Journey to the Land of the Soviets | The Press

The worst thing is not knowing. The wait, the queue, the fatigue… all of that would be bearable if we knew what to expect. But we don’t know. We are told nothing. It is the reign of the arbitrary. Some will be chosen and some will not.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

Catherine Lavarenne was propelled into this anxiety-provoking bubble on Friday. Without leaving Montreal, she traveled through space and time. For 18 hours, she lived in a sort of Soviet regime, a gloomy place where motionless travelers went from hope to despair, from anger to resignation, from solidarity to everyone for themselves.

All this happened… at the passport office of the Complexe Guy-Favreau.

Arriving at 5:30 a.m. in the hope of obtaining a passport for her daughter Lili, Catherine Lavarenne experienced something like a “collective trauma”, fueled by an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.

The Montreal writer has drawn an evocative text from it, published today in our Debates section.

Shortly after 7 a.m., security agents upset the delicate balance established during the night by moving the order of the queue. Hey, oh! “I have been here since yesterday evening, madam; yes, but me, my flight is at 5 p.m. today, sir; resume your place in line; there is no line…”

A young agent approached to hand out numbers. Very important, the numbers. Pushes, invectives. “The agent seemed to be afraid,” says Catherine Lavarenne, who herself elbowed her way to grab a precious piece of yellow paper. She inherited the noh 39, which was ultimately of no use to him… for anything.

Catherine Lavarenne waited, waited and waited again. Sometimes, pretending nothing, some people approached the employees in the hope of gleaning bits of information. They mostly came back with rumours.

Rumors that swelled and distilled anxiety. A man and his son, who came with non-compliant photos, had to leave empty-handed; the lady in the blue sweater had had problems because her respondent could not be reached…

Suddenly someone whispered: the police. The police are there.

It was 5 p.m., an hour after the official closing. “There, we said to ourselves: it does not look good. They’re going to tell us all to go away. They called the police to avoid any trouble. In Laval, that afternoon, the closing of the office had turned into a riot.

The office remained open. The wait continued. Over the hours, a solidarity was woven between the companions in misfortune. Where are you going? In Morocco, in France, in Cancún, at DisneyWorld. Your request, when did you send it? In April. In February. In December.

No one had been negligent. Everyone had waited until the last minute for a passport that never came.

No one had been able to obtain information on his file, despite his repeated attempts to know what to do, where to go, when, what documents to bring…

The phone ? Forget that. You will hang around online for hours. For nothing.

Website ? He will recommend that you “wait until you have received your passport before finalizing your travel plans”, but also “provide proof that you need the passport within two working days or less”…

Completely disconnected from reality, the site will also tell you that the waiting time at Guy-Favreau is three hours…

On that account, you might as well watch videos of unicorns.

Catherine Lavarenne insists: the employees did their best. She saw one cry. “You feel like you’re at the mercy of a machine that’s become too big to change. »

It is the system itself that decides, humans are powerless to modify it. That is really scary.

Catherine Lavarenne

At the end, Lili’s name came up. Relief. But guilt, too: around her, others have not been called. You can come back Monday morning, they were told.

The nerves let go. There was no logic in this passport lottery. People who arrived at the last minute had obtained the document while others, who had spent the night on the concrete of the Guy-Favreau Complex, left empty-handed. Once again, the anger rose.

“But I’ve already postponed my flight twice, ma’am,” a man shouted. When will I get my passport? Another burst into tears: his mother had just died in Kinshasa, he would not be at the funeral.

“Why them, why us? asked Catherine Lavarenne. She was ashamed of her luck.

We hear everywhere that it is a problem of the rich. Not only. The man who will not be able to bury his mother in Kinshasa does not have “a problem of the rich”. Neither did the lady who wanted to go to DisneyWorld. She had been saving for years to provide this getaway for her two autistic boys. It was their first trip; they had dreamed of it since they were little.

Lili will celebrate her 20th birthday in Berlin. “She is leaving for Europe after two years of a pandemic, says her mother. She did her CEGEP in her bedroom in front of a screen. It had an impact on her development, so that she could afford that… I don’t consider it just a luxury. »

At the same time, she is aware of her privilege. It’s not essential, this trip. But it is important.

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