Don’t get too excited; there are no actual images.
My new passport was just delivered by our mail carrier. I’m sorry I’m not home more often to greet him. I could tell he was also glad to see me and shared in the fun of a new passport by his jaunty greeting, “It’s your passport!” He seems like a lovely man.
I will admit that I had a little thrill of anticipation as I ripped open the envelope. I’m not sure why, because I was the one who provided all of the data that would be printed there. I was also the one who hand delivered the photos. Perhaps I was hoping someone at Passport Canada had taken it upon themselves to use a little Photoshop and smooth out my flaws. They hadn’t.
In the off-chance that I have some international readers (hello and welcome), let me explain a recent requirement for Canadian passport photos that has come into effect since my previous passport. They must now be taken with a neutral facial expression; i.e. no smiling. I realize this has been a long term rule for many countries, and it is due to the new facial recognition systems that are being used, blah, blah, blah… but come on, we’re CANADIAN! Smiling is what we do. And, to be honest, my great smile is about the only thing I’ve still got going for me.
One of the best pictures ever taken of me happened to be a passport photo. I was in my twenties, traveling for work full-time and had dropped in to visit my sister in Ottawa where she was doing her PhD. My passport was due to expire later that year and this would be my last time in Canada for a few months. During one of my afternoons strolling around the ByWard market, I popped into a photo shop and had the pictures taken. My face was flushed and tanned, my hair windswept off my face and my smile was radiant. Perhaps it was the spontaneity of the occasion, or the skill of the storefront photographer but it remains my best picture ever.
Now, that being said, I will admit that it looked nothing like me. When I was travelling between countries for work, I was not gliding through passport control with a healthy glow and a look of surprised pleasure dancing in my eyes. I was bedraggled, ponytailed and usually late for my next connection. Typically, the only smile on my face was masking clenched teeth as I silently willed the immigration officers to just hurry up and stamp the damned thing.
Over the years that I travelled on that passport, it was quite common for those hard-working border guards to need a double, sometimes triple, look between my photo and my actual face while I knowingly nodded and laughed, acknowledging that I was not looking my best. At times, I was even asked to produce a second piece of identification. Fortunately, my driver’s license looked exactly like the real me.
Sadly, so does my new passport.