Memory Monday

Passport-

In high school, I was lucky enough to be able to visit France with my French class. However, international travel always sounds blissful, but the preparation rarely is. As my mother and I drove to the Wisconsin Dells post office on a snowy December day, my mind was filled to the brim with fanciful thoughts of baguettes crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, art that I had only seen pictures of, and monuments that were so world-renowned that I almost didn’t believe that I would be able to touch them. These romanticized images led my feet into the dimly lit government building that day. I was greeted by a woman who seemed downright offended that another human should be so bold as to step into her place of work. Her hair was dirty and her face was chapped and sharply creased. Her thin lips were sealed together in a straight line much line an envelope.She obviously wasn’t expecting company. Nonetheless, my dreams of Europe were too idealistic to be dampened even by the epitome of misery that is the post office around Christmas time, I chippery handed over my passport application. Yet, when I glanced over at the form that Ms. Christmas Spirit had to fill out in tandem with my own application, I noticed that she was filling out the form for an “Erin Hainz” instead of an Erica. This actually happens to me more often than I would like to admit. My short hair seems to force those around me to create a more palatable androgynous persona for me. Regardless of her rational, when I pointed out the mistake to Ms. Christmas Spirit, she grunted tiredly at me, like someone who was awakened in the middle of the night by their own fart. She then scribbled out Erin and squeezed in a barely legible Erica. Fifteen year old me was trying to suppress her panic. She told herself that there was no reason her passport application would be denied. Even if they couldn’t read her name on the official form, they could just look to her original application, that fifteen year old Erica meticulously filled out as if it were going to be framed and displayed in Le Louvre itself. She should totally trust that this postal employee is competent enough to fulfill the most basic duties of her job. And that’s when the stapler came out. The official form and application had to be joined together before being sent off to whatever mysterious place it is that people approve passport applications. Does the joining of two papers sound like a difficult task? For most people, no. But Ms. Christmas Spirit was inventive enough to discover a wrong way to use a stapler. She began by opening the top slot of the stapler as if she were going to add more staples. Instead, she put the corners of both documents in and hit the top as hard as she could. Simple mistake I thought. It’s pretty obvious that this woman is not in her right state of mind. She’s probably tired. She will see her mistake, feel silly, and correctly staple my passport application. This did not happen. Rather, Ms. Christmas Spirit gently replaced the papers into the top slot of the stapler, and repeatedly beat her fist on it. By the time I was able to stop her, there was already a significant hole in the official form. I instructed her on how to correctly staple two sheets of paper together, turned around, and left the prison like building convinced that there was no way in hell anyone in their right mind would approve that passport application. Luckily whoever did approve it had about as much attention to detail as Ms. Christmas Spirit, because to my absolute amazement, two months later, my passport arrived.

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