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Passport photo would scare away all the bad guys

Joyce Walter reflects on the true horror of applying for a new passport.
Reflective Moments by Joyce Walter

With our new passports in hand, no one should consider “messing with” the Moose Jaw duo as they show off their “mug shots” to officials whose job it is to cast a suspicious and discerning eye to the documents before them.

The passports in this household expired on May 15 but because we had no immediate travel plans that would require a passport, we dawdled a bit before taking steps for renewal. With mere days to spare, I went online to find out the rules and regulations about renewing one’s passport, just in case there had been changes in the 10-year span of our old booklets.

There was encouragement to print off the necessary forms and to have them filled out before taking the next step to the passport office or Service Canada outlet.

Naturally, a glitch between here and there made it impossible to print the documents and so we decided to throw ourselves on the mercy of the local professionals.

But first, we required photographs to affix to the application, photos that would be transferred to this official travel document, ensuring for the next five or 10 years that no one would forget our faces. More’s the pity for those folks.

The photographer advised Housemate to remove his spectacles and reminded both of us not to smile. This, after all, is serious business. We were not given the chance to view our photos before the photographer stuffed them into envelopes and urged us to be careful so the damp prints would not smudge. She certainly had a reason for hurrying us out of the store, as we discovered later.

With photos in hand, the next stop was the Service Canada office in downtown Moose Jaw where the first person to chat with us listened patiently to my tale of woe regarding the unavailable forms, handed us the necessary documents and ushered us to a table where we could answer all the questions before us.

We both hesitated a moment before deciding we did indeed have two friends whose names we could use to vouch for us if the need arose. We didn’t ask their permission and hopefully they won’t be too upset that we involved them in our quest for new documents.

Another discussion ensued over whether we would renew for five or 10 years. It was decided, that given our ages, it would be more practical to renew for five rather than 10 years, suggesting there might not be much need for a passport at the end of those five years. I am still hopeful though.

Then it was off to another station where a friendly gentleman walked us gently through the forms, catching an error or two and kindly making the corrections for us. I paid our money, thanked him for his assistance and off we went to await the arrival of our new booklets, about 10 days the online information had suggested.

The doorbell rang one day last week and a Canada Post delivery person was there to hand me an envelope, requesting my signature to prove the delivery had reached its destination. Housemate did not receive an envelope that day, his nose just slightly out of joint at the omission.

With excitement, I opened the envelope and there it was, my new travel document. I read the instructions and opened the cover, seeing a tiny image of a person who I thought might be a match for the photo on my driver’s licence, the one I don’t flash with pride.

But on the next page was the true horror: a photo that would make any mother quiver in disbelief. Housemate viewed it without surprise, likely knowing how awful it would be. His photo, when his passport arrived, wasn’t nearly as disturbing.

As travel partners and presenting our passports in unison, we expect two reactions: fear from officials who will hurry us on our way, or suspicion from officials who will take us to a side room in an attempt to break our story of just being ordinary tourists.

I really would like to have a glance at the photos of other passport carriers. Surely not all Canadians look as scary as the pair of us on our street. The bad guys should beware when we come calling.

There might be a story or two resulting from future passport travels.

Joyce Walter can be reached at

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