I’ve been smiling a lot lately. Apparently. I hadn’t noticed myself but comments from those who see me more often than I see myself all point to the fact that it’s true. I like this time of year. The weather is cooperating. Work is interesting. The autumn internationals are in the wings. I start travelling again soon. And my tolerance levels are either at an all-time high or I’m mellowing with age. Nothing seems to faze me. Life is good, so why wouldn’t I smile.
Today, on the last leg of replacing my lost ID, I went to have some photos taken for my replacement driver’s licence. I went to my usual spot – the photo shop at Oktagon. I sat down and focused on the camera. I turned my head this way and that. Looked up. Looked down. Followed directions. But no matter what I did, she wasn’t happy.I couldn’t seem to get it right. I could tell from the sighs. Sighs of exasperation.
When I asked what was wrong, I was told curtly that smiling wasn’t allowed. I didn’t think I was smiling. I tried to look serious. But again came the order to stop smiling! I swear, I wasn’t. I concentrated on looking serious. We tried again. And again.
Then she showed me the photo she was happy with and asked if it was good. Jó? Nem jó. I looked like a miserable old biddy, lips pursed, eyes narrowed, and despite years of being cautioned about the lasting imprint a frown will leave, I had creases in my brow. I looked as if I was about to kill someone.
I asked her to take it again. I’d have to live with it for the next however many years. She asked me what it was for. I told her it was for my driver’s licence. She said, as if speaking to an idiot: Visa. Passport. Licence. ID card. No smile.
I pleaded but got nowhere. She wasn’t budging. Visa. Passport. Licence. ID card. No smile. As I don’t have a spare work-day minute in between now and Thursday, my options were so limited that they didn’t exist. I took the photos, paid, and left.
I look like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. I look like a hired assassin. I look positively dangerous. Perhaps though, that’s not such a bad thing. I’m having visions here of being stopped on the streets of Budapest in one of those random ID checks that are getting more frequent in my district. I’m imagining the rendőr checking my licence. I’m imagining his expression in that split second where he sees my photo and decides it’s best not to ask questions – and I smile. I can’t help it.