Thursday, January 29, 2004

Identity Crisis?
My passport office appointment was this morning, 8am, and I realised yesterday that the only suitable photos I had were "inappropriate" as I was wearing a hat, and you're not allowed to wear a headcovering in passport photos unless it's for religious reasons, and I figured I'd be hard pressed to persuade some government official that my black cloche/twenties hat was part of a long standing spiritual tradition. Although last Limmud, one of the presenters in a text session did say that he was pleased to see at least one black hat in the room.

Now a passport's for life, not just for Christmas, and my last photo was crap and I've had to live with it for ten years. So in a testament to my vanity, last night I braved a (usually five minute) fifteen minute walk to the station to visit the photo booth. Someone else might have grabbed a quick pic in Victoria this morning, but I'm risk-averse when it comes to my carefully controlled photographic image. So, armed with £7 in coins (£3.50 twice in case of unflattering photos), and with more make-up on than I'd ever wear in real life - but I know how to do photography makeup - I got a relatively OK pic.

I know I'm paying through the nose for premium service, but the passport office in Victoria is the slickest government department I've ever dealt with. You can tell that everyone who works there really enjoys it, so there's no jobsworth feeling, and it's a well-designed building, with great ergonomics and queue systems and everything. I was in and out in 30 minutes including security (although I did have to out myself as an underwired bra wearer).

But the best bit? When I handed over my new photo, and the woman compared my new photo to my old one (they have to do that, "for legal reasons" apparently), she said to me:
"wow, you've lost weight." Cool.

I did wonder, briefly, how they "recognise" people. I mean, who decides that someone looks like their previous photo? What if you dyed/cut your hair, lost/gained weight, got caught at an odd angle (like Joyti De-Laurey always seems to have between three and ten chins, depending)? Who decides?

So, doing some work in a cafe (all I need is a mobile and an internet connection, location flexible), before my 10am meeting. After which, hopefully, I can collect my passport and trudge home to icy Kilburn.

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