This little note, it was necessary to play the elbow to get it. There were only about ten people ahead of us when we arrived, around 5:30 in the morning. Some slept there. They were told: Others returned 24 hours before your flight, not earlier.
Posted at 5:00 am
It fills up faster and faster. In the absence of staff, the queue managed itself. People were nervous but polite. Then a guard arrived and ordered those at the end of the row to go ahead, not to block the road. I rushed them to the front of the class, and there he shouted. I’ve been here since yesterday evening, madam. Yes, but I, my flight is at five in the evening today, sir, take your place in line; There is no line, the agent shouts.
A man we think is a young man under his mask with the long-awaited little numbers has finally arrived. Like a farmer in a chicken coop, he quickly found himself surrounded by squawks and beaks outstretched: I was there before you, yes, but not before me, wrestling, and slandering.
Then we return to our seats, holding this little piece of yellow paper in our fingers as if the future depended on it. The atmosphere relaxes, we chat, you leave when you go to where there are two Moroccos, several France, Cancun, and Miami. A Berlin, to celebrate his twentieth birthday there with friends, then join his mother in Italy, then southern France, Brussels, Paris. Wow, are you leaving for four months, or what? Then New York and Disney: I saved my whole life for that trip. My sons are autistic, it’s their first time traveling, it’s been their dream since they were young.
We wait and wait…
Through these projects, we tell each other our lives, and bond quickly. We ask: When did you send it? April. mayo. February. Dec. Did you do that there? No, there were no appointments available, I mailed everything. We look for similarities, forge connections, and we’re all in the same boat.
At a certain time, the agent comes to pick up the people who leave on the same day, then those who leave tomorrow morning, then those who leave tomorrow afternoon (it was us), and then we have to go down, forming the line that runs much further after us than before. The agent takes notes by hand, on a yellow notebook, with name, date of birth and phone number, then checks proof of travel payments. Do not go away, we will call you.
Meanwhile, the temporary camps set up by those who had not advanced yet waited. Their passengers sigh and worry, as their file has been checked 30 times in their hands. We go upstairs with a light heart.
Then we wait, we wait, we wait. We are asked to stay in the section where there are tables. Basement campers pass slowly; There were only about twenty empty camping chairs left. It was around 5pm and offices were supposed to close at 4pm. We pretend we have something to do on the other side so we go and pick up bits of conversation, coming back with rumours.
Near the big windows, people are tired. A man called a journalist with clients: No photography is allowed inside. The interviewer expected that she would not get her passport, to punish her for speaking out. At our table, someone heard that this person, you know, who was here with his son, got a call: his photos are incorrect, he had to leave. It seems that the lady in the blue jacket was having problems due to not being able to reach the respondent. We throw ourselves on our phones, call the responders: You can still be reached, do we promise? a promise.
The police are here!
The couple behind us, who is there to get the children’s passports, tells us that the young agent was going to reassure this woman talking on the phone with a smile that if we don’t get a phone call, it’s okay, we’ll have our passport. . A moment of joy. I go back to laziness near the door, out of laziness, and I hear that one by one, people get a call telling them they’ll have to call a number tomorrow. The number of what we do not know. The woman who gave the interview said: They are calling us one by one so that they don’t have to make a mass announcement and cause a riot, like this afternoon in Laval.
A person with purple hair passes behind us: She was on a plane this afternoon, and she is not leaving. And we wait, we wait, we wait.
And then suddenly silence falls upon us, you can tell, something is wrong. I’m turning. Morocco sighs to me: “The police. The police are there.”
We’re spying for at least another hour. Customers come up with a list on a yellow sheet of paper, say a name, roughly, they leave. There are not many people queuing in front of the passport office.
All people who submitted their express application on the same day have passed, or are in the process of getting their document. It’s just us, Morocco, France, Berlin, Cancun, and our claims in April and February. from dec.
Return agents. They are followed by six policemen. They start calling names. Many of us are called; We’ll line up in front of the office. What a relief, what a happiness! Then the officers stopped calling the names, and headed to the glass entrance, accompanied by the police. It’s a tough talk. They return to the group who remained near the tables.
Initially, your files were to be moved from the office where you applied, or from Gatineau, where they were mailed. Not converted. Offices are closed. There is nothing we can do. You can call this number from tomorrow morning to get an appointment. It will be case by case. You can come back Monday morning.
Why them, why us?
Let the nerves go. People raise their hands and scream and look for a solution. But I have already postponed my flight twice, madam, shouts man. When will I get my passport? Another broke out in tears: his mother died in Kinshasa, and he will not attend the funeral.
On our part, we witness this, these strangers have become our waiting companions, why are they, why we, know nothing, have known nothing all day and that is more profitable than anything else. We are ashamed of our luck. Berlin, next to me in line, sheds a tear, because Morocco was not chosen and yet we spent the afternoon together, it is unfair. Disney is concerned: She’s been called in for her husband’s passport, but not for her or her sons.
We wait again, again, again. We end up entering the passport office. We are sitting. We’ve been called up, and we’re advancing the quirks and quirks. We wish each other good luck and a nice trip when we leave. Tears in Disney’s face leave the room with four passports in hand. Finally, tiredness and relief took over the Olympic calm I’d displayed throughout the day, and the upbeat sense of humor so many of us returned when hope faded.
At about 11:30pm, after 18 hours of waiting, it was our turn. We don’t long after the woman who interviewed the reporters. We feel euphoric, on the verge of emotional exhaustion. I look at the two or three employees who quietly continue to issue one passport after another. It was midnight, and there were at least thirty people waiting.
Our number 39? Nobody will ask us.
I came home wondering what it would have been like if you didn’t go to Morocco, France, Cancun or even Berlin to celebrate your 20th birthday, but to save your life. How you should be a victim not of bureaucratic fluctuations, but of political repression. Then the fine line between the two; Nothing can compare, I know, but the line sometimes becomes blurred, and widens into an area where you glide from one to the other, softly, until it’s too late. Let’s say as elsewhere: I couldn’t believe it was going to happen here.
It’s something one carries in oneself the kind of collective trauma we are currently experiencing in the passport offices and awareness of one’s privilege. I do not know what it is worth judging your experience by a simple phrase “After all, we will not die from it, count us lucky.” I don’t know anything.
Except that Lily is going to celebrate her 20th birthday in Berlin with her friends and then join me in Italy, that makes my heart feel better.
Read in the news section: Isabel Hatchey’s column.