Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

No Time To Lose

"Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away."
-Charles Caleb Colton

Since I met my Spouse I have travelled far and often. I forget, at times, that my life is not so ordinary or typical of the people I grew up with.
I always feel that I could and might live somewhere else at any given time.
Shortly after our wedding I went to the local post office in the village to mail my application for a new passport- a document that has become, in recent years, very valuable to me.
I desired a new one with my new name and anyhow, since I was leaving my country for the foreseeable future, the expiry date was going to arrive before I had a chance to visit Ireland again. Renewing a passport is much more efficiently done when in one's home country.
"I didn't know you had to get a new passport if you changed your name," the fellow in the post office said with undisguised curiosity.
"Oh, no, it's not required," I insisted. "I just wanted to."
Then I continued, in a state of solemn urgency and with eyes wide,
"and anyway, my passport expires in just three years!"
The silence that followed was deafening; the entire post office ground to a halt. I did not get the reaction I anticipated.
For a brief moment, in my naivety, I think I expected him to start desperately flinging papers and envelopes with supreme speed, and with a cry of,
"well, why are we standing here talking? Let's hurry! Let's go!"
Nothing of the kind happened; he did not respond to my enthusiastic outburst and instead shuffled some papers slowly, coughed once, refused to meet my eyes, and quietly accepted my payment for the postage.
I felt rather silly at the time but now I see that I said nothing wrong, that people are simply different.
I saw three years as a short spell in which I might not come home; he envisioned three years of daily work in a dimly-lit post office in a tiny village, and a span of time that he could not comprehend preparing for the end of.
Of course, we were both right.


julochka said...

i had a similar moment in a target in my home state a few years ago. my daughter, who was about 4 at the time, asked loudly at the checkout, "where's my passport, mommy?" followed by, "no, my red one, not the blue one," since she has both US and Danish...the woman behind the checkout looked increduously at us, mouth actually hanging open a bit in a way that made me feel embarassed for her...and asked, "she has a passport?" i replied, "of course." but had a sense of the enormous chasm between what i considered normal in my life and what was normal in hers.

TheElementary said...

I can only imagine the woman's face. I love the line "my red one, not the blue one." Priceless. A chasm is what it is; that's a good word and it sums up my feeling.

tangobaby said...

I loved this post and the comments. It is amazing to see the juxtaposition of people who treasure their passports and those who've never thought to own one.

I remember when my parents told me that they finally got their passports (20 years after I got my first one) so they could go to...Alaska. On a cruise. I have to say that my heart sank a little bit. They've not used their passports since.

TheElementary said...

Tangobaby, I suppose it comes down to the fact that people do what they think is best for themselves, but you're so right, it's seeing the vast differences between people's attitudes toward passports that stand out most.
I imagine you are very sad for your parents but what can you do...
After reading these, I don't feel quite so "alone in the post office." :)

Courtney said...

oh, lovely story. I often feel restless, like I could just pick up and go live elsewhere, even though I am perfectly happy where I am...

Anonymous said...

Certainly here in North America we need our passports now. As a Canadian I can't fly, drive, or walk across the US/Canada border without a passport. Even my four year old twins and the six year old son have one. The ones for kids cost less. Useful to have kids identification on the database though.


TheElementary said...

Courtney, happiness is all we're all looking for, isn't it- finding a place we love, or several of them sometimes.
Steve, as time goes by travelling becomes harder and gives rise to the necessity of paperwork. That's the way the world is now, I suppose, but it does take the spontaneity out of exploring the world!

julochka said...

i remember when all you really needed to go to canada or mexico was a blockbuster card...

joking aside, i read the shocking statistic just a couple of years ago (before the drive to institute more passports in the US what with homeland security and all) that only 8% of the US population had a passport. it must have been in 2005 that i read that. SHOCKING! and perhaps illustrates why the US has found itself in the mess it's in--what with a lack of awareness of the world outside until it (literally) came crashing in.

TheElementary said...

Julie, wow- 8% of the population here is practically nothing at all. it's such a big and beautiful world and it's such a shame to miss it, either through lack of learning or travelling. People don't know what they're missing- it works in this direction too- I know of people who think they can sum up the US from what they see in the news and so won't come here. Always somebody's loss. There's something marvellous in every corner of the world. The truth is, like you said, some people just won't take that step, either because it never occurred to them or because they're wary of the unknown.

julochka said...

in all fairness (and then i'll stop wtih this incessant commenting--this was a good post--it provoked LOTS of thoughts!) the US is huge and so you can go a lot of places and see a lot of diversity without NEEDING a passport. i'll actually 'fess up here and admit i didn't get one 'til i was 27!!! but i actually had to replace that one early because it had had pages added twice and they wouldn't add them a 3rd time, so i made up for it!

TheElementary said...

Julie, incessant commenting and revealing discussion is the fuel that drives the motivation to write :)
You're right about the US- there's so much to see that even if you try you mightn't do it all in a lifetime.
I'm so very lucky to have seen the Grand Canyon three times in one year and believe me that's not something I ever thought could happen.
I got my passport when I was eighteen, the first time I had money to travel and I was so excited...
If you think of something else to say do add it here- it's always welcome :)

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