Tomorrow Joe’s going away with his mum. They’ve been planning it for a while – off to the US to see the Grand Canyon and visit a relative, and Joe’s mum is psyched. (Joe is too – let’s be honest.) Her kids – all four of them, travel with her in turns, and this trip has been set in stone for a while. Since they leave in the morning, today they have to provide Homeland Security with "advance travel information" like your passport number and expiry date, and where you’ll be while you’re in the United States – and Joe being Joe, today was the day that he fetched his passport from his underwear drawer (where all right thinking people keep important documents) and was about to hop on the phone with his mum to give her the information, when he happened to glance at the expiry date of that wee book, and notice, much to his horror, that it was a date in the past.
When he recovered himself sufficiently and regained the power of speech, he called the passport office to see if anything could be done, and they said for him to come right down with all his paperwork, and see what could be sorted for him. They warned him though, that getting a passport renewed on the same day was strictly a mission for "emergencies" and not to get his hopes up. Passport Canada’s website advised that the 24 hour service (which really wasn’t even fast enough for us) was only available with proof of travel (got it) and that "Passport Canada will take appropriate action on a case-by-case basis." Not too hopeful, since the last time either Joe or I checked, being a moron wasn’t really an emergency, but more of a chronic thing.
Down we went, and after the requisite wait, we found ourselves in front of a nice lady at the wicket, and Joe launched into his tale of woe. How his stupid mistake was going to spoil his mum’s vacation, how he’d clearly taken leave of his senses, how upset his mum would be, how he really loved his mum and she was nice, how, when she found out he hadn’t checked until this morning she was probably going to tell him his was stunned as a bat, and how he would disappoint her, how… how there just had to be a way (not to put it to bluntly) how there had to be a way to keep him, a forty-one year old man, from getting into trouble with his mummy.
The lady didn’t even blink. Took the papers, screened Joe’s old passport, told Joe they’d do their best and to come back at close of day, one and a half hours later and see what happened.
We left the building, hitting his references on speed-dial to warn them the call would be coming and would they be so kind as to be sure and answer the phone, only to discover that Passport Canada had already called his references- before we were in the car. Joe returned, ninety minutes later, to face the music, and he had already reconciled himself to the idea that it was unlikely that the fact that he was a bonehead was an emergency that could conquer a bureaucracy the size of the Canadian Government, and was already planning what he would say to his mum.
I called minutes later to ask him if he’d gotten it? Was it okay? Did it work? Was it possible- and all Joe said to me on the phone was "Steph, you’re not going to believe this. I love this country. Apparently the risk of disappointing your mum IS an emergency. I have a passport."
You could have knocked me over with a feather. I imagined them scurrying around, all the people at the Passport Office, calling the right people, doing all this stuff, all of them saying "Oh, man, we’ve got to get this done or his mother’s going to kill him" and suddenly I figured out why it had worked. Joe’s a nice man, and everybody has a mother.