Friends, here's an unhappy story that's weighing on my heart.
I was in the queue at Australia Post. I had slipped in to send a draft of my novel to my sweetheart of a big sister. I call her Cookie. Cookie’s twelve years older, but has always been like a mini-mom to me.
I knew that by squeezing in this errand I would be late for pick up and my 11-year-old would stand at the gates of his school, waiting.
The queue was huge. The staff were disinterested. And this couple stood at the front of the line, waiting.
You’ve seen them before. Middle-aged. Clothes from Vinnie’s. She wore a pair of neon pink Nike runners under ragged black slacks. Both had seen better times.
They were trying to get their passport photos approved for Syrian passports. Not Aussie passports, Syrian ones. They were in the wrong place.
The girl serving them was unpleasant. ‘This photo is too SMALL,’ she repeated, louder every time. ‘We don’t do Syrian Passports. I don’t know what SIZE YOU NEED for a Syrian Passport. I can’t help you here.’
We all stood in line.
Finally, the Syrian man looked her in the eyes and said quietly, ‘Can you help me?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘You have to do this yourself. Go on the internet, find out the regulation size for photos for Syrian Passports. Then we can take a photo of that size for you, but you need to figure out what size you need. Go away, sort it out, and then you can come back.’ And she turned away.
We stood, watching.
The woman reached up and grabbed her husband’s sleeve. ‘Let’s go,’ she whispered in a language we didn't know, but all understood.
Fifteen of us could have helped. I could have helped. None of us did. We all had iPhones with internet and Google Translate and if I tried right now, in my comfy office in my beautiful home, I could find out the dimensions of a Syrian Passport photo.
I wish I could go back there for a do-over. Instead, I sit here this morning, ashamed.
From experience, I know what a tough time I had moving to another country. And I was a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, English-speaking immigrant.
I’m filing this story in my Heart under: REGRETS.
And I swear, late or not, I will never ever just stand in the queue again.