Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Passport Photo

"Please sit on the stool, look directly into the camera, do not smile— no, no don't tilt your head—"

"I'm not."

"No, definite tilt to the right."

"That's just how my head goes, I guess."

"Well, tilt a little to the right— your left. OK, that it's."


Photographer examines the photo on the screen in the back of his digital camera. "You've got a bit of a smirk on your face—"

"I didn't! I mean, I wasn't smiling."

"Mmm, definitely a hint of a smirk— and your right eye looks like it's open more than the left. I'm not kidding you, passport bureaucrats are sticklers. All right, one more time."


Photographer examines the photo. "Well, no smirk, but you look like you're suppressing a smirk and that's worse than smirking. And you're really going to have to do something about that right eye."

"But that's just how my face goes."

"I understand, I really do, but I've taken a thousand passport pictures and I'm telling you, they're looking for a reason to reject it. Buggy eyes—no offense—and smirks are right at the top of their list. Ready?"


"Ah, the head-tilting isn't working. You look like you're stretching your neck. Even if that got by the passport people—and it probably wouldn't—a Customs officer would give you grief, for sure. Long neck makes you look guilty."

"Guilty of what?"

"Of doing something wrong, I don't know. You wanna look guilty in your passport picture? I sure wouldn't!"


"Of course not. You look like a good, honest guy to me. It's the camera that needs convincing. So, compact your neck a bit . . . ah, ah, don't tilt to the right . . . even out the eyes . . . all right, all right— Dammit!"


"The smirk is back."

"I don't feel like I'm smirking. How can I be smirking and not feel it?"

"Sir, I'm just telling you what I see through the camera lens."

"OK . . . how's this?"

"Uh, not bad . . . I think we may have something . . ."


Photographer examines the photo. "I'd say this would just about do, you know, except . . ."

"Except what?"

"Well, I wouldn't want you to take this the wrong way—"

"The smirk? I wasn't smirking! I know I wasn't—"

"No, no, it's not the smirk."

"And my eyes were dead even—"

"No, the eyes are good . . . It's, I'm sorry, the shape of your head."

"What? That's ridiculous!"

"I understand, I don't say this lightly, but the passport people and border personnel will seize on any little abnormality—"

"You're saying my head is abnormally shaped?"

"No, I wouldn't say that."

"You just did! You said there's something odd about the shape of my head."

"Listen, I'm working for you and I don't wanna see you have problems using one of my pictures."

"If the only issue with that photo is the shape of my head, I'll take it and be on my way."

"Certainly, absolutely. I apologize if I hurt your feelings. It's just that the camera freezes a moment in time. Looking at you in person, there doesn't appear to be anything abnormal about the shape of your head. You look just like a regular guy—"

"Fine, fine, can I pay you and go?"

"Yes, right over here. Cash, charge or debit."


"Of course. Swipe with the strip facing me— no, no, the other way. Facing me. Facing— the stripe needs to be facing me, the numbers facing you— No problem, please allow me."

"Fine. Whatever."

"These things take forever dialing in. You'd think with the technology today—"

"Have you always been a professional photographer?"

"Well, it's interesting that you should ask. I've several interesting jobs over the years."

"Really? Like what? Insult comedian?"

"Ha ha, I can see why you'd say that, and again, I apologize for any offense taken. Actually, I used to be in the medical field."

"Really? Doing what?"

"I performed lethal injections at the prison farm in Angola, Louisiana, but my customers complained that I wasn't sensitive enough. Then I worked in the passport office—so believe me, I know of what I speak. But that didn't work out."

"Why not?"

"Ah, you know, some idiot supervisor thought I was rejecting too many applications because of flaws in the photos."

"Right. So, have you found your niche in photography?"

"Well, I've got plans—always planning, looking to the future, you know."

"So, what's next?"

"I'm thinking about security consulting. Big field, security. Endless possibilities. Hey, suspicion is the new electrical engineering."

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