So my renewed passport cost $75 and arrived last week and the color of my cheeks are changing back to rosy- Guatemala, here I come! This summer I’ve felt a little glum from the combo of the recession’s impact on my work influx and the summer swamp heat in NYC. Not fun. New York City with its looming skyscrapers and tread-milling can feel like a prison at times for a closet gypsy like me and the only thing I ever desire doing is to jailbreak and take a trip abroad.
The moment I am on the plane, I am instant Zen. Observing and participating in different lifestyles of diverse cultures really helps to clear my mind, I find. Traveling also helps put my life into perspective as I gain a lot of invaluable experiences, insights into various cultural attitudes and even into my own sensibilities as a traveler.
RIP to my old Passport: The two holes on the bottom page of my passport (the inside cover of the booklet) means that this old passport is retired.
Waiting out the cold sweats of passport renewals: In subconscious realms of self-torture, my passport literally equates to freedom- it is my golden key! Therefore, while my passport was locked away in the dark trenches of the U.S. government passport makeover system (their website states that it takes 4-6 weeks to process- gasp gasp), the more my sense of suffocation intensified. I felt the twinges of lost and lonely that one only feels towards being separated from their pet or loved one for more than a week. Inevitably, it’s when you don’t have your passport that all the flight prices begin to drop, ads for last minute travel shooters come out and everyone around you is taking some exotic trip! Fortunately, my passport arrived safely via mail just a little after 2 weeks. Whew! The U.S. government passport department is not cruel afterall… just in writing.
But I have to say- I don’t like the new passports.
#1: Design-wise, it reminds me of where Hawaii went wrong when it tried to redesign its state driver’s license with chunky and cheesy vs “official”. Change can be good, but in the government design sense, I don’t appreciate much change. I want my official documents to look official- not some attempt at “beautiful” and I don’t want a picture of Americana filling the space of EACH PAGE of my passport. All I want to see is that gorgeously inked validation stamp of the country i’m visiting. That’s all.
In addition, sometimes going through immigration, the line is so long that by the time it’s your turn at the window, the attendants’ stamp has run dry of ink and you can barely make out the country stamp….which sucks. You flew the whole day, paid wad loads of money and all you have is a barely visible hieroglyphic stamp of the country to show for your labors. With the new US passport design, you may not notice the stamps at all…
Inside the old passport: some country validation stamps are barely visible. While i’m not crazy about how the old page design competes with the country validation stamps as well, I do appreciate the division lines that hold my country stamps separate.
#2: The passport picture is now adhered to one of the sheets of passport paper instead of fixed to the inside cover of the passport booklet and protected by a thick plastic coating (in this way, the old version just seemed more reliably solid, durable and less susceptible to accidental page tearing).
thickness & durability: notice the difference between page & book cover
#3: I took a really lame picture this time. …And I did it twice! I take my share of good and bad pictures all the time (some of it is- ahem- the photographer’s fault). Call me vain, but if your passport is as precious as your limbs as they are for me and you’re going to have to hold onto a picture of yourself for the next 10 years, you gotta make it a good one. Initially, I went to my neighborhood post office and paid $15 for 2 passport photo copies. The postal worker behind the counter doesn’t care, is not a photographer and usually just wants to get the photo over with. The guy I got was old, tired and photography 101 and careful composition was not part of his makeup. When he showed me the picture he’d taken of me on his camera preview, it had really large grids over the crucial features of my face so it was hard to gauge. But when he printed it… yech, huge flaws of a scary-looking psychopathic smile.
Also, when I pointed out to him that a 2″ by 2″passport photo should be filled with FACE vs the 1/3 inch AIR space he created above my head (obviously, the same camera grids were obstructing his view as well)(sarcasm), he shrugged his shoulders with a smile, told me I couldn’t retake it unless I wanted to pay another $15 and began to ring me up.
I then remembered CVS Pharmacy does passport photos for half the cost ($5.99 after website printout coupon). So I went in (well no, …actually I ran home, printed out the coupon and then went into CVS). The girl behind the photo counter was having a really bad day due to a complaining customer in front of me….who incidentally, also cut in front of me to do it. Grrrrreat. When it came to my turn, I joked with the photo counter girl to loosen her mood before she took my picture. …But I wish someone joked with me before I took my picture. The picture still wasn’t as great as my first passport. But heck, I was tired of finding new places and wasn’t about to run home to reprint a coupon. Perhaps it was just not meant to be.
This is my new “Proud to be an American“ passport. I will be throwing a passport party and all of you passport carriers are invited! Requirements: you must dress as your “dream” country and you must not have a better looking passport picture than mine!