The visit that will take the smile off your face

“You’re the third Klaureen I’ve met this week,” I said. She looked shocked. “Must be April’s hot name,” I told her. The first lady with the badge spelling “Klaureen”, behind the counter at the Passport Office said: “Sorry, you’re smile’s too big,” as she looked at my passport photos.

“What do you mean, my smile’s too big, Klaureen? I’m a very happy person. I always smile, I can’t help it. Look at my face… what do you see? A smile, that’s how I look. The whole point of the passport photo is to be able to recognise the person standing there, so you know it’s not a terrorist from Syria flying in for an operation on the NHS to remove a bit of shrapnel and while he’s here blow up London.”

I looked at my old passport photo. “Klaureen, you’ve got to admit it, I haven’t changed in 10 years have I? It’s incredible really, apart from 40lbs and two or three chins. Do you have a national chins data base? And it’s not really a smile. Look, my mouth, it’s closed. A slightly wry expression perhaps.”

“Your head’s too small, too” she said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever been told that,” I replied. “Usually it’s the opposite. I’ve got a big head, everybody says so. It’s almost Churchillian. It’s just a tiny photograph. That’s why it looks small.If it was bigger, my head would be bigger.”

“Sorry, I’m rejecting your head and your smile. There’s a photo booth round the corner,” she said. “Don’t give my place away, Klaureen.” I said. “I’ll be right back.”

There’s nothing worse than when people pretend to cry

In the photo booth, I leant out and pushed a button on the outside to raise the seat, at the same time as trying not to smile, make my head bigger and take the photo.

I got a great photo of my tie and belt. I changed another £5 into coins. Four attempts and £20 later, I got a photo of me looking like I’d just had a routine medical exam and been told I’ve got only one week to live.

I also seemed to have developed a squint. I ran back to Klaureen and handed over the new photos. “Now that’s better,” she said.

“Tell me, what’s it like working here, Klaureen”, I asked.

“A lot of aggression, violence, foul language.”

“Why do you get like that, Klaureen?” I asked.

“Not me! Them!”

“What’s the funniest thing that’s happened?” I asked.

“When they get rejected, sometimes they pretend to cry.”

Am I still rejected?” I asked. She put her glasses on. “No, you’re OK now.”

“I was just getting ready to cry, Klaureen,” I said.

“No, don’t cry,” she said. “Your head is bigger now and you’re not smiling. Perfect.”