Passport in Hand
The day before I was hoping to leave for Guatemala (my second attempt), I spent a lot of time filling out forms to replace my passport.
When you lose a passport, you have to report it lost or (gasp) stolen. Then you have to apply for a new one. Then you have to go to a passport office and get the forms approved and notarized, get your picture taken. Next you have to have the passport office official seal these items (and your personal check) into an overnight envelope for delivery to your passport facilitator. I used a company called Inter-American Group to walk my docs through the bureaucratic process in Washington DC.
The passport-facilitating agency delivers the unopened package to the State Department and your passport application is started on its merry way. I needed mine the next day, so I paid for the FedEx service that delivers packages in the morning, before you've brushed your teeth. I paid for expedited passport service and for courier service to return this mighty important document to my shaking hands in Ohio within 24 hours.
My contact at IAG assured me that they'd do everything in their power to get my passport onto a Delta flight from Washington DC to Columbus the following day, where I could pick it up and be ready to travel.
The following afternoon I arrived at the Columbus airport in a snowstorm, dropped off at my hotel by my dad (so as not to leave two cars there—Julie's was parked somewhere nearby). It was super kind of my dad to drive me to Columbus—two hours each way, in the snow! The Delta flight on which my passport was sent arrived and I headed over to baggage claim to stake my claim. The time was 6:45 pm.
"Oh no we don't have cargo items here. That's at the CARGO TERMINAL on the other side of the airport." said the nice Delta luggage office person.
Nothing that a $20 cab ride wouldn't fix! I was off. My cab driver was from Somalia originally and, as we drove, he told me all the ways Somalis were better cab drivers than Ethiopians were. I filed this info away for possible future use.
Arriving at the Delta Cargo facility, I got more bad news.
"Hey man! That stuff won't be here for an hour or so."
The time was 7:45 pm.
I told my cab driver he could go.
The cargo facility was full of dog shipping crates inside of which were individual barking dogs. I watched a series of new dog owners arrive, sign the shipping forms, and head out the door with their new pets. It was pretty neat—one hipster looking dude got all teary when his pure-bred pooch lept out of the crate and licked his face.
The cargo desk guy was loud and funny. Part Snoop-Dogg, part Cedric the Entertainer. He kept me laughing while I was waiting, telling sordid tales of the cargo biz. The hours passed.
Then the back door squealed open and a young man shuffled in, walking at that carefree pace that confirmed he was being paid by the hour.
"That'll be your documentation, Bill the Bird Watcher!" Snoop the Entertainer said. The time was 10:02 pm.
He handed me the box, a large cardboard rectangle. It was surprisingly heavy. I signed the papers and took him up on his kind offer of a ride back to the road where my hotel was. We talked about the birds in his suburban backyard, cardinals, blue jays, and that crazy-@$$ bird that sings ALL NIGHT LONG in the summer (northern mockingbird).
Sitting at a late-night dinner all alone, I opened the box. An old copy of Vanity Fair fell out first—ballast to make the box feel like it was carrying something normal, like books, or car parts.
And there, at last, was my passport. Shiny, dark blue, only hours old. I kissed it, drawing stares from my fellow diners and rolled eyes from my server as she delivered my beer.
I cared not a whit. I was once again free to move about the planet.