Passport to Hades maybe

I have just spent the better part of my day in the Passport office. Amanda leaves for the orchestra trip to Vienna soon, and I have been to the Passport office several times attempting to procure this most valuable of travel documents. Because Amanda will be 15 when she travels, she needs a “child” passport. Child passports are hard to get. (I don’t know why this is, though I suspect that I have some guy who lost custody of his kids and boosted them off to Spain to thank). Today was my third attempt to get Amanda a passport. Here are some things that I have learned about the Passport office.

-They are serious about the NO FOOD OR DRINK rule. This rule, as crazy as it sounds…actually includes coffee, which I normally count as neither.

-The man who tells you that coffee is a drink (that still cracks me up) is not a security guard. He is RCMP. He may have a gun. I felt that it would be poor form to ask him. (Sort of makes me look like I might have a plan…ya know?)

-He does not knit.

-Despite having a high level of education and a reasonable grasp of the English Language the passport form instructions are still so complex that I got something wrong three times. I shudder to think how you would fare if you were not as educated, or if English were not your first language.

-The passport office regrets this, but feels that there is nothing they can do.

-They are not interested in my offer to re-write the instructions. This may have been because I called the instructions “incomparably unclear” and “deliberately misleading” and called into question their desire to issue passports at the passport office. I also may have asked them if the application was designed as some sort of “pre-screening” process to make sure that only people with 36 hours of free time to line up (without coffee) as well as being in the top 2% for intelligence are allowed to travel outside of the country.

-Today, Rex Murphy was in line three people in front of me. Even though he was Rex Murphy, he still had to wait hours like the rest of us. He was not allowed to have coffee either. (Both of these things pleased me, though I extend sympathy to Mr. Murphy for his suffering).

-Because we are Canadians, not one single person acknowledged that he was Rex Murphy. Not, “Hello Mr. Murphy”, not “Gosh Mr. Murphy, I sure do like your work”. Not one single….”Holy, crap! Are you Rex Murphy?” (Not that you could mistake him for someone else) Nothing. I personally made eye contact with him for a moment but even that felt quite brazen.

-Not one word was spoken of the fact that Rex Murphy walked among us like a mere mortal, until he left. Then practically everyone in there turned to the person next to them and said “Wow. Ya see that? Rex Murphy”.

-Finally, the third time is apparently the charm and Amanda’s application has been accepted. They have no complaints box. (I checked).

Yesterday I was all sorted to skip Tuesdays are for spinning when what should arrive in my mailbox?


It’s from Cora, and she enclosed a little note saying that she “didn’t know what to do with it”. She’s not a spinner and thinks this mohair would make poor thrums. (She’s right) I however, know exactly what to do with it.


Look to the postman Cora…it’s coming right back atcha…and a thousand thanks for the whole “not grey” thing. You don’t know how lovely a time I had.

Clapotis is coming along.


Anybody catch that?

More prizes tomorrow.

66 thoughts on “Passport to Hades maybe

  1. What? This has been posted for hours and no one has commented? Is bloglines broke? How sweet of you to spin the roving and then send it back. Oh, and congrats on your daughter getting her passport!

  2. Ummmmm….. that looks like a SECOND Clapotis!
    Looks wonderful in that colourway too. Now I really have to find some yarn and get one started for me.
    What do you think of the 100%kid mohair at
    Cheers on the Non-Grey.

  3. What beautiful wool from Cora and sensational spinning!! And the Clapotis makes me so want one.

  4. Kudos to Sarah and Jackie for beating me to the post. I saw (0) posts and my heart flittered… ah well. 3rd time is a charm eh Stephanie & Amanda.

  5. Hold the phone, Dora. That is a new clapotis. where’s the one from yesterday I wonder. Cora, I’m SOOOO jealous.

  6. Is that the 2nd Clapotis, no fair, I still haven’t found yarn for one!
    Congratulations on your patience on the passport thing.

  7. I’m glad it wasn’t just me… that IS a second (or are there more somewhere??) clapotis!
    Beautiful colors!
    As for the passport office, so much fun, huh? I love how the Canadian government goes out of its way to make the process for interaction between its citizens and their government so simple.
    (do you think they’ll come get me now? I need to renew my passport soon… oh oh.)

  8. Aha, that is not the orangy Clapotis! What have you done with her? “Harlot” is indeed your rightful name. How could you abandon her? She was still so fresh and unspoiled. Oh, and I ordered yarn for my own, so I shan’t be drooling over yours any longer. Much.

  9. Oooooooohhhhh, what beautiful colours!
    What beautiful yarn. I love the way all the different colours hug each other in different places. You clever you.
    Your passport story on the other hand, gives me slight nausea. In Norway small kids used to be able to travel on their parents’ passports, but not anymore. So very soon I have to go down to police head quarters and sit there for most of the day with two bored-to-death loved ones. Yuk! We’re allowed to bring food and beverages(i love that word!) though.

  10. Not to put too fine a point on it, your time-of-posting lies like a rug (I noticed this yesterday but was too civil to comment. Two days, though, and the thin verneer wears right off.) No, wait — it would be right if you were posting from Yorkshire. Or maybe Vienna. Is there something you’d like to tell us?
    My first reaction to the Rex Murphy sighting was something along the lines of “WTF is Rex Murphy?” Having read his bio, my attitude has changed to “How are the cloning experiments going and how soon could we have one, too?”
    But, noting that he is characterized as “quick-witted,” my real question is “How many tries did it take him to get his application properly filled out?”
    Clap Otis madness. She’s caught The Clap. (and what was that about rolling edges being part of its charm? Ladies, please — get a communal grip.)

  11. If you finished that first Clapotis already, I swear my head will explode.
    Sympathies on the passport office hassle. We had to get passports last year just to drive to the States, because they wouldn’t quit tearing our freaking car apart every time.

  12. despite the fact that i am not a knitter i feel compelled to comment since i also have seen rex murphy in person (at indigo books). i had a similar experience. i limited my reaction to staring at him uncontrollably till i made eye contact, which i boldly maintained until he looked away, and then had a conversation with the nearest indigo employee about how we had just seen rex murphy. it was a very satisfying moment, in a canadian kind of way.

  13. I just stopped by for a minute, before heading off to fill out my husband’s passport application! He is a native English speaker, has a PhD and is generally acknowledged to be able to communicate effectively… but he can’t fill out forms worth a damn. And, I even know where his birth certificate is, which I doubt he does. BUT, I’m going to make him go to the office himself! Thanks for the advance warning about that guy with the gun ….
    Mary de

  14. Ah, Rams, you notice just about everything. I too wondered what day she was talking about in the opening sentence, but soon forgot when I got wrapped up in the tales of Rex Murphy (I’m Canadian, so know who he is). Now I don’t normally check the comments on this particular blog, but hey, today I threw caution to the winds. (what the heck, I already locked my keys in the car, and was about a good 30 minute walk from home, it was snowing, it was slippery, I was tired, and the kids were due to come home for lunch – in way less than 30 minutes. I think I made it in about 18 minutes, and only fell on my arse, in the snow, twice. My eyebrows were thick with snow. We reviewed ‘what to do when you get home from school and Mommy isn’t there’). Anyway, we have to call the harlot on this one – we all know government offices like the passport office are only open from about 10 – 3:30, thus inconveniencing almost every possible customer, and yesterday’s post was, um, 12:20’ish? p.m.?

  15. Consider yourself lucky that you don’t live where I do. The closest passport-accepting post office is an hour away, and the nearest passport office is in Surrey, BC, 5 hours away in good traffic.
    My brother recently waited 9 weeks for a passport, and got it 2 days before a sceduled trip. I would go, well, postal if I had to make either of those trips 3 times for a passport.
    That is a pretty new clapotis. I am all about the rainbow colours.

  16. Oooooooooh! Nice looking Clapotwo! (Nods to Rams) And I, like the rest, am still looking for just the right yarn to make one.
    Sorry to hear about your passport office troubles. I have had my little guy’s passport aplication complete for oh, coming on 5 months now, and I just can’t bring myself to go to the office. No plan yet on what I’ll say to the surly looking border crossing guy when the time comes…
    Cora, you’re a lucky lucky girl. That spinning is beautiful! A Clapotis for you too perhaps?

  17. The curse of hte terminally clueless: I thought it was the same clapotis in different lighting. Y’all are photo-taking knitters, you KNOW it’s possible!

  18. What fun! I can’t believe they don’t have a comment box (although it’s now pretty easy to figure out why not). I can’t wait to see a finished clapotis (either one will do) so I can see how this border turns out. Have to know my options 🙂

  19. Well, you have my sympathies for the passport-marathon, but I find I can’t regret it toooo much, as it made a darn entertaining anecdote. (At least they didn’t make you sign away your sense of humor!)
    And, I agree–that roving AND the yarn you spun from it are both lovely! That’s so nice of you.

  20. first, did you know that no food or drink is allowed on Hong Kong public transit? and fines are issued speedily. Litering is another finable offence – drop a gum wrapper and three officers will pounce!.. a lady dropped her keys and the issue is in court as to whether she should be fined for litering or not. So count your blessings it’s only a firm request for you to get rid of that coffee at the passport office.
    And I noticed right away that that was different coloured yarn on your clapotis.. though it took me spotting someone elses comments to put two and two together and realize – it’s a different clapotis.

  21. Is it wimpy of me to want to take my honeymoon in
    canada instead of trying to get a passport? I think so.
    Love the Clapotises. Gorgeous! At the risk of sounding like an idiot, what kind of yarn are you using? And where do I get some?

  22. I usually don’t comment on your spinning, but um that finished skein (and roving even) is downright dangerously beautiful.
    Who’s Rex Murphy?

  23. If you need to get a visa next, it’s a fun process, too. There are, however, visa expediters who do this for a living!

  24. Last time I was at the post office a mother and daughter were there to pick up the child’s passport. The mother had done the paperwork, but the passport had been mailed to her daughter. The post office wouldn’t give her the passport without identification, but what 10 year old child has i.d? I bought my 1-cent stamps and left without knowing the outcome.

  25. Holy crap! It’s like you can work miracles. The mohair was beautiful to start with, but look at it now! I’m in complete and utter awe.
    It’s a gorgeous day (65 degrees) and I’m off to buy a whole new tire for my bike (someone stole it months ago) so I can go riding.

  26. I work in an office with two pharmacists who, since Christmas, have been asked to sign about 5 passports each.
    I’ve actually filled out a few forms for people because they made mistakes that we caught… or because the pharmacists signed the little box and their signature TOUCHED THE EDGE OF THE BOX!!!!!! Signing passports should be part of the curriculum at pharmacy school.
    Thank goodness the passport office has an online sight – we had to print a few copies of the form just to get it done once!
    Funny thing – when my husband filled out his passport when his band went overseas last fall he put my name in the “person to contact in the event of an emergency (someone you don’t usually travel with)” Do you think he was trying to tell me something?????

  27. You should have asked Mr. Murphy to come with you when you got to the counter and make your arguments for you–that would have got you some service!
    (Could you imagine him getting in a verbal tuffle about the instructions?)
    I don’t think it’s just being Canadian that made you not talk to Rex, but a slight fear of actually engaging in a conversation with him. I know you’re a smart witty girl, (as am I and most people sharing our name) but Rex scares me a bit.
    PS Morehouse merino…drool.

  28. Lovely mohair. Beautiful clapodeux (love those colors!)
    Your passport office story reminds of when I was 16 and got my very first speeding ticket (not the time I saw a real live celebrity in court – Tim Kazurinsky (go to everyone ignored also). My mom went to court with me, and she brought her knitting (in 1968 this was a pretty radical thing for a suburban mom to do, but there you go). The bailiff came up to her and said, “Lady, you can’t crochet in court” and Mom, bless her heart, said, “Fine, then I’ll just keep knitting”. He made her leave, but I’ll never forget her face when she said it – sort of like, “Crochet THIS, you *******”. Go Mom!!

  29. Suddenly, after many years of being perfectly happy as just a knitter, I NEED to learn to spin! How? Where do I get a wheel? What one do I get?

  30. Wow…not only are you able to manipulate time in the Harlot household, but you are also able to change colorways on certain knitting projects. Wait, hold it…is that a NEW Clapotis? Can’t be. I don’t believe it. However that mohair you spun is gorgeous.
    I have always wondered how the unintelligent survive. Apparently it is not by frequent travel, among other things.

  31. My experience has been that a trip to the passport office (or the US consulate which was even worse) requires at least one return visit for something forgotten etc. My experience was actually that getting an adult passport was harder than getting a kid’s passport, if you are attempting to get the passport for another adult even if that adult is your child who lives at your home still!!! Here in Halifax I didn’t notice a no food or drink rule, took my daughter in there with drink in hand. One of the advantages of living way out here in the middle of nowhere is that even when there is a line up at the passport office the wait is never more than about 30 minutes.
    glad to hear you were finally successful.

  32. okay, lemme get this straight….mohair arived yesterday’s post… spent the better part of today in the passport office……..the mohair got spun(two plys nonetheless)…… “CLAPOTIS, the sequel”…made its appearance in all its harlotty loveliness….and even if rams is right about the posting time being off, you were def here by 2:00…. sigh.. in that time frame i did an 1/2 inch on my shawl and brushed my teeth….

  33. Am I the only one who saw the non-orange clapotis and wondered if Stephanie had just decided to mess with PhotoShop again? Or is this just my way of convincing myself that Stephanie can’t really finish a manuscript AND run a household AND deal with the passport office AND knit multiple clapotis (that sounds almost kinky) at once, while I can’t manage even one of the above?
    who has discovered that she is one of at least TWO “Kristen W’s” who read the Harlot (and not the one who got the way-cool felted mittens, alas)

  34. My sister went to apply for a passport at her college-town post office to do a semester abroad program. The clerk looked at her birth certificate, which said, “Washington, DC,” promptly announced it was not a state certificate and thus not valid nor acceptable, and refused to issue her one! She had to fly home to that foreign country of DC to walk it through the passport office there.
    I applied for passports for my baby daughter and me so we could go with DH on a business trip to France. He got his immediately (his was a renewal). Six weeks later, the trip came and went, and since we happened to be living in that very same college town just then, (and my birth certificate is also DC!) we had no recourse. Thus my trip to Paris never happened.

  35. I feel for you with the passport thing. When we moved to Virginia a little over a year ago, I had to get a new driver’s license and I actually got sent home from the DMV! Apparently of the 5 forms of ID I had with me, they weren’t the right kind. I’d never gotten sent home from school but apparently the DMV thought I looked like trouble.

  36. holy crap, stephanie – looking at that skein you spun for cora has made my day. thank you. you’re better than a trip to the hairdresser’s, even the one where you lie down to get your hair washed.

  37. how about the fact that smiling on passport pictures in Canada is illegal?
    I guess I broke the no-food rule when I breast-fed Huxley in the waiting room at the passport office? Must have embarassed the RCMP guy with my bare bussom that he didn’t come and tell Huxley that no food was allowed…
    Beautiful Clap (heh heh heh… ) I guess it’s also contagious?

  38. Having spent the better part of August and September getting my daughter a French student’s visa, I can sympathize with the passport problem The French are the worst. Their consular employees have no problem telling you one thing on the phone and then looking you straight in the eye in person and contradicting it, thus ensuring that there will be multiple trips from Sacramento to San Francdisco before the ##***!!!! visa is in hand. At great expense I got all daughter’s diplomas translated and certified by a consular official in Sacramento. The visa folks in San Francisco accepted them, but in France they didn’t. You see, when you have the visa in hand it doesn’t really mean anything when you get there. You have to visit their snooty and unreasonable bureaucrats and get MORE certifications. AND, they wouldn’t accept their own consulate’s certified translation, which was reviewed by the folks in San Francisco (that’s 2 consular officials who reviewed the originals and translations.)NO NO They required the ORIGINAL diplomas and translations to be sent to France. So why the heck did I Pay to get the certifications in the first place ? The French are absolutely the worst. Betsy

  39. Beautiful spinning… beautiful colors and work!
    I had no idea that Canadians prided themselves on reserved manners… well, since I’m an American, what can I say? : ) I never noticed! Perhaps someday you can expound on this topic in a blog entry.
    Best of luck with the passport… since 9/11, everything has become much more complicated, and I doubt that any of us feel safer. Or maybe it’s nothing more complicated than just good old Govt. red tape.

  40. Clap On, Clap Off…the Clapper! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Is one Clap on, and one Clap off? Or dare I say, are there two Claps on??
    If you have already finished the first one, I’m turning in my needles.
    P.S. Gorgeous mohair! Maybe Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays should all be for spinning!

  41. I told Wendy on her blog that I wanted to marry her handspun…and I would, no doubt, be unfaithful to it with yours.

  42. OK, I guess i have to speak now.
    I used to work for Passports Canada. In fact, I was one of the evil people who would catch mistakes and duplicates AFTER the counter people were done. One of 7-10 in Canada. Now I teach high school…please accept that as enough penance.
    Let me help explain it from another point of view.
    The box around the signature is microfilmed (and now digitally examined). If the signature isn’t completely within the box, there is a funny bleeding thing that happens, and it’s not legal because we don’t have a full picture.
    The no smiling thing came about after complaints from other countries. Yes, they complained. Think about how much YOUR face changes when you smile.
    The whole anal-retentive detail thing is to make sure that you’re you, because when you’re overseas, if there is any question of you NOT being you, we have all sorts of proof.
    For example, we check your middle name, place of birth, birth certificate, and a whole bunch of other things because it’s (scarily) NOT unusual to find same-first-last-middle-name-same-age-exactly people.
    As for the long wait, well, they’re VERY detail oriented. And the no food thing is a office by office policy. for THAT I apologize. A lot has changed since 9/11. (please note, I started my teaching job 9/01…dodged that bullet)
    As a side note, things I’ve seen while in passports:
    A man smuggling children into Canada from Africa for child prostution. Now child passports are harder to get, and kid-on-adult passports are well nigh impossible.
    A woman with drug smuggling in her passport UNPICKING the thread securing her passport pages, replacing the bad page with her husband’s, and trying to sneak into Columbia.
    A man begging for an emergency passport, because he couldn’t travel to country X to pay his drug suppliers on his current passport.
    A man who forged all the necessary signatures in CRAYON.
    Two men who tried literally to kill each other in line, after finding out they were from opposing sides of a civil war before they immigrated.
    So 95% of applicants are nice and knitterly…and the other 5% necessitate bulletproof glass, RCMP officers with guns, and witness-protection-program like security. Sorry those 5% make the rest of us so troubled.

  43. you blow me away once again Harlot.By Jeasus I will do something else for you if it kills me…oh btw I can’t stand Rex Murphy and even emailed him and told him!ha
    I still want to vote for you in our next election

  44. I had to get a passport for my child last year(“she sang with a choir in Carnegie Hall,” said her mother proudly) and it was no end of nonsense with added parental/custodial stuff. a woman who works in my MP’s office finally expedited the thing for me.She sent it directly to the guy she spoke to on the phone for me. I was quite impressed.

  45. How cool that your daughter is going to Vienna on an orchestra trip (even after the passport nightmares)! What does she play? I’m a bassoonist myself so I just had to ask. The new yarn and the new *ahem* clapper are lovely.

  46. My son went to Vienna and Prague last year on an honors chorus trip. It was an incredible experience for him. TO be in the homes of composers then to hear their pieces performes. I’m so thrilled for your daughter!

  47. Kath – I’m with you on the “half inch of shawl and teeth brushing” by the time the Wicked Clapotii Wench has snicker-snacked two Claps and spun a 2ply! Good thing we LOVE and RESPECT our dear Harlot, eh? Otherwise…”beeeeITCH!” 😉
    Poor Joe.
    Not to worry. Winter’s almost over. He’ll be able to wear it next year.

  48. Kath? Dhi? Maybe I’m wrong, here, but I think that mohair’s Navajo plied, which would make it (gulp) three-ply. Just sayin’.

  49. I want to learn to spin! It’s been my dream for a long time, but will probably have to wait until I am retired (or all my children have grown up and left home).

  50. I went to Spain in my junior year of high school – what a wonderful experience it was! I’m almost 45 and I have very clear memories of the whole trip. Too bad I can’t remember my kids’ names…..
    I’m so close to trying this spinning thing – but Bob may lock me in a room with no yarn or needles if I try.

  51. Rex Murphy! Holy smokes! Groovy. And I’m not even Canadian, but CBC is pretty much my only news source. I would never know who he was until I heard him speak, but thanks to your link to his bio, now I’ll recognize him when I (probably never) see him. It’s always a little bit jarring when you see a familiar radio personality’s photo. I don’t know what I thought he looked like, but not like THAT.
    Uh oh. I can hear that spinning wheel calling ever so loudly from out in the shed……

  52. Im a beginning spinner, and I just have to ask.. how did you get that gorgeous yarn? It looks like a two ply, but I dont want to assume…

  53. That is some gorgeous yarn you spun! Your story about the passport office reminds me of when I first hung out with a big bunch of Canadians and really didn’t get it. My husband was in a wedding party, and 2 of the other men were famous for TV acting. One was Mark McKinney from Kids in the Hall (whom my husband allowed to come into our hotel room looking for a tie while I was in underpants and hot rollers. Grrrrr.) But anyway, during his speech at the rehearsal dinner, Mark kept referring to himself as “A Canadian Superstar.” I thought wow how self-absorbed! Turns out it was a joke, about how there are no Canadian superstars, and Canada doesn’t “do” superstars. Or something. I never did get the joke…

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