I had a meeting with a new client yesterday. The meeting was in midtown near the post office at Grand Central so I ventured out early in order to get my expired passport renewed. I read up on the whole passport renewal situation prior leaving the house. People with an expired passport can use the mail-in registration form if the passport is less than 15-years-old. Mine is 13-years-old. I contemplated using the mail, I really did. Had I had the two photographic requirements, I probably would have. But I’m in the process of finally changing my last name from one derogatory term to describe a white person (Howley) to another, more refined sounding derogatory term to describe a white person (Boudreaux).
When I visited the DMV last week I was told that I needed a valid passport or a birth certificate in order to change my name and in order to get a New York State license so I can join the millions of other New Yorkers that bitch about jury duty. I can’t find my birth certificate, which leaves me with the daunting task of either dealing with the Freehold, New Jersey government, or renewing my expired passport. I opted for the latter even though I’ll have to do it all over again once I change my name. And because I like to worry these days, I decided that instead of risking the loss of my old passport at the hands of U.S. Postal Service, I’d renew it in person.
After standing in line for an hour, filling out a form (that an employee gave me after I explained why I was there), and then waiting some more, the woman behind the counter told me, “Can’t use this form. Hafta use the mail.”
“What do you mean? It says if the passport is less than 15-years-old I can use the mail. It doesn’t say anywhere here or online that I have to use the mail.”
“Well, ya hafta.” She looked at me and shrugged.
I read in a book recently that if a pregnant woman is stressed out a hormone called “catecholamine” can cross the placenta and go directly into her unborn baby. The book also mentions not to smoke, drink alcohol, smoke crack, or inject heroin. It even tells you not to do sit-ups. But the book fails to mention that pregnant women should avoid the post office (or any other government agency for that matter). But it should.
“I just want to get this over with. What do you recommend that I do at this point?”
“If you’re worried about losing your old passport, fill this out, write a check for 67.00, get back in that line, and send it certified.”
“I have to stand in line again?”
The man who originally gave me the wrong form walked up and touched my shoulder. “Ma’am, if you fill that out, I can show you how to use the automated system. You don’t have to stand in line again.”
“OK. Can I at least get my passport photos?”
“Where are they?” Said the woman behind the counter. “I don’t see them.”
“Your coworker said they would be on the ledge.”
She turned around and without getting up from her chair, slid it over to a counter behind her. She picked up my photos, looked down at the pictures, back up at me and with a great big, friendly smile she said, “At least you look great in your photo! Look at you!” She pointed at it. “You look like a little boy!”
A boy? I scanned her face for some sort of understanding. Why had she said this to me? Was she being sarcastic? Rude? Hostile? Was this her way of seeking revenge? After all, I was the one who stood in line for over an hour only to be told that I hadn’t needed to. Was she being serious? After looking into her eyes, I realized that she was being earnest and not at all hostile. That this was her way of paying me – a pregnant woman of five and a half months – a compliment.