My plan for the day seemed simple enough…
Fill out the forms. File for a passport.
I started at what seemed to be a logical place: the US government passport website. First I read about the wads of money that would soon be extracted from my wallet in exchange for a small official looking notebook and an unflattering photograph of myself. After that, I found the remainder of the instructions and forms for obtaining this handy document. In the mix, I noticed a section on specifications for passport photos, and towards the bottom, a list of guidelines so that you could take your own official headshot. How handy! I thought. I am a decent photographer; I can do this and save myself a bunch of extra money.
Do yourself a favor: do not EVER consider this an option.
I quickly downloaded an app that was made to help you take a passport photo. The next half hour or so was spent trying to get one that I was reasonably happy with. Taking a satisfactory photo of yourself becomes exponentially more difficult when it is a face-on shot. Even the most gorgeous model can suddenly take on the appearance of a convicted felon when photographed to government standards, and seeing as I tend to remain a tad below professional level photogenics… Well, there wasn’t much hope for me.
Once I finally got a halfway decent picture, I ran it down to Costco where I could get it printed up for 17 cents. Of course, I forgot my Costco card. So I stopped at Walgreens, where I learned that whether you take the photo or they take it, passport sized prints will ALWAYS cost you $13. So, back to Costco I went, where I asked nicely at the door and they kindly let me in without my membership card.
Fast forward a few hours.
I loitered awkwardly at the post office, waiting for Leslie to call me to a back room for interrogation. I was expecting a female, but as it turned out, Leslie was a rather large middle aged man. I spread my personal identification documents and a halfway-okay looking photograph of myself out on the desk for him to inspect. Eyeing the picture skeptically, he declared that the passport officials likely wouldn’t accept it (turns out the website did not say that having a slight shadow behind you is illegal). Upon further discussion, I learned that I could have had my photo professionally taken and printed at Costco for a total of only $5. I left the post office feeling dejected, got into my car, and subsequently let a shout of frustration out at my windshield.
THREE WEEKS LATER…
I found myself released from my job early, and reasonably close to Costco. I didn’t want to have my passport shot taken while wearing scrubs (I work in a nursing home). I glanced behind myself at the box of clothes that I had so far failed to take to Goodwill and quickly grabbed pants and a shirt to change into. The shirt was slightly too small and the pants were slightly too big – should I have expected anything less from the Goodwill box? Probably not. But I really just wanted to get things done. At the same time, however, I had an equal desire not to moon anyone while walking through Costco.
I dug around my car for a solution, and I found one:
In the end, my pants stayed up, I got a passport photo taken and printed within 15 minutes, ate some fabulous food samples, and walked out a very happy traveler.
Moral of the story:
Costco rocks. Just start there.