I had to renew my French Passport.
Insert anything else after renew and it’s not such an ordeal. “my membership” “my marriage vows” “my liver” “committment to my work”. In this case it really felt more like “I have to renew my desire to actually want to be French enough to go through this crap.”
I’ve been trying to gather the documents I need for this for months now. I called a few times to get the details of what it is I needed and the lady with the raspy voice (I could smell the cigarette from the receiver) said:
-An original birth certificate of mine
-my old passport
-a copy of my mother’s birth certificate
-a copy of my mother’s “family booklet” including where it mentions she was born in France of French parents, where she married my father and the event of my birth
-326.10 NIS in cash and exact change
-six photos (“Absolutely no head covering allowed scarves or hats, after this 9/11 business and also, on a white background, please.”
Mom initially fed-exed this stuff to me for an arm and a leg from Congo but it never got here. So two weeks later I was talking to the guy in Jerusalem who denied the Israeli Post Office’s responsibility for tracking packages from Congo. He said that responsibility lay with the French post office. I should have known.
So she gathered her end of the papers and sent them to me with friends who were visiting. I went to get photos taken, with digital, it’s great because you can see your face and change fate, as opposed to living with a crappy photo for six to ten years. I tired a bunch of different stuff before settling for a half-smile, Mona Lisa like, which was infinitely more flattering than a teeth-bearing grin. I was quite happy with the result, actually. First time in my life, with ID photos.
So I went to the Consulate at 8 am this morning and was in the passport-renewal-guy’s office thirty seconds later. He looked at everything and then said: where’s your long-term visa for Israel? I ran up 257 steps back to my home, got the info, and came back down. I’m sitting in front of him again, hopeful. And he says, sorry. This is the wrong kind of visa, you’ll have to wait for the Vice Consul.
Half an hour passes. Vice Consul arrives with gym bag, shakes the hand of every person in the Consulate, and takes me up to his office where I sit in a very large black leather chair facing him accross a huge black glass-covered desk. He is sitting in an even bigger black leather chair. He tells me that I need an official letter stating how long I’ve been here, why I have the wrong visa. Etc.
After three phone calls (to clarify what they might need, what they want, and then what that means) to an angelic person who faxes that statement to the Consulate, the passport-renewal-guy is now entering all the data in the computer, one finger at a time. He said a few things about some of my certificates being out of date, but he would be nice and accept them, then asked why some of them which didn’t need to be notarized were notarized, stating the guy who notarized them was a real idiot…At this point I complained about paperwork, and he offered me the gem that I decided to title this post with.
Finally he gets me to stamp my left index finger on one of the forms, sign in three different places and tells me they’ll call me in two and a half months.
I am two centimeters shorter in my passport than I am in real life. And to get shorter on paper took two and a half hours of my morning and three months of getting the papers here, but only in two and a half months will I be able to prove my shortness to the French authorities.
In moments like this, particularly last year when I had to pay cash for a return ticket out of Israel before they would let me enter it, or when I think of people who are stuck in airports for ten years how international travel and personal documentation are going to change in the next decades. What will all this look like in fifty years?
I think it will be pretty much the same.