For the second time in a few weeks, I had to visit our friendly neighbourhood Passport Canada office. The first time was to submit my passport renewal application so my wife-t0-be and I can fly over international borders to Hawaii a couple of days after our wedding. My second visit was to find out why I still hadn’t gotten my passport from the first visit.
My first visit to the office on Victoria Street in Toronto (between Richmond and Adelaide) was efficient and courteous. I showed up before the office opened and got into the pre-formed line. A passport office employee was walking the line giving out numbered tickets and double-checking that everyone had all the forms and papers they needed and to answer any questions. She would give out the tickets and direct anyone who was elderly, infirm or carrying nine screaming children (quite common in that kind of line) to the elevator so they could immediately head to the reception area and sit down.
Once inside, another employee gave instructions on how the numbering system worked and where the wickets were. He instructed everyone to turn off their cellphones and that no food and drink and were allowed. Then he went one step further… he actually EXPLAINED why. Apparently cell signals wreak havoc with their computer system somehow, and given the number of delicate and important documents around, having spillable food and drink is a bad idea. I love when people explain rules that seem pointless.
When I got to the wicket (WAAAY quicker than I expected), I was met by a smiling, friendly face. I was wished a good morning and then she dove right in. While she input my data, she chatted with me about travel and before I knew it, I was out the door on the street with a big smile on my face.
My second trip was even better. It was exactly the same, only this time the woman at the wicket was telling jokes and leaned to the people in the office behind her to tell them I was getting married in three weeks. They applauded.
Is the Passport Canada office in some kind of bureaucratic Bizarro world where long lines and grumpy employees aren’t the norm? I thought that was just par for the course in dealing with a government department. These people were a far cry from the soul-crushed, jaded and spiteful troglodytes you find in other offices (I’m looking at you, Ministry of Transportation of Ontario). They seemed genuinely happy to be doing their job, worked well with their co-workers and most important, they loved working with the public.
I had such a great time, I think I’m going to renew my passport every couple of weeks.
[Don't forget to Enter the First Annual "Guess the Dry Cleaning Bill" Contest. Competition is getting stiff. Actually, it's not, but enter anyways.]