as in you wouldnt have been made to queue twice and you wouldnt have been refused change for the booth for starters!