HUMOR – When you look like your passport photo, it’s time to go home

Lucky for me it was the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and not a Dress for Success workshop I was attending. If you’re familiar with Erma Bombeck you know that as one of America’s most beloved humor columnists, she would have seen humor where someone else might have seen…well…room for improvement in me. 

For starters, I arrived late. Moments before it was set to close, I slid in at the conference registration table like a batter into first base. While I signed in, my assistant, who is also my husband, went to the hotel desk to register. I call him my assistant because he was there to be at my beck and call. He just didn’t know it yet.   

We met in the lobby and raced to our room so I could make myself presentable for the opening night banquet starting in half an hour. I’d been sitting in a car all day, much of the time napping. I didn’t have bed head, I had headrest head, which is worse. I was crumpled and wrinkled and so were my clothes. 

And not just the ones I was wearing. As I stuffed everything into the closet, I noticed the blouse I’d planned to wear that evening was wrinkled, maybe because someone—me—had left it in the dryer for a day and a half. I found the iron and while it heated up, I wet a comb and tried to tame my headrest head. It didn’t work. 

Neither did the iron. It didn’t steam but it did leak—all over my blouse. Then I steamed, which wasn’t helpful.

My assistant heard me ranting and suggested I dry it with the hairdryer. Good idea—except I couldn’t find a hairdryer. I looked in the closet, in the bathroom and even under the bed, wasting valuable time I could have spent going to the front desk to get another one.

No hairdryer meant my hair was hopeless. But it occurred to me it could draw attention away from my glasses, which were crooked because one of the pads on the nose piece had fallen off during our trip.  

I put on another outfit. It was also wrinkled, but at least it was dry. Then I grabbed the necklace I’d brought to wear with it. It was not just tangled, it was broken. After 10 minutes of trying to untangle it and fix it—I handed it to my assistant who did both. I put it on and immediately realized that my lanyard and name tag would cover it anyway.

I dashed out of the room with damp headrest hair and wrinkled clothes carrying one shoe and wearing the other and ran to the elevator. I’m proud to say I was only eight minutes late to the banquet. I’m not proud to say that somewhere between third floor and the lobby, I realized I had no idea which room I’d just come from.  

As I slumped into my chair, dejected and disheveled, the title of an Erma Bombeck book came to me: When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home. I didn’t look like my passport photo. I looked worse. Also, I didn’t need a passport to get to the workshop. It was in Dayton, Ohio. 

But it made me laugh and I relaxed. I ate half my dessert before dinner was served. I texted my assistant and got our room number. He said he’d pick up a hairdryer at the front desk and get some glue the next day to fix my glasses. Things were looking up—until I looked down.  

My name tag had somehow fallen off the lanyard. The conference had barely started and I’d already lost my name tag. On the bright side now everyone could see my necklace.

Dorothy Rosby is the author of ‘Tis the Season to Feel Inadequate; Holidays, Special Occasions and Other Times Our Celebrations Get Out of Hand and other books. Contact her at