By Hannah Berman


Somehow, perhaps because I have not recently traveled outside the country, I managed to let my passport expire. On a recent evening, while out to dinner with friends, the subject of travel came up. At that moment it occurred to me that I had not been to Israel in several years because each time I planned a visit, something came up that prevented me from going.

I’ve been to Israel many times. I know the country reasonably well and have a multitude of relatives and friends there. But the person living in Israel who is closest to me is my son, and since he often visits here, it had escaped my notice that I was due for a trip there. During this particular dinner conversation, an uncomfortable thought nudged its way into my psyche — I realized that I was unsure if my passport was still current. I thought that it possibly was not. When I spoke this thought aloud, my friends were horrified. The look on each of their faces said it all. One by one, they made comments. One said I must have a passport. Another asked how I could have let it expire. They all advised that when we leave the restaurant I should go home and find it to be certain. Everyone was shouting at me at once and insisting that if it had expired, I had to get myself to the post office first thing in the morning and start the renewal process.

That evening, as soon as I returned home, I went on a hunt for the familiar little blue booklet that I had not used or seen in a while. In a frenzy, I opened every drawer where I thought it might be. I also emptied every one of my travel bags and carry-on bags. My heart raced and then that “shvitz” that we are all so familiar with began. The passport was nowhere to be found. Realistically, I knew that it didn’t just walk away. It had to be somewhere in the house. But where? It was a full 40 minutes before I remembered where I had put it. And while I was delighted to find it, I was a lot less than delighted to discover that it had indeed expired and had fallen into the category of “worthless.” I was frustrated and unhappy.

The next day my first order of business was to head for the post office. The nice lady behind the counter showed me where the passport renewal forms were. I thanked her and grabbed two of them, just in case I should make an error while filling it in. As I was headed out the door, the woman called after me. “Don’t you want a passport picture?” she asked. “We take them here.”

Certainly I wanted a picture, but due to my anxiety at the moment, I had forgotten about the glorious headshot we all know as passport photos.

I went back inside and the woman called out to a person in the back room to come out with the camera to take a passport photo. A man appeared and indicated that I was to stand in front of the white screen that hung on one wall. I did as he suggested but, just as the man raised his camera and I was about to “pose” for my headshot, I stopped short and asked the man to wait before taking the picture. He looked at me quizzically, put down his camera, and asked what the problem was. I told him I wanted to know if he was into Photoshopping. He gave a somewhat less than hearty chuckle, raised his camera, and took the picture. When it was completed he handed me the results. And that was when it hit me that I wasn’t finished with my questions.

I asked if he thought I might become famous or, more likely, infamous, because of this headshot. He gave me another puzzled look. I explained that a headshot, or rather a mugshot, in a post office is usually posted under the heading of the FBI’s “Most Wanted” criminals. He didn’t look so amused.

The reality is sad, but that’s really the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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