Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Worst Passport Picture Ever

So I didn't need a passport to travel to Springfield, MO over Thanksgiving break, but a few times on the drive, you could have fooled me.

Instead of a Thanksgiving recap (it's coming!) I am going to talk about passports. Specifically passport pictures.

I was 16 in my first passport picture. It was taken at the AAA in Kanawha City on MaCorkle Avenue. I needed a passport to go on a two week trip to Europe with a group from high school between my junior and senior years of high school. For some reason I had a day off school and I was able to go get the picture taken. I don't really think there is much I could have done differently to get a "better picture". Little did I know that this picture would haunt me for the next 10 years.

When I got my passport picture taken I didn't think I looked that bad. And then I got my actual passport. It seems the United States was using some new technology: scanners. This new technology caused my skin to turn a different color. Why couldn't they just laminate a hard copy of the picture to the passport like they did with my friends who applied at the EXACT same time? At the time I thought my biggest concern was the fact that my skin was off colored. Boy was I wrong.

A picture is worth 1,000 words and my passport picture leaves me pretty speechless, except for a really good laugh.


I don't even know where to start. The bangs, the eyebrows, the mock turtleneck, the sweater over the mock turtleneck. wow.

I do know this. Despite my horrible picture, my old passport always provided good laughs for the people who looked at it and for me as well.

When I studied abroad our passports were often collected as a group and then passed back out to us. Whoever was passing them out would usually just look at the picture and hand it to the person. With mine, they always had to look at the name too.

When I was flying home from Amsterdam in 2007, I showed my passport to passport control. The passport agent looked at my passport and looked at me. He proceeded to do this about 5 more times. He asked some questions. I told him it was an old picture and sheepishly giggled. He stamped my passport and said to me, "You look much better now." I waited for my friend on the other side. She asked me what the passport agent and I talked about because he didn't ask her anything. I told her everything and she could hardly believe it.

We got to our gate and had to go through security. This time my friend and I went together. We handed our tickets and passports over. The agent took an extended look at my passport and told me to make sure I didn't get that haircut again. We both had a good laugh.

2009 rolled around and it was finally time to get a new passport. I guess I could have gotten a new one sooner, but I sort of liked my old one with all of its stamps and I am too cheap to get a replacement if the old one is still good. I went to another AAA. This time it was in Nashville. (Passport pictures are free for members!). I was ready for a great picture. Well, I was ready for a picture without bangs.

And they have changed the passport photo rules. You can't have an open smile. WTF.

I guess this one will have to do for the next 9 years.


Happy traveling! All this talk of passports makes me want to plan a trip!


Blossom said...

Same in Canada, you can't smile at all & I think it makes it look like a mug shot! At least we have to renew every five years here (thank goodness because my last picture is terrible & it's almost time to change it!).

Erin said...

"You look much better now." Love the honesty of airport security officers.

I also did the Europe trip in high school deal and my photo is just...wow. I look surly, I'm wearing a green courdoroy shirt that looks part Army/part Lesbian, and my hair is two-tone from a Sun-In and Kool Aid experiment. We have to hang on to stuff like this to realize how far we've come!

esther said...

Great post. Especially the part about wanting to take a trip.

(Shameless, I know)

Sarah said...

@Blossom I read that face recognition technology doesn't work as well when you smile. I guess that's the reason for the change. I think most passport pictures have to be that way now.

@erin What were we thinking??? One of my friends also told me I just need a chunky wood necklace and I could be a kindergarten teacher.

@Esther I am in Europe withdrawl! Could you imagine how much fun we could have with Becker, Popejoy, and all of our other DMB friends :)

nathan said...

I applied for my first passport ever today. I hope the picture doesn't make me look like I'm a member of the Irish Republican Army.

esther said...

It would be incredibly fun! Especially since I'd get to say "you're in Europe now, Popejoy!", every other sentence ;)