Passport Photos: Angry Ellie and the Nice New Yorkers

I have no idea why I didn’t think this through more carefully, but earlier today, I walked right into quite possibly one of the most trying experiences of my life.

What is that you ask?

Well I decided since I needed to renew my passport, I mind as well get one for my darling 15-month-old daughter.  The one that used to cooperate.

Let me set the scene for you…It’s 10am, I am at the post office across the street from my office where I meet up with Ellie and Jillian.  Upon arrival, Ellie was very cheerful.  We enter the post office, and the air in there reminded me of the way it feels when you walk off an airplane into an airport in Aruba…hot, sticky, and not moving.

We get in line and wait for about 20 minutes before the clerk announces that everyone must have copies of their photo IDs. 

I didn’t have copies.  I had the originals.  So I run across the street to the office, copy a bunch of documents and run back.  AND GET BACK AT THE END OF THE LINE.

Nothing is going smoothly in front of me.  Nothing.  Children are running around the post office, postal workers are loudly asking who they belong to, and one woman is arguing with the clerk because she is hopeful that simply showing the clerk documents on her blackberry will suffice, and that she will not in fact have to print them out and turn over hard copies.

While this is going on, Ellie is running around with only her socks on, and I am sweating.  Not only do I need to get back to the office, but I am seeing the line grow and grow behind me, and it is stressing me out.  Why the line BEHIND me is stressing me, I have no idea…but it was.  And it was getting warmer and warmer in there.

Finally it’s our turn.  The clerk reviews my documents.  We pass. 

And now it is time for the photo portion of the show.

Let me explain to you the layout of this passport department area.  It’s about 15 Feet by 8 feet, separated from the rest of the post office with a clear plastic accordion door.   So I ask where I need to go to take the picture…

The clerk walks out from behind the desk, THE SAME CLERK THAT WAS PROCESSING THE PAPERWORK, which means while we are getting our picture taken – the line is not moving. 

She grabs what looks like a souped up Polaroid camera, and tells me to sit in front a white screen and smile.  I sit on the stool and look at the long line of people all staring at me, and I said, “Well this is awkward,” and then I smile in a way that would embarrass my sister.

THHHHHEEEEN I collect Ellie and the clerk tells me to put one foot up on the stool, and then sit Ellie on my knee, in front of the white backdrop and have her look forward, while not letting my arms be show in the photo.

Well that doesn’t work because Ellie tries to climb into my bra. 

So I stand Ellie on the stool, squat down and give Ellie extra balance by holding on to her legs.  Jillian is standing across from Ellie, next to the long line of people that were probably beginning to hate me and my child.  She is doing everything to try to get Ellie to look in her direction. 

And at this point Ellie basically has her back to the camera.

So I say to Jillian, “Let’s switch.”

So Jillian balances the angry toddler on the stool and I jump around swinging my wrap bracelet in the air, to try to coax Ellie to LOOK AT THE DAMN CAMERA.

Now almost everyone in the line is calling Ellie’s name, as I am apologizing repeatedly while sweating profusely.

Finally…this is the photo we get.


The clerk looks at the display on the camera and says, “Ehhh…I’m not sure if it is good enough.”

And I said, “Well that is as good as it is going to get today, so we will keep it.”

Then I turn around and apologize again to the line of people…all of which happened to parents, and I have to say…every single one of them was kind and shared their horror stories of trying to get their kids to pose for their passport photos.

Remember this story next time you are in New York and someone knocks you down the stairs while trying to catch a subway, or tells you to shut the F**k up…not all New Yorkers are a**holes. 

Just the ones that think getting a passport for their 15-month-old can be done in a 15-minute coffee break.