How to torture a Traveller: Take their passport

Travel isn’t a hobby for me; it’s a passion. I know how lucky I am to live where I do and to have the opportunities for travel that my chosen profession provides.

I know my Aeroplan number and my passport number by heart. I  can site my family’s passport expiration dates on request.

I can fill out customs forms in under 60 seconds and if called upon I can be ready to go on a trip within an hour.

I know its geeky but it’s who I am.

I love my passport.


Passportz (Photo credit: Jason Spaceman)

This one especially! We clocked a year of incredible places in this one. There are visas for China and Vietnam and India and stamps from the panda sanctuary in Chengdu, Macchu Picchu and the Great Wall of China.

So you can imagine my frustration and fear  when I realized that my passport was set to expire in April.

I held off as long as I could – taking one more trip to Miami this month – before heading down to the Passport office to renew. And that’s when I just about lost my mind.


AAAARRRGGGHHH (Photo credit: Evil Erin)

The passport office is designed to drive a travel junkie crazy. It’s a clear game of “let’s see how bad they really want this thing.”


1. Line bait and double switch: When you first get to the office you have to wait in line to have someone check your forms and identification to make sure you have everything you need to complete your application. Usually it’s a fairly fast process and short line. What they don’t tell you until you get clearance is that after you leave that airy space and semi-smiling form checker, you will have to spend the rest of eternity in a room crammed with a hundred other people and no bathroom in sight waiting to actually file your form. Cruel.

2.  Forced Withdrawal: In this room where you’ll have to wait forever? You are not allowed to eat, drink or use your phone. Nope, your job while you are here is to wait and look around at the other sorry souls who want to get out of town so badly that they too hate everyone around them right now. Your shared pastime for the next hour (or six) is watching the board hoping your number will come up.

3. Mind Games: Which brings me to the number board. Never in the history of mankind has a crueler line system existed. On the day in question I was “D246.” That’s a letter and a number people. And if you think for a minute that seeing “D245” pop up on the screen means you’re next, then they got you too. Nope, time slows once you’re only a couple of numbers away. Suddenly there’s A dozen “A’s” and “B’s” and even “E’s” on the board. I swear there’s a man sitting somewhere watching the room through a camera and the minute you look like you’re on the edge of your seat, ready to go, they skip your number.  Also guaranteed? The guy who walks in, magazine in hand, looking like there isn’t anywhere he needs to be, and is up at a counter in 30 seconds. To be fair, I think I’ve seen this same system at Ikea. (I rest my case.)
4. Hard labour: There are no harder chairs on the planet than the ones in the waiting room of a passport office. Even those of us with…padding… suffer.

5.  Earworm cruelty. No one – not even those of us who listened to it when it was an original hit – needs to hear Toni Braxton’s “He wasn’t man enough for me” twice in an hour. No. One.

toni braxton cover

The only thing that absolves this pain?

The arrival at my door a few days later of that shiny, magical, blue book to world travel freedom.

I didn’t kiss the mail man… but I wanted to.

Is your passport up to date? Where are you going next?


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{ 7 comments… add one }

Brandi March 27, 2013, 1:23 PM

My US passport expires in 6 years, my UK, one in nine. I think I’m safe for now!


Heather Greenwood Davis March 27, 2013, 1:32 PM

Enjoy it while you can! Two passports to renew might kill me. ;)


Lien March 28, 2013, 12:24 PM

Here in Halifax, it’s quick, painless and maybe even pleasant. They have a guy greet you at the door and ensure you have the proper forms. I forgot my daughter’s birth certificate and had to run home with baby and went back and still got it all done under an hour.


Heather Greenwood Davis March 29, 2013, 3:24 PM

I’m beginning to wonder if it’s only Toronto who has bad passport renewal etiquette!


Carol VanderWilp April 1, 2013, 7:22 PM

Lol! Totally relating. We just went through that a few months ago. Toronto’s office is the worst!
I met you at the Meet Plan Go event last year and you really inspired me. I was just beginning to formulate a plan for my career break from working as a therapist and was thinking about blogging. You encouraged me to get writing and travelling. Just thought I’d give you a quick update – we’re in the midst of downsizing so we can hit the road and I’ve started a fledgeling blog about our recent trip to Southeast Asia. Check it out, if you have a chance:
Any advice and feedback would be greatly appreciated!


Heather Greenwood Davis April 2, 2013, 12:42 PM

Phew! I was beginning to think I was the only one! Love the site and so glad you’re living your dream. I’ll definitely take a peek.


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