Freedom to Leave

It’s the Saturday morning ritual, even though today is Tuesday—we’re starting a Thanksgiving mega-long weekend . We sat on the couch—each with a second cup of coffee on the table next to us—planning the day. Susan had the HB McClure pad. A freebie pad of paper I scored in a meeting at work. It gets a lot of use. Once spent, we’ll be forced to buy pads ever after. This habit is formed.

We listed all the tasks we could think of: hers, mine, ours. Mine usually includes a run. But today isn’t Saturday. It’s not a running day. Renew passports. This one weighed on Susan for over a year. With today’s psycho political situation, we want no barriers to getting the hell out of the country. Passports topped the list.

Last weekend, we got our photos taken. When we did this eleven years ago, the only place we could find passport photos was the Super Walmart in Hanover—the biggish town twenty-five minutes away. The Gettysburg Walmart isn’t super-sized. I’d call it normal-sized, but three quarters of Walmarts are super. So not normal, just pathetic.

In 2010, we went to the Walmart Photo Shop. A separate room at the front of the store for all things photographic. Picture processing, film developing, and with a professional photographer on staff, it’s where young families went to get glamour shots of their babies. The photographer took our pictures. “Take your glasses off. No, don’t smile.” We felt cared for.

I have no idea when that Photo Shop disappeared. We walked up to the front and center of the store and stared—now a bank. Right, film processing is in the back, just like at our little Walmart. The guy running the register in electronics shook his head. “We stopped doing that years ago.” It made me want to complain, “Google says you still do,” but what’s the point. They won’t start now just because of me.

Back to Google. The CVS pharmacy in Gettysburg takes the photos. This sounds like a nightmare. They built the CVS five years ago, but neither of us have been inside. Our pharmacy is Rite Aid. It’s less than a mile from home… was. About two months ago, they fell apart. A pharmacist quit, then another. Lines stretched halfway across the store. Thirty minutes to reach the register “Your prescription isn’t ready yet.”

“I called it in three days ago.”

“We’re short-staffed.” Not surprisingly, the last pharmacist quit. And the store manager. Too many pissed customers. The pharmacy closed. The rest of the store seems to be run by the twenty-two-year-old woman at the register. Often, I wonder where all these employees who quit their jobs went. Not to other stores, everyone’s short-staffed. The other day it occurred to me that this might be the Rapture. People are disappearing one-by-one, being called to heaven.

Dreading a similar chaotic vibe at CVS, we went there anyway. We want those passports, dammit. It’s a dreary store with crowded, jumbled, disorganized aisles. But they have employees. And no line, a helpful associate took our photos, snipped them to size and sent us on our way in less than ten minutes. Efficient, professional, I think he’s still in high school. Today we printed the passport applications, packaged them up and dropped them in the mail.

“Cross it off the list!” Lining out the to do list is the best part. After our passports arrive, nothing can hold us here. We’re free to leave at any time. If we gotta jam, we jam.

25 thoughts on “Freedom to Leave

  1. I’ve never had a passport. Never needed one. I’ve been to Mexico a bunch of times and spent 3 or 4 days in Canada in ’98 or ’99 without a passport🤷🏼‍♀️
    Maybe someday I’ll leave North America.
    Does Hawaii count? I went there way way back in 1986.😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Hawaii counts. We went to Puerto Rico a few years ago and it seems much more foreign than France. Now you can’t even go to Mexico or Canada without a passport. Canada seems like the likely place to flee to, although I have no ide why they would want a couple of nonprofit administrators.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Canada is closer for you for sure.
        But here’s a secret… we can still go back and forth across the border with Mexico without a passport. Younger has her dental work done down in Tijuana cuz it’s way cheaper. No passport required😉
        I don’t think Mexico cares if Americans cross to spend their money😂


  2. My passport expired before my accident. A few years later I got a new one and then the country and world spun out of control! I felt better having one but this pandemic has trapped us all it seems. Nowhere feels safe! But I loved your comment “if we need to jam, we jam!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Our passports expired. When Trump entered office it seemed pertinent to get them updated. We just never got around to it. Putting them at the top of the list does seem like a good idea. I see our CVS has the same “passport photos taken here” sign. Might have to go pay them a visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good plan with the passports…my first job (aged 16) was a CVS in Bethlehem. I can still picture those stores. Funny how the retail workforce is retracting, this shift in power dynamics for frontline workers that’s been under pressure for so long. Covid will have halo effects for a long time I think. Wise to keep your passports current…


  5. Oh, the passport photo nightmare. Been there and feel your pain! My passport expired last year. I jumped through the hoop to get a photo at my local RiteAid (in Idaho), but…I hated the photo and was reluctant to spend the money for the renewal at the height of the pandemic when I knew I wouldn’t be traveling so…I let it go. Maybe the 2024 election ramp-up will be the motivation that gets me to renew, in case I need to take refuge with Canadian friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Seriously, I just don’t see how this country is going to survive the next two elections. I don’t know where we would go, but it seems like the responsible thing to do is get out now.


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