It Could Be Worse

24 May

Me at 14. Let's call this the Before photo.

The funny thing about passports is that they expire.  Okay, that’s not funny.  I was stretching there.  I apologize.  Anyway, my passport did expire and I had to get a new one.  Unfortunately, the Passport to Flavor that Paradiso issued me doesn’t work for international travel.  Who knew?  My belly sure feels like it went on an adventure though.  ¡Ay carumba!

First off, you need a current photo of yourself.  There are certain requirements that must be met when getting your passport photo.  I didn’t want to bother with figuring them out at home and having the Mister help me.  This is one of those things in life when I probably should have made the effort.  Instead I went to Walgreen’s where they will take your picture for you, size it correctly and make sure that it’s properly focused, exposed, centered, etc.  That all sounded great until I ended up standing in front of a cooler of soda.  The person helping me pulled down a screen, took a picture of me with my pained expression and started working on developing it before I realized just how crazy I can look with very little help.  If you can manage to a sane and somewhat pleasant expression while people shopping for Maalox eye you then you’re a better subject than I am.  My photo has me looking as if someone had just asked me if they could lick my eyebrows.

Me at 33. Let's call this the After photo. As in, "After I see this photo, I kinda want to never see it again".

Now that I had my picture I needed to go and apply for a renewal.  If you have a passport that’s not expired, damaged or issued before you were sixteen you can do this part by mail.  The only passport I had (besides the Paradiso one) was issued when I was fourteen which is why that sucker was good and expired.  So it was off to the Eden Prairie Service Center for me.  The people there do mighty fine work.  They are speedy, helpful and friendly.  They look less like they have been through war here because the number of people they see is less.  It’s worth the drive, my friends.  And then you can treat yourself to a visit to the Original Pancake House which is right next door.  You know, get a stamp on your Passport to Flavor.

Prior to your visit you may wish to fill out this form.  Then you can hand this over with your pictures and expired passport.  There will be some stapling, some fees to pay, some paper moving around and some signatures to do.  All in all, it’s pretty painless.  I was thrilled to have it over.

If you are traveling to a foreign country it’s best to get this process going as early as possible.  They say it takes about 4-6 weeks and that was true of mine.  However, sometimes there are delays and sometimes the whole government shuts down… so just plan ahead.  Also, some countries will not allow you enter if your passport expires within six months.  It’s a good idea to check all identification that you’ll be bringing on your trip to make sure it’s up to snuff.  If you want to get a passport card you can follow a similar process.  Those cards work for travel into Canada, Mexico, the Carribean and Bermuda along with some other assorted land crossings.  It’s cheaper and more portable.

There is a chip stored in both the passport cards and the passport books.  According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs there isn’t any personal information stored on these RFID chips.  They put a unique number that links up with a database for both Canadian and Mexican border crossings.  Kind of like an account number but you don’t have to remember it or say it out loud to someone who doesn’t speak your language.  (I’m looking at you, Canada!)  Some travel companies have taken to selling RFID blocker passport covers.  Apple knows where I am at all times anyway so this is just one more thing.

The best part is that I’m going to have to try and recreate my unflattering expression every time I use my passport.  I’m going to try to think of an unkempt stranger asking me if he may rub my elbows.  There… that ought to do it.

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