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Road to the Passport Office
by Hiromi


5:24 AM Edmonds Skytrain Station

I hopped on the first train. A handful of passengers were on board. By Joyce Station, the train was full. Men with Canada Post uniforms and construction workers stood by the door. The train cleared out at the Burrard Station, and only a few got off at Waterfront. I followed the directions to Sinclair Center.

5:50 AM Sinclair Center

The line up started at the main entrance on Hastings street. People were prepared: folding chairs, blankets, Thermoses, paper cups, a big box of Tim Horton doughnuts. Two were sleeping in the sleeping bags. The line up made a turn at Granville and continued to the end of the building.

Soon, a man came around, yelling, “Seats for sale!” He seemed to have been sleeping on the street for some time. Then another guy. Someone asked the price, but they would only talk to the serious buyers. 60 bucks for the 9th spot, I overheard.

“The door opens at seven! Seven thirty, you’ll be in the office! Eight thirty, you’ll be home, sipping coffee!” The third shouted. His hand in his sleeve was stainless steel, crooked like Captain Hook’s.

A security poked his head out from the side door. “Today is the worst [line up]!” he grinned. According to him, the line up this Friday is twice as long as usual, and the rain doesn’t matter.

An hour later, a man in front of me left the line. He said he wasn’t in a hurry. He wished us luck. A girl shivered, “It’s cold [outside]!” She wore flip-flops and her toenails were painted blue.

7:00 AM The Door Opens

The line up started moving forward. A few meters in every 15 minutes or so.

A government official showed up with yellow tickets. “This is the ticket that proves you lined up today!” she yelled. “Hold on to it, like a golden ticket from Willy Wonka!”

A young man with a black hat appeared with a wagon. He was selling coffee and snacks. The big muffins looked yummy. Very tempting. When he came back thirty minutes later, they were all gone.

8:58 AM The Passport Office

A group of twenty were allowed to go inside to the passport office.

By the door, we were informed that if, 1) our trip is after June 18th, 2) we have applications properly ready, 3) we pay cash or money order (no credit card), we could drop off the applications and go home. A few chose the option. In all, fourteen counters were handling the applicants.

After showing my papers, I was told to be back at 11:30. A new ticket was issued.

The line up outside was still long. The end was about where I had started earlier.

I was back at 11:20. But they sent me out for another hour.

12:30 PM The office again

I sat and waited for my number to be called. My turn came at 1:10. Everything was fine. The officer told me that the passport would be in the mail by early June. At 1:25, I was out of the office. All done. Phew!