passport debacle

ahh, the joys of acquiring a passport. just a quick, simple trip to the united states post office, right?

it was time to go get our son ezra a passport in preparation for a trip to paris later in the year. we figured it was time to inject some culture into him since he's almost one and a half years old. the real reason, however, was that kids under two fly for free. at $1400 per ticket, you better believe we're not flying for awhile after he turns two. anywho, i digress.

being the frugal photographer that i am, i thought it obvious that i should be the one taking the passport photo. how hard could it be? a casual headshot taken in front of a plain background. the instructions on the application said the shot had to be two inches square. easy enough. the other requirement was the distance from the chin to the top of the head was to be one inch to one and three eighths of an inch. ok.

it was a gloomy day so it was dark in the house when i took the picture. i cornered ezra, committed the sin of popping up my on-camera flash, and grabbed an uninspiring mug shot. good enough. i dropped the shot into photoshop, resized for 2 x 2, dumped it to a jump drive and threw ezra in the backpack (it's a baby backpack, not a regular one) for a walk to cvs to get a terrible quality print for thirty cents. here's my piece of art:

ezra, tara, and myself got in the car and made our way to the post office with the filled out form and the shiny new photo. thinking i gamed the system and avoided the $15 photo fee, i was pretty happy with myself as we handed over the packet of documents. i even printed three duplicates in case they needed more than one. i was invincible and i had all the bases covered.

to my horror, the clerk pulled out a tape measure and started analyzing the dimensions. the 2 x 2 frame was fine, but ezra's chin-to-head measurement was an unacceptably huge 1 3/4 inches. i stood there bewildered as she handed the photo back to me and told me it wouldn't be accepted. she then offered to take the photo there for $15. oh no you don't. not when i've come this far. not after i've been this close to avoiding that bloated fee. to my wife's dismay i opted to return home, resize the picture in photoshop, go back to cvs, print another picture, and then come back to the post office. in my haste and zealousness to get the chin to head dimension perfect, i neglected any attention to the surrounding frame area. the result was a cutoff torso at the bottom and little bit of grey wall to the left. technically i met their criteria so i figured no big deal.

with a triumphant air i returned to the post office. again i handed over the documents and photo. after one quick glance, she (snidely) looked up at me and told me it wouldn't be accepted. after some back and forths regarding why it wouldn't be accepted, i paused so i could recompose myself. that's when she dropped the bomb - "take this picture back to whoever's taking it and tell them they don't know how to take pictures". my tongue never bled so much. my gut reaction was to hand her my business card, but i refrained as that would have been as immature as one could get. knowing i'd be sleeping on the couch if i went home again to adjust the photo a second time, i simply agreed to letting the post office clerk/photo expert take the picture for $15.

she had ezra stand on a stool in front of a white drop-down background while she used the weirdest camera i've ever seen to take his picture. i looked on, amused as ezra wouldn't cooperate for her since he was more interested in touching the background or pointing to his shoes than looking directly at the alien camera for the ultra-precise position necessary to satisfy the stringent requirements. finally tara came over and directed ezra's attention in the right place. she is definitely the bigger person of the two of us. i remained silent for the rest of the exchange. here's their result:

juvenile? yes. bad attitude? yes. but just think, for the next five years every time i look at ezra's passport i can think back to my pleasant experience with the united states post office. next passport application i'm just going to submit this:

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