Passport Office Hell
Dementors: A Dementor is a non-being and Dark creature, considered one of the foulest to inhabit the world. Dementors feed off human happiness, and thus cause depression and despair to anyone near them. They can also consume a person’s soul, leaving their victims in a permanent vegetative state, and thus are often referred to as “soul-sucking fiends” and are known to leave a person as an “empty-shell.”
I had a half-day’s holiday from work today. That’s nice isn’t it? I think you’ll all agree I deserve a break. So … did I go to a spa? Go shopping? Relax in the sunshine reading a book?
No. No I didn’t. I went to London and spent quite possible the most depressing two hours of my life at the Passport Office. AKA … Dementors HQ.
I had to renew Dexter’s passport as we’re going on another cruise ship next week (blog post to follow,) and the poor kid hasn’t been abroad in 7 years so I never bothered getting it renewed. That’ll learn me.
I had a vague memory that people could just ‘pop up to that there London and get a new passport.’ Yeah … not so much. You have to make an appointment first. Getting an appointment, however, especially when you work full time, is a whole other story.
“Could I come in on Saturday?”
“No. We’re fully booked.”
“OK, how about next Saturday?”
“No. We’re closed. We only open every other Saturday.”
“Right. So I have to take time off work then?”
“Yes. Afraid so.”
We then spent the next twenty minutes (I shit ye not,) trying to organise an appointment. They’re every 15 minutes. I couldn’t have an appointment later than 2pm because I needed to Fast Track the passport (4 hour turnaround,) and of course they told me they shut at 6pm.
So … booking the appointment was bad enough in itself. Little did I know it was going to get a lot, LOT worse.
It was a real rush to get to London in time. I got lost, as is par for the course, but eventually found the place with 1 minute to spare. I queued in a slightly smug (albeit sweaty) fashion, pleased with myself that they couldn’t turn me away because I was exactly on time.
IN YOUR FACES.
The first thing that struck me about the Passport Office? The sheer misery on the faces of the people who work there. And I mean everybody. From the pedantic security guards ensuring an orderly queue was formed (to the left,) to the woman on reception who didn’t even look up as she served me.
I was given a ticket (a la the Deli counter,) and told to go up to the second floor.
It made going to the Job Centre feel like a day trip to Alton Towers.
I sat with the other desperados and looked around me at how the Passport Office Dementors were already sucking the life force out of all of us, even though we were only sat in the waiting room, trying hard to resist the urge to jump out of the window.
I finally made it to the counter. This was it! I was going to renew Dexter’s passport! I’d filled the form in Goddamit! My best friend had signed the photos and confirmed we were who we said we were. *Martine McCutcheon voice* This was my moment!
Except … I wasn’t banking on being served by an absolute moronic jobsworth tool that took great pleasure in telling me that the photos of Dexter were too small.
“But I took them in the photobooth especially,” I said. “It said they were for passports.”
“Ah yes, but they’re not for children,” he replied.
“What do you mean, they’re not for children? It doesn’t say they’re not for children! They’re passport photos!”
I felt panic rising. The passport had to be done today or we wouldn’t be able to sail next week, and I’d promised him. I couldn’t let him down.
Just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse.
“How does this person that’s verifying you, know you?” he asked.
“We’ve known each other for over thirty years. She’s my best friend,” I replied.
“Ah, well, she hasn’t written that down on the form.”
And then he just disappeared. Not a word. Just left me there. And I could feel the tears rising so I swallowed hard and kept blinking to try and stop them coming, but I couldn’t help it. I was so frustrated. So there I was, stood at the counter on my own crying like a bitch.
He finally came back fifteen minutes later. I still had no idea where he’d been but it later transpired that he’d actually rung my friend at work to talk to her. She’s a Teaching Assistant and they had to get her out of her lesson to come and talk to this fool just so she could confirm that yes, she knew me!
In the meantime, I had found a tissue and was dabbing my eyes furiously so that no one thought I’d just been deported.
He came back and part of me thought that he’d been so long because he took pity on me, realised what an arse he’d been, and had resized the photos for me.
He handed me a form and told me to go to the nearest photo shop to get the photos resized and that Reception will tell me where it was.
So back down I went, mascara dribbling down my face, and I asked Reception where I needed to go.
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you what the shop is called,” the Receptionist said.
“Err, what do you mean you can’t tell me?”
“Just that. We’re not allowed. Now if you go over to that security guard, he’ll tell you. He’s allowed to.”
For the record, I swear I’m not making any of this up.
By now, I’m sweating like a nun in a field of cucumbers.
I managed to find SnappySnaps, handed over £13 to get the photos resized, and rushed back to Dementors HQ.
It was now 2.20pm. I had to queue up again. Take another ticket. And begin the process all over again.
I wanted to cut my right arm off just so I had something to throw at someone.
Thankfully, the second person that interviewed me was marginally nicer and approved my application. I coughed up £106 pounds … and was told to come back four hours later.
So here I sit … in Starbucks, leeching their electricity and making one coffee last an entire afternoon. I have to go back and (hopefully) collect the passport at 6.32pm. Not 6.30pm. But 6.32pm. And that, my friends, pretty much sums up the entire wankness of the entire passport operation office.
Anyone else suffered from this bureaucracy bullshit?