February 20, 2003

Adventures in Bureaucracy

Recently my son the rock star decided he needed a passport.

For when he goes on his world tour, of course.

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit, nobody in our family has ever had a passport. It's not necessary for travel to the United States, and none of us have ever been anywhere else.
So I decided to humour him since it didn't sound like a bad idea, and to get one for myself at the same time.

It was easy enough to find the forms; they're available at any postal outlet among other places.
Even English ones.
Yes we in Quebec have to think about these things.

The next step is to get a photo taken.
Most pharmacies have that service for medicare card photos (everyone has a medicare card here) but I didn't know if the specifications were the same as passport photos.
The instructions on the form looked quite imposing.

I decided to ask at Wal-Mart since I was there shopping anyway, and they have a small photo studio.
This conversation (which is translated from the original French) ensued:

Me: Do you do passport photos?
Lady at Counter: For you?
Me: For me and my son.
LaC: I can do yours, but children...
Me: He's not a child, he's grown.
LaC: Yes but it depends on his hair.
Me: (pause to make sure I understood)... Say what?
LaC: We can do women because they have hair behind their ears. When we do people with short hair there's some kind of reflection in our photos and the government doesn't accept them.
Me: (muttering and slowly backing away from the counter) well his hair is sort of long but well we'll see I'll get back to you...

So I asked my friend Annie, who knows everything, where was a good place for passport photos. She said the pharmacy in the building where she works takes them. So I stopped in there today on my way to lunch with her.
It's a neighbourhood pharmacy and they know me there.
And this one was in English.

Me: Hi, do you do passport photos?
Different Lady at Counter: Well yes but it depends... if you go to the passport office here in Laval they don't accept our photos. If you go to the office in Montreal (about the same driving distance for me) there's no problem.
Me: (Figuratively rolling my eyes and realizing there probably was an entry in this)... If I decide to go to the Laval office, where can I take a photo then?
DLaC: (names other comparable local pharmacy)
Me: *blank stare*
DLaC: OK let me try to explain. There's nothing wrong with our pictures. They're perfectly good pictures. But the Laval office just won't accept pictures from us. I don't want to say anything more about it.
Me: Oh it's a political thing? (EVERYTHING in Canada is a political thing.)
DLaC: I just don't want to say anything else. They won't take our pictures. But we've never had any trouble with the other office. I need to tell you before you decide where to go, to avoid problems.
Do you want the photo taken now?
Me: No I have to come back with my son. Thank you!

So I will go there for the photo and to the other office to submit the application.
But first, once we have the photos, we have to get the forms and photos signed by a professional person (e.g. doctor, dentist) who can vouch for us.

Red tape... I wonder if it's as useful as duct tape?

More good news from Europe. My friend is now at least somewhat conscious and talking, not always coherently, but talking.
That's a far cry from "unresponsive and we don't expect him to wake up any time soon".
Besides, he wasn't all that coherent even at the best of times!
I'm relieved but not uncrossing my fingers yet. They still need to find out why a 51 year old man had two cerebral hemorrhages within 8 months.

Linque Du Jour:   The *Insert Your Own Epithet* Clock
This was presented to me as the "Newfie" clock.
You can customize as you see fit.

(It's Active X and takes a few seconds to load but I can sit and watch that thing for far longer than I care to admit!)

Looking Back
February seems to be my ranting month:

Very approximately...

One year ago:
Happy Birthday, John Walker Lindh

Two years ago:
I Can't Seem to Let It Go...

Three years ago:
If I Didn't Have You

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