About 6 months ago my husband and I were awarded a free Carnival cruise just for showing up and hearing a salespitch. It wasn’t a salespitch for a time-share condo, though we’ve been known to go to many of those. Back then, we would have done anything short of self-mutilation for a free set of steak knives. We were young, poor, and naive. We were always surprised when the gifts broke when used, bent when swung, or dissolved when left in the car with the windows up. This time, however, we listened to the salespitch to join an exclusive travel club (we didn’t), and the free gift was a four-day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico.
Free means that we won’t have to pay for our cabin. However, we will have to find a way to get our luggage, our car, and ourselves to the boat dock in Galveston, Texas. So we have been cutting down on our day-to-day maintenance and saving our pennies. That means that the only things we don’t recycle is toilet paper.
Unfortunately, if we want to disembark for a day’s excursion into Cozumel, we will need passports. We will need passports if we want to enjoy the experience of intestinal parasites, souvenir shopping, snorkeling, or 130 degree heat. My passport expired in 1998. My husband has never owned one. So right away, we found ourselves with a $300 expense – $150 for each passport. So my husband made some phone calls, bargain shopping for legal entry into Mexico.
One thing he discovered is that you no longer need a passport book for Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean Islands. You can now get a passport PAPER for half the price. So an appointment was made at the local library to process the paperwork. All we had to do was show up with our drivers’ licenses, birth certificates, passport pictures, blood samples, fingerprints, and our mother’s financial records. . . Okay, so I’m exaggerating about the last three, but we did have to know the exact circumstances of our parents’ births. All I knew about my father’s birth was that he came out of Grandma in what later became the dining room of the family homestead. At least I knew what farming community their dining room was in. All my husband knew of his father’s birth was that it occurred somewhere within the continental United States.
However, before processing all the minutiae of our existence, we had to get a couple of passport photos. So we went to the nearest Wal-mart to visit their photography department. Once we stated our mission, I was made to stand in front of a white screen while the two elderly women manning the department went in search of a digital camera. After about 5 minutes they found it. Then, after 5 more minutes they found the button that would enable them to take a picture with it.
Or almost found it.
I stood in front of the white screen, sweating, while Nellie in the photo department repeatedly pressed her button finger to the side of the casing, wondering why there was no click. I tried to help, but was turned down. My photographer was becoming increasingly irritated. She especially became irritated when, after holding my eyes unblinkingly open for 2 eye-watering minutes, I blinked right when she found the button and snapped the picture. Twice. However, after persevering for 10 minutes, I was finally the owner of a passport photo. An exceptionally bad passport photo. Unfortunately, when I stifle my laughter, my mouth looks like a cat’s sphincter, and my throat inflates like a bullfrog’s. When I show up in Cozumel, the Mexican officials will compare my face to my photo and wonder where my goiters went.
But you can’t beat a free cruise – even if free ain’t exactly free. Let’s just hope the boat doesn’t sink . . .
‘And now for something completely different’ – your fun link for the day: Who was Hugh Laurie before becoming Dr. Gregory House? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kV-xLIkxKyw&feature=related
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