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Friday, August 18, 2006

Back to the drama

We interrupt this summer idyll for some of the kind of thing that went on in the "old days." Well, almost. Happy endings are preferred in my circles, after all.

It recently dawned on me that my passport was nine years old and that I might not want to wait for the "Real ID" era to try and replace it.

So I grabbed everything I thought might come in handy and went over to the post office on my lunch hour.

Some things have changed there. The sign over the side corridor still says "passports," but now there is a locked door and a take-a-number machine. So I took a number and after a short while a nice looking red-haired lady, about my age, pops out and calls my number. The machine tells them someone is out there.

We walked down the long corridor together to the little room Beloved and I had visited so long ago, when we wanted to be sure of the Canadian border when I had been invited to give a talk in St. John's, Newfoundland.

I dug around in my purse and began handing her things. Passport, driver's license, faculty ID card, surgeon's letter, certified copy of court-ordered name change.

She looked at the old photo. "Yes, I can see you need a new one."

Reaching for a three ring binder, she began looking up what to do with people like me.

The other lady, a round, cheery presence, bustled over. "Is this a teaching opportunity?"

Red Hair looked at me to see if I wanted privacy. Very professional, I thought. "I don't mind at all," I assured them, and so we worked on my case as a team. They used my pronouns properly! Things were looking good.

But Red Hair was unhappy with the name-change document. "This needs to be certified."

"But it is! It says so right there."

"That's the lawyer's office. We need one from the county, with a seal on it."

"Awwww. Paid good money for those, too."

""I'm so sorry. But you will want this to go smoothly. Take this form and fill it out, but don't sign it yet, and run over to the courthouse and get a new copy, and come back when you can."

"We'll be waiting for you!" beamed the round one.

On my next lunch hour, I drove to the courthouse. There they have a security routine like an airport. I gave them my purse, and emptied my skirt pocket ...

There was a blue pacifier in my pocket, which I had been carrying around for good luck. It was! It served as an icebreaker with the (very butch) security crew. "Wow," said one, "it matches your blouse."

"The perfect accessory," said I, and popped it in my mouth, which cracked them up.

They must have really boring jobs.

Window to window to window, stamp goes thump-thump, pay the money and run.

The next lunch hour (at last I'm losing some weight) I'm back in the post office with my number 87 in my hand, and a middle aged, paunchy bureaucratic looking guy comes out -- ugh! My gah, he's the twin of the old me!

This can't be good.

And I can tell from the way he's walking that he's not going to fall for the pacifier.

"Got all your stuff filled out?"

"Yessir."

We pass Ms. Round in the long hallway. She gives me an encouraging smile when he's not looking.

He goes behind the tall desk. "Okay, whatcha got?"

(Digging in purse) "Umm, here's my old passport, and, my ..."

"Wait, wait, wait." He has opened the passport and aims it at me. His face is saying, you have brought me someone else's passport, dummy.

"Yessir, that is my old passport. And here are my surgeon's letter and a court-certified copy of my court-ordered name change. And, umm, my form. All but the signature."

I thought for a minute he was going to faint.

But he pulled it together. Very professional, I thought.

We got through the business pretty well. Eventually he lifted the stamp, thump-thump.

And he took a lovely photo of me.

Ms. Round beamed on us both from the other desk.

I'll let you know in six weeks how it all turns out.

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