Wednesday 14 March 2012

Apology to the passport office

Dear Passport Office.

I'll bet you don't get these type of letters often. My reason for this letter is the frequency with which I need to avail of your services. Most passports are for ten years, therefore I estimate that I should have had about three or four but I have had about seven passports. The reasons for this are varied.

Firstly, I suffer from a condition called McSherry-itis. My maiden name is McSherry. It manifests itself as a need to hide important items 'somewhere safe.' Thereafter completely forgetting where this 'safe' place is. Hypnosis or even torture will not help the sufferer from revealing where the item is. Eventually it is found when looking for something else, sometime later. I have lost my engagement ring, birthday presents and my passport this way.

In the early days of our romance my boyfriend and I booked a holiday to Cyprus. My passport was ready and perfectly valid, I just didn't know where is was. I bemoaned the fact to a work collegue who was involved with a certain politicial party. Two days later I collected the passport from my collegue outside the Dail, promising to vote for the person who obtained it for me. Crossing my fingers behind my back. I'm not that easily bought. The holiday was brilliant and holding onto my boyfriend, on a little motorbike, as we toured around Cyprus is one of the happiest memories of my life.

Much later, I married that boyfriend and we had a little boy. When my son was a 18 months old I decided to visit my brother in Edinburgh with my Mum. I hadn't been abroad in several years and was very excited about the trip. My brother also mentioned to me that he had 'met a girl he kinda liked.' So I packed and prepared, got babysitters and my husband ready to survive two days without me. Found my passport and checking it the night before we left, I realised it was six months out-of-date. My reaction was to reason that they wouldn't turn me away at the airport. I met my Mum at 3a.m. at the airport in the lashing rain. As we queued up to the check-in desk I couldn't get the courage up to tell Mum that there might be a problem. The man at the desk took one look at my passport and shook his head. Mum smiled and asked about my driver's licence. It was several weeks out-of-date.

Encouraging my Mum to get onto the flight and I promised I would follow her, I joined the 'queue of shame.' Or as Ryanair call it, the 'oversized baggage' queue. The queue really wasn't moving at all. As time went on people were missing their flights and other people were asking could they skip the queue. It's the only time in my life where I felt genuinely threatened. People were becoming aggressive and thankfully some DAA staff came over and defused the situation. Later, when my Mum was safely up in the air on her way to Edinburgh I got to talk to a member of staff. The fault was totally my own. However I still break into a nervous sweat when I'm queuing at the airport. The staff member told me I could book another flight at 3p.m. for sixty Euros, if I went into town and got another passport. "Is that possible?" I asked. He shrugged. I booked it.

I never rang my husband. Instead saying little in my texts. I knew he would say, "Just come home" and I would. But this was a challenge and I was on a mission.

The rain had not ceased since we had gotten up several hours earlier. I went to retrieve my car from the long term carpark. I couldn't find it. It took me an hour wandering around several carparks clicking my car remote before I asked the young men at the kiosk to help me. One of them drove me around until I found it. By then the battery had worn out but thankfully I could still open the car.

Driving into town, I had to get the form from the passport office. Get my photo taken. Two photo booths in Grafton Street were broken. Eventually I found a booth in Stephen's Green Mall. By then my boots had literally melted to pieces from walking in the never-ending rain. I had to slip into Dunnes and buy a pair for twenty euro. Then I had to walk to Pearse Street Garda Station and get the photo signed. Telling the garda my story, he suppressed his laughter. Finally I went back to the passport office. I explained my predicament and they warned me that they could 'promise nothing.' I took a ticket and sat down exhausted.

I got a text from Mum saying she was fine and enjoying the bus tour of Edinburgh, on her own. Then I got a text from my brother Paul, saying his friends thought it was hilarious that I'd missed the flight due to an out-of-date passport. I'd deal with him later! I then texted my husband saying, 'Edinburgh was lovely and we were enjoying the bus tour.' He'd deal with me later.

At twelve o'clock the passport office gave me my beautiful passport. I still remember that wonderful man's face. I raced back, in the pouring rain, to my car to pay a parking fee which was almost as dear as the flight.

Needless to say, I got to Edinburgh. We had a wonderful time. Saw all the sights on the bus tour, second time for Mum. She really is a patient woman. Met the new woman in my brother's life. She is now my sister-in-law. "So you're from Cork, Lisa?" "No, Galway." She's another patient woman.

The final time I needed a new passport was when my husband assumed that I had changed it to my married name. After all we were married twelve years. He booked the flight for me as Clarke. When I contacted Ryanair I was informed it was one hundred euro to change the name. It was eighty euro to change the passport. So I decided the government could do with the money more than Ryanair. And the deed was done.

So thank you passport office for your patience. I hope I don't have to contact you again for several years. I know where my passport is, I swear.

x, Carol (also thank you Mum xx)