Exciting. Fun. Rocky. Romantic.
Those are the four words I’d use to describe our trip to Bahamas. Kinda like our marriage.
We’ve been married for four years. Those who have been married for a long time will tell you that four years is nowhere near the big leagues. Baby stage they call it. But four years is a long time for someone who always thought she’d never get married.
The last four years have been no fairy tale either. We’ve had many deliriously happy times and many, many, (did I say many) rough patches too. After our vacation in Cuba last year and experiencing how much good time away from all stress and strain can do to a marriage, we decided that no matter what, we would get away together, at least once every year-- preferably around the same time as our wedding anniversary.
This year, Garfield suggested an escape to Bahamas. We’ve both been to Bahamas before, but never together and never for pleasure. So, I was more than ready to find out why they say “It’s better in Bahamas.”
Or so I thought.
On Thursday morning, two days before our trip Garfield asked me for our passports. I opened mine only to discover that my passport would expire in July – less than a month away and definitely less than the six months required to enter and more importantly stay for any period of time in most countries.
But no worries, because Passport, Immigration & Citizenship Agency (PICA) offers same day service, right?
“I’ll get this sorted out tomorrow,” I said nonchalantly.
“Lecia, we leave on Sunday. I think you should go TODAY. If you don’t get through tomorrow, you’re doomed.”
“Hmmm…” Not wanting to start an argument, I neither agreed nor disagreed.
I got in office, jokingly told my girlfriend of my predicament and she too sounded like an echo of Garfield, “You need to get that sorted out today!”
Then one of my co-workers asked, "Do you realise that you'll be wearing dreadlocks in this passport photo?" She was referring to the faux locs hairstyle Garfield had recently convinced me to try as a precursor to potentially locking my own hair. Not!
"Oh shit! They're never going to recognize me after this!"
Passport photos by the roadside
My bosses gave me their blessing. So, I decided that during lunch I would quickly get my photos taken and return to office to have them signed and witnessed by my girlfriend. The nearest photographer was a vendor on the sidewalk of a plaza just above Cross Roads (right beside the old tax office). I drove to him and got my passport photo taken on the outside of a broken down wholesale shop after he hung a piece of 'white' cloth as the backdrop.
In less than five minutes I had photos in hand. I raced back to the office to have them certified (the advantage of having an office full of attorneys) and if pressed, I may admit that had some challenges observing the speed limit to get to PICA.
I parked in the mall directly opposite to PICA and tried to dodge the oncoming traffic as daintily as I could in five-inch stilettos, while trying to act as if I was immune to the sweltering heat as my black pants and long sleeve burgundy top clung to my body.
Air conditioner never felt so good, I thought as I stood in line in the white tent waiting to have my documents reviewed and to be assigned a number. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I got through. I waited for about 30 minutes (which may seem long, but I recall spending about a half day the last time I had to renew my passport).
It was smooth sailing until the agent processing my documents said, “Ma’am, these photos can’t work.”
“What! Why? What do you mean they can’t work?”
“There is a glare in the shot and it looks like you’re squinting.” She shoved one of the photos through the hole in the glass so I could see.
Before I could even respond, she continued, “Where did you take these? Outside?!” I could tell that she was judging me.
“Of course not!” I said with just the right amount of indignation. “I mean, do I look like the kind of girl who would take passport pictures by the roadside?!” I scoffed.
“Well, ma’am, you’re going to have to take these over, ” she responded as she leaned back and pursed her lips in anticipation of my objection.
“Wait, no! Please, I have to go back to work!” I donned my best puppy-dog eyes as I pleaded with her. If you are familiar with Jamaican government workers, then you know arrogance gets you nowhere.
She sighed, then calmly replied, “I understand. There is a photo studio nearby. Take them there and come right back to me. You don’t have to rejoin the line or restart the process. I already have all your documents and everything else is in order.”
“Oh, thank God!” I wanted to hug her. “So, can I still have it done today?” I was pushing my luck.
She rolled her eyes and I imagined she asked, “God, why you send me this crosses today?”
She took a moment to breathe and as if she were reciting a script she replied, “Oh no, it would only be possible today if you got here before 10 a.m. (it was almost 2 p.m.) so you will have to pay for next day service and pick up your passport tomorrow.” She even managed a smile.
“Okay, thank you!” I raced next door, took the photos (at a proper photo studio), returned and true to her word I didn’t have to rejoin the line.
“These look much better!” She emphasized every word as she scrutinized the photos before handing me my receipt. I summoned the sweetest smile and graciously thanked her. A few minutes later, I was out of there.
The wait to pick up my passport the next day was a tad bit longer, but I won’t complain because I had a new passport -- with my name now changed to “Taylor”, by the way!
Disaster averted. Breezes Bahamas, here I come!
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