Monday, August 18, 2008

If You Want a Job Done Right...

In September we're taking an extended family cruise to the Mexican Riviera as part of "The Year the Battered Ham's Turn 40" extravaganza. I can't wait. I've never been on a cruise, but I've heard that it's not too shabby. Mostly I hear people rave about how great it is, immediately followed by a detailed commentary on how fat they got, immediately followed by something along the lines of "You'll love it." I'm sure I will. These days, anything not involving work falls into the category of "good".

While it's not specifically required, it has been strongly suggested that we secure passports for our trip to make our shoreline excursions more easily accessible. Fine. Diane took the point on this task, rounding up all of our information that she could find and barking orders at me to get my procrastinating butt in line and secure the stuff she couldn't find. We needed one last item before submitting our applications: the passport photo. Diane heard that Walgreen's does them, so yesterday afternoon we set out to put the last piece of the puzzle in place.

Now when I think about the phrase "passport photo", what comes to mind is something along the lines of the "driver's license photo". You go down to the DMV and pick a number. They escort you to a room or a specified area for quality DMV photography, point that big, boxy camera that projects a ring of light onto your nose, instruct you to say "cheese" (or not), and, blam, you're done. You've just taken the worst picture of your life, that is, until you've had your passport photo taken.

We showed up at Walgreen's, and of course, there's nobody in the photo department. A couple minutes later, a gentleman came back to help us. Diane told him we needed passport photos taken, and I swear the man snickered. Behind the counter was an area where I assumed he'd take our picture. It had a little curtain, a few different backgrounds, and a big, honkin' camera-looking thing like they have at the DMV. I was wrong. Instead, he leaned down behind the counter and grabbed the dinkiest digital camera I've ever seen and guided us out into the aisle in the middle of the store, where he pulled down one of those roll up, retractable video screens like the ones you had in your school classroom for movie time. I was mortified. The dude was going to make a public spectacle out of us! Why not just make an announcement? "Attention Walgreen's customers! Blue light special on public humiliation in aisle ten!" I should have put the kibosh on the whole thing right then and there, but I was strangely intrigued, like the time my co-worker asked me if I wanted to see of picture of his brother whose nose was bitten off by a dog. No, I really didn't want to see his maimed brother, but the disturbed and twisted side of me did. I needed to see how this whole thing would play out.

Diane was up first. She nervously stepped in front of the screen while a few shoppers watched (and snickered), and smiled.

"Don't smile," Walgreen's man said.


"Don't smile," he repeated. "They don't want you to smile in passport photos anymore."

Telling someone not to smile is like telling them not to blink, swallow, or laugh in church, which instantly makes you want to blink, swallow, or laugh in church. Diane couldn't do it. She burst out laughing. It took her a few moments to contain herself, after which Walgreen's man took one (1) picture. There must not have been options. Diane stepped out and I stepped in, and Walgreen's man took my one (1) picture. He wrote it up, told us it would be about 20 minutes, and we left to go get dinner.

I returned after dinner to retrieve what I knew were going to be quality pictures. Walgreen's man was not there, thank god. He would've laughed in my face. He was replaced by Walgreen's woman, whom I promptly paid before leaving the store. I took the photos and retreated to the car where I admired Walgreen's man's handiwork. I opened Diane's first and practically peed my pants. It is, hands down, the worst picture she has ever taken in her life. PERIOD. I need to preface this next statement by saying that the following words came straight from Diane's mouth. I did not say these words. I thought them, BUT I DID NOT SAY THEM:

"I look like I'm 250 pounds!"

Then I opened mine, and I think I did pee a little. I looked like I was recovering from a two-week bender. So while I'm laughing my head off in the van, alone, people are walking out of Walgreen's wondering if there's something seriously wrong with me. There was: I just paid $17 for passport photos that there was no way IN HELL we were going to use. I should have gone back inside and raised hell, but I was too humiliated. I just drove home.

So now our backs were against the wall. We wanted to submit our passport applications today to make sure we get our passports before our trip, but we had no usable photos. I jumped into action. The Walgreen's passport photo operation was amateur at best. Hell, I thought, I could do a better job than that guy. So I jumped online and found this website that let's you upload and format your own passport photos for free! You can then either print them yourself, order them through the website for $5.99, or send them to a photo finisher for a small fee. We retook our pictures at home (they're still bad, but infinitely better than what we had), I uploaded them and had Walgreen's print them up for 41¢.

I'm dying to post the pictures for your viewing pleasure, but Diane threatened, in no uncertain terms, to castrate me, then leave me if I did. And there's no way in hell I'm posting my mug shot without hers. They're just best when seen as a pair. If there's anything good that has come out of this whole scenario, it's this: Diane's photo currently resides on our refrigerator as motivation for her nightly walks. After all, she wants to take that 250 pounds off before putting it all back on during the cruise.

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