Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Case of the Lost Passport

"Where was it?" is the question poring in now, along with "How did you find it?"

Bottom line: in my bedroom, all along, and because my roommate had to go to the bathroom.  Praise God for bladders.  Here's the fuller story:

That moment when you realize you haven't seen your passport in a few days and you better check that out.  Not finding it immediately, you get a little more intentional...expecting it will turn up, in that other pocket, or under the bed.

I begin the quick search first, then the more methodical, then the all-out double-checking of pockets and bags with increasing focus and concentration.  And finally the tearing apart of things, the overturning of bedding and pillows, the moving of furniture and the crouching down on floors to look underneath things.  And then uttering those dreaded words to the team: "I can't find my passport."  

No one's too concerned at first--I've probably just misplaced it or missed it.  Everyone joins the search.  Questions and inquiries, and then going even wider: asking all participants and all workers in the conference center to keep out for a little black pouch with an American passport in it (along with driver's license, credit cards and cash).  Nothing.  Time to call in the prayer troops.  

And now it is the day before departure, and time for Plan B: call the embassy in London.  Only one problem: it's a British holiday.  The embassy is closed. 

There's an emergency number on the website, and I call and work my way through the labyrinthine menus to get to a human being, only to learn that a lost passport did not constitute an emergency, and besides, the embassy was closed--it was a holiday.  Slight tone of annoyance.   

“So I miss my flight?” I asked, slight tone of incredulity.  With maybe some belligerence.    

“What time is your flight?”  

“11:00 am tomorrow.  I need to leave my location at 5am.” 

“Please hold.”

What-seems-like-eternity hold...then a certain Mr. Thomas picks up and I hear the clatter of cutlery and a two-year-old crying in the background.  I have no doubt interrupted Mr. Thomas’ family holiday dinner, but Mr. Thomas is cordial.  But pessimistic.      

"There’s nothing I can do - you’re not flying out of an international airport, so they're not  equipped to handle the paperwork and besides, the embassy is closed.” 

I’m getting tired of this line.  

“What do you suggest?”

“Let me see what I can do.  I'll call you right back.”  

Tick...tock...tick...tock...I watch the clock pass through the hour of the meeting I’m supposed to be moderating....trusting my  team mates are flexing well.   

Mr. Thomas calls back, with good news!  The airport does indeed have an immigration office, and if I will go there 3-4 hrs. before my flight, to do whatever they need to do to ensure that I’m not a national security threat, I should be ok.  There might turn me down, in which case I'd then have to go to London to the embassy, but give it a try.    

OK.  A quick calculation: four of us will have to haul ourselves out of bed at 5 am to get on the road by 6, to arrive hopefully by 7, to board by 10:30ish for an 11:35 flight.  The poor dears.  But now I'm cautiously optimistic.  And we still have several hours to locate the passport.  Perhaps in the packing up and breakdown of spaces once the training is over...      

The training ends at 11:00 and pack up and breakdown begins...checking cartons and trash carefully, looking under furniture, double-checking cabinets and cupboards without success...finally leaving around midnight. If the passport is there, it will be staying there. 

Back at the ranch, we review one last time: “Do you have any kind of secret compartment in your suitcase where it could be hiding in?”  No.  “Could you have left it in..”  Possibly, but no.  “Could you have put it ...”  No.  

We retrace our steps that first day in jetlag, when anything is possible.  "Could you have left it in the van?"  Nope, already called and checked.  "Could you have left it at the airport...the coffee shop...the restaurant?"  No.  No.  No.  It’s in this house somewhere, but I don’t know where.  One quiet last scouring of the lodgings (our hosts are asleep), checking suitcases, computer bags, and backpacks for the umpteenth time.  Another looking behind, underneath and between  pillows and cushions in the living room.  We’re stumped, but call off the search.  It’s 1:00 am.  Time for bed--half of us are getting up in a few hours.  I wash up and lay my head down a little while later, praying along with half the world, and knowing it ain't over till it's over--I have about 30 min in the morning for the passport to surface.  

1 comment: