If you could see my passport picture, you would understand why I hesitate to travel anywhere a driver's license is not adequate proof of identity or citizenship. It is, by far and without a doubt, the worst photograph ever taken of any human being, in any setting, anywhere. I can't emphasize this enough. When I applied for it, I decided to let the passport office staff take the 2x2 picture that would represent my likeness for the next 10 years. I figured they had more practice than the kid with the digital camera at CVS, so why not take advantage of their expertise? That decision made, I'll set the stage. It was a very warm night in October, with rain and high humidity (you see where I'm going with this, don't you?). My entire family applied at the same time and I gamely volunteered to go last. As my turn came to sit down for the picture (This was my first clue of impending disaster. No one looks good looking UP at a camera) my daughter shouted these words of last minute advice, "Don't smile, mom. You're not supposed to smile." And before I could look back from her general direction and school my bewildered expression into something resembling a non-toothy, slightly upturned tilt of the lips, the flash went off and I was done. Despite my pleading, I wasn't even offered the opportunity to look at the proof and reject it for another go. Instead, it was promptly printed up and paper clipped to my application.
Now, studying it from the other side of the clerk's desk made me realize two things. One, there was not an immigration control officer in the world who would recognize that picture as anything even remotely resembling a true likeness of me, and two, my hair and humidity do not good bedfellows make. These points were driven home to me on a recent trip to Europe, when I certainly did not imagine those incredulous double takes as I handed over my passport for review at various intervals. The worst was immigration in Paris after taking the train from London. That officer had a definite smirk on his face, and if I understood any French at all, I'm sure I would have heard him express some doubt as to the true identity of the woman standing in front of him. Either that, or he was mumbling that the kid with the camera at CVS would have been the wiser choice.