I had a passport years ago when I used to travel fairly frequently to the US to attend board meetings for an international non-profit . . . and one very memorable trip to Trinidad & Tobago. When it expired I didn't bother to renew it . . .
. . . and then dear hubby became a long-distance truck driver and we were planning on travelling together. I went to renew my passport and realized it was past due and I needed to reapply. Well, times have changed since the first passport application and I was asked for more ID which I had not brought. I walked away un-passported and didn't go back.
Anyway, we decided to try a short Canadian run for my first run and learned that I can not sit still for that many hours at a time, washing my hair in a bathroom sink in a truck stop isn't fun, and all I got to see were industrial areas and lots and lots of highways. We tried a couple of other short trips but it just wasn't fun. My least favourite was driving to Montreal in freezing rain. Not something I plan to ever repeat. So I didn't bother to renew my passport.
Times change. Dear hubby and I have found we love long road trips. We've planned a road trip to the east coast this spring and we want to cut across Maine to shorten the mileage. So off I went to the passport office, so organized that the lady behind the desk actually complimented me. Turns out she is from Newfoundland so we had a lovely conversation while processing my application. My passport will be in the mail shortly!
It has taken a bit of time to get to my main point . . .
Passport applications and processes are set up to be simple. As long as your life is simple it is a smooth and flawless process. The problem is most of us do not have simple lives. In my own case, the time I remained un-passported was because I didn't have a copy of my first marriage license with me. I didn't need it the first time around. Nowhere on the paperwork could I see information that suggested this was a requirement. So I remained un-passported.
As I sat waiting for my turn earlier this week I couldn't help but overhear a few conversations (the place is very echo-y and sound carries very well). I believe almost half of the people in there were turned away for one problem or another . . . because life is complicated. Some were turned away for things that they should have known about like a guarantor's signature on the back of the passport photo. But some cases were very complex. A lady with children had no proof of custody . . . because her ex and herself were apparently being civil and had a handshake agreement. One older gentleman who spoke English as his second (or third?) language was having trouble understanding why he couldn't travel home with his expired citizenship card. He is still a Canadian citizen despite the fact his id card needs to be renewed. The passport agent was very helpful but I could tell (and so could he) that the gentleman really wasn't understanding. Finally he suggested the gentleman go to a library and they could help him get is citizenship renewed.
(You know the libraries that are putting out sandbags to protect themselves from the storm of Conservative cuts.)
Anyway . . . I digress . . .
I'm no expert on the world and how it should be but I am wondering if we shouldn't have clinics where people with complicated lives can go for help in preparing their passport applications . . . just a thought . . . because the current process is fraught with frustration and confusion . . . and repeated trips to stand in lines and find out something else is missing.