Once I renewed my passport at the U.S. Consulate in Madrid. I called to find out if there was a preferred place to get the passport pictures taken.
“You’ll need two of the same picture…we have our own photo booth inside the Consulate, don’t worry.” I didn’t.
When I got to the Consulate, I went directly to the photo booth and waited for a grumbling mother and her two small children to get out of the booth. I saw the mom digging around for coins and felt relieved that I didn’t have to worry about anyone but myself.
The trio left the booth, the mother stuffed papers and some money in her purse. The two children clung to her as she pulled strip after strip of photographs from the machine. Some of her money fell to the floor.
“Two sets of the same picture! A few of these damned things should work.” She grunted.
I picked up the money and smiled at her – “Wow, she’s having a tough day.” I thought as I glanced at myself in the shiny piece of metal that served as a mirror. I adjusted my hair and stepped in to the photo booth.
I put my two hundred pesetas in the slot and sat back with what I hoped was a confident yet friendly gaze.
A minute passed. Nothing happened, not a whir, not a clunk.
I leaned forward to see if something was wrong….
“F L A S H!” went the machine.
I recoiled back to the seat. Another flash followed quickly by a third. All the pictures were unusable. No two alike.
I dug around in my purse and inserted two more hundred peseta coins. Stock still I sat. No whir. No clunk. I sat. I recited a poem. I took a deep breath. Just as I was going to give up: “Flash! Flash! Flash! Flash!”
I staggered out of the booth, pen, papers, and purse clutched to me. A cool man approached the booth, straightening his tie; he looked at me like I had looked at the mother.
“Need a hand?” he asked motioning to the photographs that were sliding out of the machine.
I glanced in horror at the photographs of my confused face and grabbed them.
“No thanks!” and as I moved off to the passport renewal counter I added, “Don’t forget to say ‘Cheese’.”