Saturday, January 05, 2008

Passport Panic: Testing Andrew's Charm

Typically, we were able to obey our alarm clock and continue our journey forward without any hiccups. However, this morning was different.

We arose, took a shower, ran down to the gallery to choke down breakfast and hail one of London's famous black cabs to Paddington Station. We accidentally chose one of the front cars of the train to Gatwick at the guidance of 2 train station authorities. Pushing our luggage into the designated compartments, we collapsed into a booth.

Something was amiss -this car looked a little more roomy, clean, and had tables. Er? I surmised to think we were in a first class car (FCC) -Andrew just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Whatever." Okay, but I'll be summoning my reason to the conductor when he asks us why we're not in coach. It's only a 15 minute ride and the cost of a first class ticket is a bit steep, but I'll apologize profusely and tell him that I -in all honesty- didn't know if we could move from car to car while the train was in motion -many of the underground trains in certain cities won't allow it- and it's exhausting to wait for permission. Additionally, I didn't want to get off the FCC because I was afraid the train would leave the station without us getting back on another car.

The ticket meister allowed us to remain, but asserted that many people 'do the same' as I just did. I would have moved but dammit, I'm not going to abandoned my luggage just to sit my carcass in another seat in another car on the train -that's just asking for trouble. I retorted by telling him that he should have "First Class" printed on not only the outside of the train but make it evident on the inside as well. First Class was in tiny letters on the outside, but it wasn't repetitive -and who cares when one is in a hurry and you're looking for the nearest door to corral your pieces like you're herding fat, troublesome cats???

Shew! It's all about timing.

We disembarked the commuter train to another station filled with elevator doors; these led to another train that took us straight to our terminals. Up another elevator, down a long corridor, and around the bend into security Andrew finally asked me if I had my passport. I was sure I did as I clenched my chest desperately looking for my passport shackle I typically wear around my neck each day. I assured him that I had it and would find it immediately.

We talked aloud, as we usually do, about where it might be. I'm balanced bags on the little cart, pulling my backpack off my shoulder and clumsily opening zippers expecting my passport to fall into my hand. Andrew then remarks if perhaps I might have left it in the safe at the hotel.


Andrew's eyes widen like I've never seen before.


I know what this means. It means travelling back to the Waldorf in London (a 45 minute trip). It means missing our flight. It means several grueling hours under a dank, secluded room, harsh light, a steel table and interrogation. It means sweating profusely until I can prove I am who I am. I'm too strong for a nervous breakdown. If Andrew has to depart the country without me until I'm able to retrieve my passport, then I can handle it. I'll eat airport food until I can travel. I'll make friends that can bring me food. My clothes are mostly clean, so that isn't an issue. Thank God I'm not on my period. I know that my driver's license isn't good enough, but I try.

Remember to breathe. Breathe. You've been walking several miles a day, so your heart won't be too stressed from this and let you down.

Let's see if Andrew's charmed essence has expired.

Andrew's the luckiest guy I know and not because he has me -that's too easy. I'm talking about what ever Andrew wants, Andrew gets. Parking spaces near the front door, tickets to sold out shows, deep discounts on accommodations, upgrades to Business class... this list is endless.

Me? A walking Murphy's Law. Always. Andrew's charm helps to cancel that out -at the very least.

Andrew's travel savvy and a few elements allowed us to move thru this caustic experience with a few burns, but nothing as I imagined, conjured by memories of World War II movies. I babysat the bags as Andrew called the hotel to secure my passport sleeping in the safe. He and the hotel security began with suggesting that the passport get transported by taxi -but the driver could not confirm arrival time before the plane was due to depart -in 45 minutes. We talked with airport security and I offered up suggestions like getting the passport number from the hotel concierge, perhaps even getting a faxed copy of the inside pages...

Bingo! That did it.

Meanwhile, several parameters fell into place, giving security reason to believe my story. Andrew had his passport; we had already travelled to several cities during our journey without incident -beginning in the States; we were able to corroborate our story with the hotel; the hotel was able to provide copies from their location without incident. Additionally, airport security called USImmigration to pull up my profile and reach a harmonious, but temporary consent to let me board the plane.

It was now in the hands of USCustoms at RDU to let me pass.

I wouldn't recommend this tactic to everyone as it isn't precisely cut and dry as I've laid out. However, if you keep your record clean, one shouldn't have nearly the issues that many people do incur because of oh, say lack of sleep -as was in my case.

I'm reasonably confident that my name has been added to the Homeland Security list now. Oi vey!

Passport Tip 1: Always Always Always carry your passport on you. At all times, no excuse. Pick pocket experts state that the front pockets of your jeans or the inside breast pocket of your shirt, jacket, or coat are the most difficult to reach without alarming you.

The easiest pocket is to cut, rip, or reach is your back pocket in slacks. They say that if you're wearing tight jeans, that it's still difficult to pull, but I'll stick with the front -thank you.

My ID shackle works too, since I tuck in between the layers of my sweaters, under my jacket.

Passport Tip 2: Make several copies of your passport inside page that includes your number and your mug shot. Tuck them into all pieces of your luggage and into a coat pocket that you normally wear. Should anything get separated from you, you'll still have the one and only important document you'll ever need -your passport ID.

Upon boarding the plane, we looked forward to the long 8+ hour flight in comfort. The flight attendent continued to empty the bottle of cabernet into my little port glass as I watched 3 movies. I resisted snoozing because darnit -it isn't every day that I get to experience Business Class and I was going to stay up for every last minute!!

For the record, that huge scoop of Ben & Jerry's chocolate chip ice cream was Andrew's. I can't eat dairy and I was imagining just how many fat grams were in that bowl -that always makes me feel better about my plight.

1 comment:

Jeanne Rhea said...

What a great post! I will remember all of that.