Monday, August 22, 2022

In search of my passport

On July 8 we returned from our European vacation. Our plane landed in Seattle at 5:50 p.m. Too much rush hour freeway congestion to ask any of our adult kids to battle the traffic to pick us up - most of them live north of Seattle, and the airport is just south - so we called for a Lyft. 

Hassan picked us up three minutes later. Northbound traffic on the interstate was heavy, and Hassan was an assertive driver. At one point the brake lights of the car six feet ahead went on. Hassan braked sharply, just avoiding a rear-end collision. My pink passport cover (bought because it had a slot for my passport and other slots for my covid vaccine documents) and my daypack slid to the floor in the back seat. Hassan apologized for the sudden braking and reduced his speed very slightly for the remaining half hour to our house.

I said my passport cover ended up on the floor. When we went through security at the international arrivals terminal, the agent removed my passport from its slot in the cover and returned it to me, loose. I slid the passport into the cover, but didn't put it back in the slot. Then I forgot about it.

When we got to our house it was dark outside. I retrieved my daypack and the passport cover from the floor, extracted my luggage from the trunk, and thanked Hassan. He drove off and we hauled our luggage inside.

We unpacked the next morning, and that was when I realized my passport was missing. Art made his usual comment when I lose something: "Where did you last see it?" Then I remembered I last saw it when we went through security at the airport.

So I logged into Lyft, and one of the questions was, "Did you leave something in your ride?" I said my passport might be in the car. Within half an hour I got a call from Hassan. "I have your passport."

We agreed that the next time he had a fare to the north end of Seattle, Hassan would let me know and I would meet him there and retrieve my passport. The next week he sent me a voice message about "Edmonds" (two towns over), but there was so much road noise in the recording I couldn't understand him.  A week later I called and he agreed he would come to our house the next Monday to return the passport.

Monday came and went. The following Friday I texted Hassan. He said, "I am very sorry. I couldn't meet you on Monday because I had to go to Canada for my uncle's funeral. Before I left I moved your passport from my car to my house. I can't remember where I put your passport. So you will have to get a new one. I will pay for it."

Oh, shoot! Ordinarily I'd be okay with that, but I'm scheduled to leave for Europe on October 21, and I know even expedited passports take five to seven weeks to process. 

So, that same day I filled out the "lost or stolen passport" form on the State Department travel site. Then I started looking for an in-person appointment (required for a new passport). I entered my zip code, for agencies within 20 miles of me. "No appointments available." Fifty miles - same. All of Washington State. One in Spokane (eastern Washington) on August 26, one in Ellensburg (central Washington) in ten days. I reserved appointments for both places, just in case.

Three days later I tried again, looking for a cancellation. And there it was. Lake Forest Park - the next town to the south of mine - the following day at noon!

The appointment was quick and easy. And the place was right next door to a bike shop where I'd been interested in looking at a particular e-bike. They were closed that day, but the owner was there and he let me in. Lucky! (I bought the ebike three days later).

I went home and cancelled the Spokane and Ellensburg passport appointments. And I sent a text to Hassan: "I will pay. I was the one who left the passport in your car." He responded, "Thank you! I had expenses for my uncle's funeral, and I still have more. God bless you!"

Five to seven weeks after my appointment on August 8 is September 12 to September 26. Here's hoping the times are accurate. I read that if I am traveling in less than two weeks, I should call a special emergency number. So I have that call scheduled for October 7.

Keeping my fingers crossed.