I had a bit of a sad day recently, I had to renew my passport.
You see, I’m pretty proud of my passport. It’s a record of all of the exciting places that I’ve managed to visit in the last few years and whenever I get it out, I know there’s a good chance I’ll experience something new, exciting, unusual or unexpected. I also have to admit, I really like having my passport number memorized. It’s amazing how much hassle having that number at your finger tips can save you when you’re waiting in line at airports or border crossings.
But, renewing your passport, like going to the dentist, is one of those unpleasant but necessary things. At least it is if you want a toothy smile in your travel pictures. So I went online, filled out my forms and headed off the the passport office. That’s where things slowed to a crawl. After waiting in line to pass what can only be called the stupid test – someone looks at my forms just long enough to check that they are passport forms – I’m given my number and settle in to wait my turn.
Passport Office Math
I remember getting waiting numbers when I was a kid – I can’t remember where, maybe at the butcher – and it was great. You could track your progress to the front of the line without having to actually wait in line. The excitement mounted along with the numbers until Bingo! it’s you’re turn. The game at the passport office is similar, but just different enough to be confusing.
You get a number, check. You wait, check. There’s a board displaying the number currently being served, check. But the numbers don’t go up the way you learned them in school. As far as I can tell, there’s some kind of complex algorithm employed by passport Canada to keep you on an emotional roller coster.
My number was C414. When I sat down, C400 was displayed so I thought to myself, “great, only 13 people to go”. Now, nowhere else would 13 people ahead of you in line be great, but I digress. Then C400 disappears, passport math kicks-in and E723 shows up. Who is this E723 character? It’s only then that I notice there are other numbers on the board at the same time, one proceeded by A and one by E. Now, I’m pretty good with the alphabet so I quickly cast suspicious glances around the room for possible B and D people too.
For a while there it looked good. The Cs were going strong. I’m sitting in front of agent 10 and he seemed to be the C guy. Not only that, he’s the quickest desk. C401, 402, 403, he was blowing through the numbers and it looked like I would be on my way in under an hour. Then, with only 4 people to go, an A! Who were these A people and why were they suddenly more important than me and my fellow Cs? Eventually after getting my hopes up numerous times, my number was called and I was finally on my way.
Wasn’t it faster before?
The crazy thing is that I could have sworn that the last time I had to get a new passport, after my then passport went for a swim in the laundry (another story), there was a faster way. In my memory there was an online form that let you skip straight to a shorter line. Did I make this up? Even if I didn’t is that really too much to ask?
Sure my passport doesn’t technically expire until the fall and I could ride it out for a few more months, but booking our next big trip means getting visas. As I learned the hard way in Peru a few years ago, people don’t like it if you book things with one passport number and show up with another.
So, if you’re in Canada it’s time for you to trade your travel companion in for a fresh start, here’s the link to the form. Where ever you are, good luck, and don’t forget a book.