Saturday, March 3, 2012

america's most wanted passport thief

i knew that i couldn't access facebook from china, but i hadn't realized that blogger would be off limits too.  so i fell into an internet black hole, despite my ambitious plans of blogging my riveting thoughts from china.

how about stale journal entries then?
02 march 2012
london.  sixteen years old.  thought i had my shit together.  i had, after all, spent my free period for an entire semester researching and planning this odyssey, this gaggle of teenagers who would descend on ireland for a month.  i was the president of model united nations.  we were pretending to represent ireland.

clearly i was already the person i am today.  in charge of every detail, except loose when it came to me.  but we'd made it, miraculously, intact--minus me having an allergic reaction to an antibiotic in kilkenny (a vacation standard for me) and andrew getting conned out of some cash on a black market doc marten scam in galway.

but nonetheless, a month had passed mostly successfully and we wandered london for a bit before flying back to the states.  i reached into my money belt (oh so prepared and safe!) for a reserve of cash.  that's when i noticed it.  or the lack of it.  my passport.  that precious document that i'd just received a month prior.  my key to the world.  and it was noticeably not present in my sweaty, month-worn tan pouch.  where could it be?!  i'd SLEPT with the damn thing strapped around my waist like any good, wide-eyed youth hosteler.   but logic or not, it wasn't there, and there were two days till we got on the plane.  or they did.

so i spent that last day in london rushing around from the consultate to the embassy, being scolded but also priding myself on traveling with a photocopy of my passport, two fresh passport photos, and an emergency fund.  go youth hostel!  they issued me a one year temporary passport and that was that.

or so i thought.

more than two decades have passed and here i am blazing through the toronto airport with a tsa escort, shoelaces clicking underfoot, pants hiked up over neon green and black striped socks, my name being called over the loud speaker (at least i'm in canada, the only place they don't fumble over the STE in my name) because i've been pulled into an interrogation room for the umpteenth time to explain my foolish youthful mistake.

cayman islands

on the way back into the us from all of these places I've been stopped.
i've been 'flagged', 'watched', 'on the lookout list', detained,  questioned, delayed, luggage searched, strip searched, shoes torn open, and tonight, after already traveling the better (or worse) part of twenty-four hours, my stomach in knots, so desperate to get home, i rush to the plane just as they are closing the doors.

and the brilliant, classic kitty joe thing?  i never really lost my passport back in london.  as i unpacked, sixteen years old, along with the contraband cans of hard cider i'd accidentally bought on the train from dingle, then panicked and hid in my luggage to bring home to my 'wild' sister, i opened up a shopping bag with my treasured aran sweater.  and there it lay, nestled in the wool.  my original passport.

twenty one years later...and i'm still running through the airport.