Passport Patience

This summer I learned a huge lesson in patience. I am still learning to be patient. In fact, I am learning a hard lesson about long-suffering and endurance, eaten with a slice of humble pie. Let me start at the beginning: Almost a year ago we were excited to learn that a beloved niece was getting married in the States. Covid restrictions were beginning to lift, travel was becoming a bit easier, and we were thrilled that we could plan for a full-on family vacation! Snag: Canadian passports were due to expire a month or so before our flight. No problem… lots of time to renew… times six… with one turning “adult” and one without a current health card. And with rumours of backlogs mounting. Be patient. No worries. It will all work out. Can always fast-track, right?

I’m good at forms. English is my first language. I can navigate government papers. I can follow instructions. Cue a full evening of sitting at the dining room table with a specifically coloured-inked pen in hand, a handful of rather expensive and well-earned, non-smiling photos carefully doubled signed and pinned to said matching forms. (Who knew the local convenience store was the easiest spot for passport photos? Obviously not us who drove by the sign every day that clearly states “Passport photos here” and yet sought out Costco and Shopper’s Drug Mart and Walmart for such things…) But I digress.

Five out of six passport forms were completed and in the hot little hands of an even more patient husband who delayed work one day to drive out to the neighbouring city to wait in line at the passport centre because we heard the lines were fewer there. Patience. Smile. Got to the front… “Here you go nice government lady, yes, my wife filled them out, why yes, she does have neat handwriting, yes, here is my credit card… What? A simple mistake? Yes, we can adjust that now…thank you, yes, I’d love the receipt, yes, we are travelling soon… guaranteed a week or so before our flight? Great, thank you, ma’am.” Perfect.

One to go. No worries. We can get the necessary documentation for the “adult” child who needs to fill out a whole new form. I can go to the official office and get that one “fast-tracked”. The family vacation is worth the extra few bucks. Signal God’s lesson in patience about to fall on the head of a momma bear who may just lose her sense of Christian decency. Here’s the story:

Knowing time was no longer on our side, I took a day off work to take the remaining form to one of the few centres that could process the form in time for our already booked flights. I knew the line would be long, so arrived several minutes before opening to find a rather large line already gathered outside. There was no signage. No helpers, no arrows, pylons etc. Only a few hopefuls with coffees and lawn chairs parked near the doors. The rest of us huddled behind them cued up in the overcast weather, armed with folders of forms and high hopes. I chatted with the mom of four in front of me who was re-doing all her children’s forms because they “got lost in the system”. I instructed the gentleman behind me he was in the wrong line. His was moving much quicker at the far end of the building. I texted the picture… not so long… halfway to the front door now. I’ll soon be inside. Crocheted a few rows. This mom is patient.

Exactly one hour and a half after opening time (most of us still standing around the corner to the OUTSIDE of the building) a lone (and somewhat brave) security guard comes out to inform us that “there are no more tickets for today… please go home and come back tomorrow morning…. preferably at 4:00AM to have any chance of getting inside…” 4:00AM? Really?! Needless to say, most of us were a little shocked. Many, many grumbled and fussed (and cussed) and left. The rest of us stood around for a little, pondering our predicament. Someone tried the other door, and the flock of us followed suit, hoping to take advantage of an alternative route to travel freedom. We were quickly turned back to a locked door, again, on the outside of the building.

Patience. Breathe. Let’s look at this logically. The office has been open for business for only an hour and a half. One hundred or so “secret ticket holders” seem to be lined up inside. Even counting a lunch break, these professionals should be able to serve us by end of the day! I shall commit. I will be patient and kind. Many were not. The mom of four and I took our chances. After all, today was my only day off. I have all day to stand here. Our line had dwindled to about 30 from the over 300 people. We slowly filed inside the building to another cue and those seatbelt line maker things that made us weave in and out to the “front” of the glass enclosed room to the “ticket holders” and the kiosks.

I texted the picture… not so long… halfway to the front door now. I’ll soon be inside.

The lone (and somewhat brave) security guard was now joined by about 5 or 6 others. Flashing their badges and appearing to be in charge. “I have no authority to let you inside” they say. “Come back later”. “Only if you have proof of travel within 48 hours can you be here”. “No” “NO”. God-given patience. Be kind. “Yes, sir, I appreciate what you are saying. I understand — but I choose to wait”. “Thank you, I chose to wait”. Five people left in front of the glass room. Twenty-five people holding up in the secret space.

Finally, the lone (and somewhat exasperated by this crazy lady) security guard asks my business. Ha! A month before travel? Okay, lady… if you are willing to “dropbox” your form (ie no inspection of said form, just throw it at the guy and pay your money and hope for the best) then I can give you a golden ticket. “Thank you, sir, yes I will wait”. Haha! Look at me and my patience paying off! I have been here seven hours… but it worked!

Fast forward some 20 weeks and more phone calls, emails, faxes and tears… and we are still waiting for one final passport to arrive. (Oh… no, not that last-minute one… it arrived first with no special added treatment) We missed the wedding, we missed the vacation, we missed family, and are yet to receive credits for booked flights. My sense of accomplishment and pat on the back for being so full of patience has dwindled to a story to tell about frustration. There are many more details I could have added to this long post… but here’s the point. It’s a lesson. At least I am trying to look at it as a lesson. I was kind. Was it life and death? No. Was it a disappointment? Absolutely.

Many of you may have similar stories. Maybe some of you have even better stories. We have every right to be served well by others. We’ve done “the right thing” and “followed the rules” and “deserve” this or that. It’s frustrating and sad. Yet, we have been called to stand out as light in a dark world. To spread love and not curse those who mean you harm. It’s a tough pill to swallow. It takes some self-talk and a little dose of Holy Spirit. I’m finding I have to face the lesson more and more in these post Covid days of people-who-have-lost-all-abilities-to-socially-interact. Now is the time for us to shine. May you and I learn the lesson well, my beloveds.