Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

HACKETT: Twice lucky with last-minute passport

There’s been a lot of talk of passports in the media lately and boy have I been waiting for this moment for a long time.

It’s mostly embarrassing, but in hindsight, because it all works out, I can laugh about it now.

To get you quickly caught up on why this has become such a topic of conversation over the past few weeks, we need to turn to Canada’s Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre.

In a video posted earlier this week, he says he was at an airport in Ottawa, where “Mustafa” from Calgary walks up to him, who said he was “there to get his passport”.

Poilievre says the man applied for a passport in Calgary 10 months ago but has not received it. The man has a wedding to go to in Cuba. Where his future wife and friends were purportedly waiting for him.

Poilievre used this “story” to slag Justin Trudeau and claim that “nothing is working” in Canada.

According to Service Canada, last week 71,210 passports were issued in Canada. Ninety-nine percent of new applications made at a passport office were delivered within 10 business days and 94 per cent of new applications through mail or service Canada were delivered within 20 business days.

The only reason I thank Mr. Poilievre for that ridiculousness is it gives me a chance to share these two hilarious stories, which I hope make you feel a little better about yourself.

Keep in mind my admission of stupidity as I retell these two tales.

The first was on a trip back to Ontario, when I lived in Saskatchewan in 2013. I was planning to travel from my parent’s home in Ontario to the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with some friends. We were driving, planning to leave on Dec. 28th.

My parents picked me up from the Toronto airport on Christmas Eve morning and asked if my passport was valid. Of course it was, I replied sheepishly, as I just travelled through the airport with it.

Moments later, sheer panic hit me when I pulled it out of my pocket and realized it had expired.

My parents, having dealt with a different passport fiasco months earlier, knew what to do. We drove to Kitchener, about an hour drive to a passport office there, in the hopes of getting an expedited passport. My hopes weren’t high. You need new photos and need them turned around quickly. Luckily my parents knew where to go.

As I approached the passport agent, I told her my tale, about how it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience as a lifelong Leafs to see this game. She noted her son was a Red Wings fan and was really looking forward to watching on TV. She would see what she could do about my passport but made no promises.

Well, about 15 minutes later, my references had texted me and let me know the passport agent had called and hope was restored. I picked up the passport on the 28th, and with a bit of a hole in my pocket, made it to the game.

Fast forward to June of 2019.

It had been a while since I travelled.

I pulled my dusty passport out of a drawer, as I tried to check into a flight to California the next day and what do I find? Passport expired.

Panic hits, but not the normal type of panic, the panic of I’m an idiot, but maybe I can pull a rabbit out of a hat and fix this again.

Called my parents in shame, as I got in my car and drove to Calgary to the passport office, in hopes of getting an expedited passport once again.

The line was massive, I was nervous. I filled out as much of the form as I could on the computer in the office and printed as many of the documents I thought I might need. I already had the new photos from a small shop across the street, in anticipation of this coming up.

Then I waited. For an hour or so, before I spoke with an agent. The fact that I was attending the 2019 U.S. Open golf tournament, didn’t quite have the same impact this time around. Even the sob story that my sister was visiting California from Australia and I hadn’t seen her in five years, didn’t quite move the needle.

The agent and I went back and forth on my flight details, which were difficult to prove because I hadn’t officially checked into my flight, because I couldn’t so I didn’t have a ticket. The booking code wasn’t doing the trick.

Finally, she relented, all but said it’s likely I won’t get my passport that day, but to try back around 4 p.m. and see.

To my surprise, a shiny new passport was waiting when I returned to the office, at a significant cost of course.

My humorous missteps pale in comparison to what a lot of travellers have dealt with in recent months and they don’t come near Mustafa’s peril, so I hope anyone who plans on flying can learn from my stupidity and that their journey is smoother than what it has been for others.

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