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Daily Archives: 14/12/2011

The Passport Office Conspiracy Theory

Mug shot of Manuel Noriega.

The average woman's passport photo

I have a theory about a conspiracy, a conspiracy theory, if you will. I believe it runs so deep that I may well go missing after this is published and you will only ever hear of me again in the National Enquirer, hidden below the article about Justin Bieber having a two headed baby with an alien. I think it’s worth the risk in order to expose this ongoing travesty against society. Just remember me fondly.

 My conspiracy theory (deep breath): The Passport Office is a government-run organisation of sadists, hell bent on giving you severely traumatic psychological insecurities regarding your physical appearance in order to suppress the masses. There, I’ve said it.

 I know you think I’m overreacting and am as barking as a pack of labradoodles chasing a paper boy, but trust me, that’s what they want you to believe. I shall regale you with the traumatic events of July this year to prove my point and you watch, others will find the strength to come forward too. (You are not alone out there, be brave).

 I had a very busy travel schedule this year which saw me travelling to far flung places at least once each month. This was a delightful way to fill my diary but it left me in the precarious position of possessing a soon-to-expire passport and no clear 6 week window in which to send off for a replacement. I had the trip of a life time planned (Las Vegas debauchery and California sunshine) and had been working very hard for months on getting my body somewhere near uber-LA-hot. I was not about to let semi-perky buttocks go to waste and so failure to get the necessary travel documents was not an option.

 The biological aging process dictated that a new photo would be required for my replacement passport as the powers that be (the sadists at The Passport Office) insist that they require one that actually bears a likeness to your real face and not that of a schoolgirl. The conspiracy begins. I was rather proud of my old passport photo, I didn’t look like a wonky potato, had escaped the vacant dead eyes of so many, I looked fresh faced and more importantly, according to general consensus, attractive. I was happy with this one and if you squinted, you could tell it was still me, sort of. Begrudgingly, I would have to have a replacement taken.

 I planned it all with the meticulous precision of a space shuttle launch. Nothing was left to chance; my hair was carefully groomed and styled, my make-up was applied with artistic flair and finesse only previously seen on the ceiling of some chapel in Rome. My t-shirt was crisp and spotless and I had the dewy radiance of one who has enjoyed a full 8 hours sleep every night for the past week. I had even selected a passport approved photo vendor who uses a handheld digital camera so you can assess your soon-to-be-indelible image, a reasonable 14 times or so, prior to committing it to ink. Short of hiring Mario Testino and the Vogue styling team, I was good to go. There was no way this could end badly. Or so I thought.

 The day of my Passport Office appointment came round just 2 knicker-wettingly short weeks prior to my flight taking off. I arrived at the ominous hive of evil Passport Office HQ bright and early, clutching my triple-triple checked, countersigned forms and satisfactorily smouldering miniature photos. I worked my way through airport style security, took my little numbered ticket from the receptionist and waited in the waiting room to be called forward. On hearing my number, I approached the soulless incubus posing as a civil servant and proudly handed him my perfect paperwork. He barely glanced at it and didn’t so much as throw a blink in my direction before casually raising his right hand and stamping “REJECTED” across the photograph with what I’m sure now was more than the merest hint of a smirk. What the…?! What could possibly be wrong with my picture? I’d followed all the rules – no hair in the way, no smiling, no halloween mask. I’d heard that Time Magazine and Marie Claire were in legal battles over who could use it on their front cover, it was so good, so something was most definitely up.

Allegedly there was a small amount of shadow in the background (so, that would be behind  me, not on me, right?) which meant this pen-pushing pet of Satan could take great pleasure declaring this photographic article verboten. I didn’t bother arguing although I did contemplate pulling out the ultimate girly negotiation tactic, crying, but thought better of it when I remembered that I was dealing with an emotionless ghoul and I would have been left with no passport and red puffy eyes which, quite frankly, is a waste of mascara.

The heartless beast behind the desk gave me the simple instruction that I merely had to provide another photo with no shadow and I would be granted my travel pass. This “simple” instruction actually translates thus:

  1. Leave The Passport Office (teeth gritted and wishing herpes upon all humanity under your breath)
  2. Find a cash machine
  3. Find a working cash machine
  4. Find a shop to buy something pointless in order to get some coin based change
  5. Return to The Passport Office
  6. Locate a photo booth in the foyer with maximum audience for your frustratingly humiliating experience
  7. Realise photo booth has been designed by people in league with the wretched beings who are behind the whole rejection-of-attractive photos conspiracy. Note – these photo booths take your picture and will then tell you if anything about it would result in it being rejected. They then allow you to take a further two digital shots before forcing you to choose one. Handy, right? Wrong. I used up all three of my lives and it still it insisted they were all duds. Lies, pure lies
  8. Select best of three atrocities. Hit print
  9. Hold back tears
  10. Rejoin the now considerably longer queue to get through the airport style security checks
  11. Take another number from reception
  12. Sit in the waiting room clutching number 953
  13. Hear tannoy calling number 677. Repeat step 9
  14. Begrudgingly present new photo to a different, yet equally soulless incubus who will continue having a conversation with her gargoyle-esque colleague the whole time you are stood in front of her
  15. Get new picture approved
  16. Leave passport office feeling like a cross between a kicked puppy and Quasimodo

You may be wondering why I was so reluctant to hand over the fruits of the demonic photo booth and why I left feeling like The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Well, bearing in mind it was early in the morning, I hadn’t spent a week getting 8 hours sleep, I was due a hair appointment, my make-up looked like it had been applied by a toddler on a fast moving vehicle (actually by me during a half blind early morning panic – on a fast moving vehicle) and I was more than mildly annoyed, you can imagine how my face might not have been at its most photogenic. The resulting images were reminiscent of Myra Hindley with a hangover, and I like to think, not really the best representation of my visage (funny how that got approved with no trouble, isn’t it?!). This is now “officially” what my face looks like.

It is my belief that the people of The Passport Office are there to destroy all hopes you may have of believing you look half decent. They are there to nip all facially based self confidence in its delicate bud and replace it with the inarguable, legally evidenced proof for all to see (and which you have to come face to face with, literally, every time you travel internationally or need to rent a car) that you are a hideous, glassy eyed, wonky potato headed freak, in order to keep you subdued and in your place.

You may think it’s far fetched, you may think it’s incredulous and that I’m talking a load of toot but answer me this – have you ever seen a beautiful passport picture and does the government get into power at each election? I rest my case.

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