Passports are important. Take this time to find yours, hold yours, inspect yours, love yours, and never be as dumb as me.
It was 9 p.m. on Thursday. My flight was scheduled to depart in 28 hours.
“You have your passport, right?” I was asked this question countless times and always answered with a “yes!”
I did have my passport. I ordered it more than two years prior, thinking I might visit Australia. That trip failed and after receiving my passport in the mail, I put it away in a drawer next to my bed. It sat there safely for years. Until now.
With 28 hours to takeoff, I pulled the beautiful blue book out of the drawer, admired the “Passport, United States of America” written across the cover, opened it and flipped through the pages.
That’s when things got weird.
Page one and two were missing. My brand new passport had no photo, no name – nothing. It was a book with blank visa pages.
My mind raced. My heart dropped.
“Was this right? How in the hell do people use passports to get into bars if it doesn’t have any info in it?” These were stupid questions. Basic questions. Questions I couldn’t stop repeating in my head.
Heart pounding, I text messaged every person I knew. The response was clear: I was fucked. I had a completely useless passport book and my flight was 26 hours away. See ya, Thailand!
One glimmer of hope remained: go to the passport agency in LA first thing in the morning and cross my fingers an expedited passport could be processed same-day. I’d need an appointment. But of course those were all booked. Double fucked.
I was going regardless. I napped for two hours; woke up at 4:15 a.m., stopped at Fedex to take a new passport picture, then drove to LA. It wouldn’t open until 7 a.m., but I had been warned to arrive early, or else.
A line had already formed as I walked up at 6 a.m. I wasn’t the only person trying to flee the U.S. I was handed a form to fill out for a new passport.
“Uh, do I need to fill this out if I was sent a passport without page one and two,” I asked, as I handed a friendly girl my blank book? This girl’s mind was blown. I literally watched it explode inside her head as she stumbled to speak. “This is how you received it,” she asked? It was. This is exactly how I received this worthless book. Unless someone broke into my house, found the sacred passport drawer and skillfully ripped out only page one instead of stealing the entire book. Anything is possible, I guess.
Since this scenario was as rare as catching every Pokemon, I still had to fill out the new passport form, then hand over my photo. Unsurprisingly, I suddenly couldn’t find it. Another $16 had to be spent for a second set.
The day went on. A beautiful older woman called my number and heard my story. She decided she wouldn’t charge me because it was their fault, she said. Though each person along the way had never seen anything like this and made sure I knew they thought I was lying.
No one would guarantee it would be processed same-day and each said they would call in a few hours with an update. I went to work with a little extra hope. Then the interrogation call came through.
“Hi Justin. It’s nearly impossible for this to happen,” said a lady on the phone, after asking 20 questions. Obviously it was nearly impossible, I hadn’t forgot about the first girl’s mind exploding in her head from earlier.
Still, just like a rollercoaster, my heart plummeted again. I had no words, just thoughts. Would I make it onto my first international flight? My heart said yes, my mind said no.
Then, the miracle call came in. My passport was approved, though a full investigation would take place to figure out what happened. I’d make it to Thailand, right on schedule.
Save yourself added stress. Don’t wait until the night before your flight to make sure your passport is ready to go. My situation was rare, but hundreds of others waited in line around me that day with similar stories of “I lost my passport,” or “I realized it expires within six months and they stopped me at the gate.”
Be smart, be prepared, and enjoy the hell out of your trip.