Oh mother, now what did you do! It has come to my attention that you didn't renew your passport on time. Now you're stuck in Belgium and we have to wait another two or three days for your return. That's humans for you, careless and irresponsible. But speaking of passports ... mom once ... well, I'll let her tell you the story herself.
I never gave my passport photo much thought. I figured if I could recognize myself, then others would too. Then I attended a lecture on the importance of using current identification, and saw passport photos in a whole different light.
The speaker at this lecture was Phillip, a jovial, middle aged man, born and bred in St. Louis, Missouri. As a financial consultant, overseeing several accountants, he has traveled the world and has learned from his mistakes.
"I can't stress the importance of up-to-date identification enough," he informed us. "Never mind if you don't look beautiful or even remotely attractive in your passport picture. Look at your passport, or other identification picture, and ask yourself, am I recognizable in my photo?" He then proceeded to tell everyone why this is so important.
Phillip related his experience during a visit to Israel fifteen years ago and his audience hung onto his every word.
"If I had known then what I know now, I never would have traveled with an outdated passport photo," he started. "I had no trouble leaving for Tel-Aviv from St. Louis, and was treated with professional courtesy by my business associates, but returning to the States proved to be a nightmare."
He recounted that the trouble started at Ben Gurion airport when he handed his passport to the customs officer for inspection. The male officer took one look at his photo, then he carefully looked at Phillip, and his brown withered face morphed into a mask of hostility.
"What is this?" he barked.
"My passport," Phillip had replied politely.
"Your passport?" the customs officer had said in a mixture of disbelief and contempt. "You want me to believe that this is you? This is not your passport. Look at this man. This man looks nothing like you."
Phillip smiled at first because the customs officer had a point. In the passport picture he was a few years younger and sporting an afro, while his hair at the time of the Israel visit was shorter, and due to the lack of a hair dryer, teasing comb and lacquer, considerably less voluminous.
He was taken aside and led to a tiny windowless room. After a while five men walked in, four surrounded him with guns, while the fifth one starting firing questions at him in a language he didn't understand. When Phillip said that he didn't understand them, the leader of the group turned to English and instructed for him to remove his clothing. Phillip thought this rather odd, but complied.
When ordered, at gunpoint, to remove his underwear too, he was not so compliant. More so, he was now severely ticked off and at a point where he didn't care anymore what happened to him.
"No !@#$ way," he swore. "There is no !@#$ way I'm taking this off. You can !@#$ shoot me if you want, but I'm not taking this off. I don't know you well enough for that."
Much to his surprise, within minutes he was let go.
From what he was told his attitude and bad language had saved him. Apparently, only real Americans can swear with such gusto.
Needless to say, as soon as he arrived home he had his passport picture updated.