Getting an ID photo taken was never meant to be thrilling, but remember when you were allowed to look decent? Even if you hadn’t bothered to brush your hair, apply any make-up or put on clothing that didn’t make your mother wince on sight (guilty as charged), you could cover all that with a winning smile and the demand to re-take the shot until you got one to your liking. Those were the days. Now the smile, like useable cutlery on airplanes and the reputation of every single code of football, is gone. All we’re left with is a glorified mug shot, like Nick Nolte on a good day.
My passport photo makes me look like a highly qualified, well sought-after drug courier. Aside from the fact that I hate humidity and direct sunlight, my passport is yet another reason I should never visit Bali – it’s like a first class ticket to their finest jail cell. I’ve made a study of how much longer customs officials in foreign countries take to look at my passport compared to friends, and the official stat is 240% longer. My head shot worries them that much.
With this track record in mind I went to renew my drivers’ license last week. Paperwork and money exchange done, I took my seat at the RTA photo booth (SIDE NOTE: I don’t believe in auras – ever since a psychic told me mine was black – but if I did I’d say the RTA office has a fairly ugly one. The building seethed with resentment and frustration as people waited their turn, clutching a ticket, a child and the remainder of their sanity). The woman instructed me to remove my glasses, scrape my fringe out of my eyes and remain expressionless.
When I hopped up and returned to her desk she seemed puzzled. She stared at her computer, then looked at me, then back to the computer. Finally she mumbled, mostly to herself, utterly mystified:
RTA WOMAN: Is that what you look like?
I replied with the hesitant, somewhat defensive ‘Yes’ that ended on a high note to allow for the possibility that it might not be.
RTA WOMAN: Let’s try again.
I obediently went through the photo taking again and returned to the woman. She seemed unsure and looked at me accusingly, as if I was somehow pulling a trick.
RTA WOMAN: Show me your face. Do your photo face.
I gave her me, expressionless and without glasses or Feature Fringe.
RTA WOMAN: Wow. That’s really what you look like.
To allow me to join in her wonder she pivoted her computer screen to give me a glimpse of what I look like (because, you know, how was I, the owner of the face, to truly know?). As I suspected, I looked like a dead-eyed drug runner. It’s what my face does when it relaxes. It’s why people often approach me and ask me what’s wrong and I have to reply “Nothing, it’s just my face”.
What a relief to know I’ve still got it.
Lucky I chose to renew my license for the longest possible period of time. I’ll have another 5 years to remind myself that that really is what I look like.