The Journey to the Land of the Soviet Union | The press

The worst thing is not to know. The wait, the queue, the fatigue … all of that would be bearable if we knew what to expect. But we do not know. We get to know nothing. It is the domination of the arbitrary. Some will be elected and some will not.

Posted at 05.00

Catherine Lavarenne was driven into this anxious bubble last Friday. Without leaving Montreal, she traveled through space and time. For 18 hours she lived in a kind of Soviet regime, a gloomy place where motionless travelers went from hope to despair, from anger to resignation, from solidarity with all for themselves.

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

When they arrived at 05.30 in the hope of getting a passport for her daughter Lili, Catherine Lavarenne experienced something along the lines of a “collective trauma”, driven by an overwhelming sense of helplessness.

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

Shortly after 7 p.m., security agents upset the delicate balance established during the night by shifting the order in the queue. Hey, oh! ‘I’ve been here since last night, madam; yes, but me, my flight is 5 pm today, sir; resume your place in the queue; there is no line … ”

A young agent approached to hand out numbers. Very important, the numbers. Pusher, invective. “The agent seemed scared,” said Catherine Lavarenne, who even elbowed to grab a precious piece of yellow paper. She inherited noh 39, which in the end was of no use to him … to anything.

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

Rumors that swelled and distilled anxiety. A man and his son who came with photos that did not comply with the requirements had to go 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.

The time was 17.00, one hour after the official closing. “There we said to ourselves: it does not look good. They will tell us all to go away. They called the police to avoid problems. In Laval, that afternoon, the closure of the office had turned into a riot.

The office remained open. The wait continued. Over the course of the hours, solidarity was woven between the unfortunate companions. 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 been waiting until the last minute for a passport that never came.

No one had been able to get information about his case files despite his repeated attempts to know what to do, where to go, when, what documents to bring …

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

Website ? He will recommend that you “wait until you have received your passport before completing your travel plans”, but also “show 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 staff did their best. She saw a scream. “You feel like you’re at the mercy of a machine that’s too big to be changed.”

It is the system itself that determines people are powerless to change it. It’s really scary.

Catherine Lavarenne

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

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

“But I have already postponed my flight twice, madam,” cried a man. When do I get my passport? Another burst into tears: his mother had just died in Kinshasa, he did not want to attend the funeral.

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

We hear everywhere that this is a problem for the rich. Not only. The man who will not be able to bury his mother in Kinshasa does not have “a problem with the rich”. Nor the lady who wanted to go to DisneyWorld. She had been saving for years to give her two autistic boys this escape. It was their first trip; they had been dreaming about it since they were little.

Lili will celebrate her 20th birthday in Berlin. “She is traveling to Europe after two years with a pandemic,” her mother says. She made her CEGEP in her bedroom in front of a screen. It had an impact on her development, so she could afford it … I do not consider it just a luxury. »

At the same time, she is aware of her privilege. This trip is not important. But it is important.

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