Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Passport, Part II: Who's My Mama?

In the midst of all my frantic running around to get passport photos taken, I was informed that our travel date to Canada might possibly be moved up two weeks. This was not good news. This meant that I now had only four weeks to get our three passports in hand. My blood pressure inched up another seventeen points.

I went to the district clerk's office prepared. I had all the forms filled out, with the notary's seal on the appropriate ones. I had my driver's license. I had our birth certificates. I had two children, because the passport office will not issue passports to non-existent children. Imagine that. And I had the ever-important checkbook. I was ready.

Or not.

Problem Number One: I needed a second form of ID, preferably a Social Security card or voter's registration card. Those I knew I had at home. Check.

Problem Number Two: My birth certificate did not include the names of my parents. What?! I peered down at the certificate laying on the counter. Sure enough, there was my name and place of birth and date of birth, but as to parents: nothing. Nada. For all anyone knew, I was cloned from Dolly the sheep.

Naturally, my mind went wild with the possibilities. For a moment, I truly believed I was the love child of Sophia Loren and some brilliant, eccentric Italian director. This would explain my obsession with finding the perfect fettuccine alfredo, and my, well, weirdness. But there was the undeniable fact that I look a lot like my father. Perhaps my dad and Sophia Loren....? Nah, not even my imagination could go there.  I was going to be forced to accept my mom's story of my birth as truth, especially since her memory of the Big Event is significantly better than mine.

I decided to run home to pick up my voter's card and look for another copy of my birth certificate. I gathered up all our papers and my children and ran back to the car, through the rain. Off we went, only to return thirty minutes later, with my vital signs now approaching those of someone about to have a brain aneurysm.

I'd come up empty on the official birth certificate, but I did find a certificate that had been issued from the hospital, one of those "Congratulations on the birth of _______. Please stop by the business office upon discharge to settle your account." Or something like that. I decided I had no choice but to throw myself on the mercy of the district clerk.

As I passionately explained my predicament, she listened with a look that said, "Yeah, yeah. How do I know you're not a terrorist who plans to blow up a locker room in a Canadian hockey rink? Communist." When I finished, she shook her head and informed me, "I'll send in what you have, but I can guarantee this birth certificate won't pass. You'd better work on getting another one. Oh, and the passport offices are very busy right now; they're processing thousands of applications."

Then, to add insult to injury, I had to pay my bill.

Payment to county clerk: $90.

Payment to the Department of State, for three passports, with expedited delivery: a whopping $351.

And I still didn't know if the by now much-coveted passports would arrive in time for our trip north.

Next - The Passport, Part III: I'm from Joisey, you from Joisey?

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