To book my flights through the corporate agency, I had to confirm my passport. Not a problem - until I discovered it expired six months ago. Cue panic and an emergency passport application! I filled in the form yesterday, and after some online research, was able to print off my passport photos (correctly sized, plain white background, no facial hair, no glasses, no smile, etc etc). Off to Newport at the ungodly hour of 6am today for an 8.30 appointment.
Having arrived in Newport at 7.15, I had time to kill, so figured that there's nothing better in the morning than a gut full of e-numbers, preservatives, and fat - the full McDonalds fayre! It almost turned into the most expensive McDonalds breakfast in history as I left my application envelope, complete with expired passport, on the table when I left. The 600 yard dash back to McDs was just about the quickest I've even run, and I was only just in time to extract the envelope from the bin as the kind lady was clearing up.
Foolishly, I arrived at the passport office 30 minutes early at 8am - now the lady on the phone last week told me to arrive 10 minutes early.... I should have taken heed. When I opened the door, I was confronted by The Friendly Face Of The Civil Service. With a sneer, I was told to leave the building and return 10 minutes prior to my appointment as I would have already been told. Flippin good job it wasn't raining - there was a growing crowd on the pavement, all for 8.30 appointments. I did smile when a lady turned up and someone asked what time her appointment was, and she said it was 9.30, but she was busy and needed to be seen early - I didn't fancy her chances!
Having gotten through security - yes, security.... inclusive of emptied pockets, removed belt, body scan, etc, I was booked and processed and given a ticket. This felt like a cross between the departure gates at the Airport and Tesco's meat counter!
With ticket in hand, and my number called, I approached the lady at booth number 2 - and there it was again.... The Friendly Face Of The Civil Service. I handed over my envelope, only for it to be thrust back at me with an instruction to empty it first. FFS did she think I was carry sharp blades along with my passport application? Perhaps a needle or two? She saw the photo's I had painstakingly printed (and she wouldn't have realised that they were the fourth set I had printed, in my efforts to get them just right!), and passed them back - "they won't do, you're smiling." Now I probably don't smile often enough, but I do know when I am smiling - and in these pics I definitely was not smiling, as I pointed out to her.... however, as she dutifully observed, the corners of my mouth were higher than the rest of my mouth, therefore the pics were rejected due to a smile. Unbelievable. Onsite photo booth - £5, 3 extra pics I don't need, and we were sorted.
So - paid the price at the cash desk, and was given a receipt with a collection time of 12:34. I really don't know why the lady put six underlines beneath the words that said "Ready for collection no earlier than.." - perhaps she was trying to tell me something. The Friendly Face Of The Civil Service.
Somehow managed to kill four hours - well not quite, I went back early, and collected my new passport at 12:10. (Please don't tell the lady on the cash desk)
I learnt three things from today:
1) Don't let your passport expire without replacing it via postal methods in good time.
2) Don't try and pass friendly conversation with a civil servant during a morning shift - it doesn't work.
3) I will never voluntarily go to Newport again. Apologies to any of my friends that may live there, but four hours was enough!
Texas in July - weeeeee. If nothing else, it will be a welcome break from the British rain!