May 28, 2009

Would you let these women into your country?

I've always wanted to look like a celebrity (ok, not really but bear with me). Little did I know that when I got my picture taken for my new Canadian passport a couple of years ago, I would end up looking like Charlize Theron in her homeliest roll to date -- that of Aileen Wuornos -- in Monster. (In case you are wondering, I'm the one on the left.)

There are very strict guidelines for passport photos. No glare, no shadows, no red eyes (?), facial features clearly visible. But the quideline stating that applicants must show a neutral facial expression (no smiling, mouth closed) and look straight at the camera, is the one that got me. Those who know me, know that I smile most of the time (I'm sure I don't in my sleep, but I've never checked). So for me to pose with a "neutral facial expression" was difficult. How to keep the corners of my mouth down? How to keep laughter out of my eyes? I remember thinking "have no emotions, show no feelings". I believe that thought was accurately captured by the photographer. It wasn't until I received my new passport that I realized I looked like a serial killer.

Now with the Western Hemisphere Travel Intitiative going into effect tomorrow, whenever I want to visit the U.S. I will need to present my passport to the border guard. And herein lies my concern. Would I let someone who looks like me in that photo into my country? I'm always a wee bit nervous crossing into the States anyway -- don't know why. I've never smuggled any contraband into or out of the country (oh, there was that time I accidentally brought food for my dog -- but it was confiscated). I'm not on any "wanted" lists. There are no restraining orders against me. I don't even smoke marijuana or do recreational drugs (wine does not count!). Yet there is always that slightly queazy, butterfly feeling in my stomach as I approach the guard booth. I guess it has to do with the fact that the border guard could decide, just for fun, he doesn't like the look of me. He could rip my vehicle apart, and while he's at it, do a complete body search. And then, if I utter a peep in my defense, he has the power to ban me from his country. For ever! Or maybe it's just that I have an issue with authority figures. Either way, it's the guard's decision as to who passes Go. I don't like the look of me in that photo -- why would he?

I know the border guard also casts a wary glance at me and I can flash my winning smile, hopeful he realizes that it's just a photo. I guess if I was a crazed killer I'd make sure my passport photo was extremely flattering so as not to draw attention myself. So the fact that I would allow such a mug-shot likeness of myself to grace such an important piece of government issued identification must speak to my innocence. Right?

I have another 3 years to go before I can apply for a new passport. The lineups at the border crossing are torturously long so I applied for a Nexus pass. No passport required. This allows me to drive to the front of the line, flash my wallet-sized ID card at a scanner and pass unmolested. Though the last time I crossed into the U.S. the scanner wasn't working so I had to approach the guard. He looked at my Nexus ID, looked at me and asked me to remove my Paris Hilton's. I smiled broadly, batted my lashes, and sailed right through. Now that's what I'm talking about. Celebrity!


drollgirl said...

no way do you look like that monster freak! no way! but driver's license and passport photos just aren't fair. my sister (gorgeous) always manages to come up with the best photos ever for these things. it makes me so mad, as i get the hideous shots always. ugh.

and i hear ya on being nervous about crossing the border. some fuckwit in vancouver chose ME to flag down and give the grand search to once, and i was so mad i wanted to kill him. grrr. it took so long that i missed my flight. they couldn't care less. brutal.

Dan Johnson said...

You're being way too hard on yourself--I've been hassled at the border so many times I can't even be bothered crossing anymore. My passport photo is brutal, all I can hope it that it isn't what I really look like..