I consider myself an organized, compulsive, dependable person. This premise forms the foundation upon which my entire self-image is constructed; that I am the type of citizen strangers would ask to pack their parachute, or to whom they would entrust the care of their children.
Seriously, you wouldn’t believe the number of people in public parks who fling kids at me.
Unfortunately, it has become apparent over time that my self-image does not apply to public transport. For many years – in the region of 12 – I have blamed Husband. However, while an attractive feature of marriage is having a vanilla scapegoat for any given circumstance, the truth is that Husband has never – to my knowledge – or, incidentally, his – missed a flight.
Not that I missed a flight on this trip. No, that’s not where this is going – although it does pass through the immediate vicinity.
This time, I escaped unscathed from Stansted, even though the airport is like the geographical equivalent of my nemesis (is there a word for that? Solartap or Vet: I’m counting on you, I have to know that word. It would be great if it had five or more syllables. Also Solartap: update your blog, it’s a disgrace.)
The day after, I got on the Internet to book a place on the 04:00am coach from Cambridge to Heathrow the following morning. Afterwards, because I am organized, reliable and dependable, I decided to check in online for my 08:40 Emirates flight. And even though I know my passport details off by heart, because I am compulsive, I decided to fetch the original document to double-check the expiry date.
Aaand my passport was gone.
The panic was instantaneous. Because I always put my passport and ticket in the left hand pocket of my computer bag, behind my wallet, on top of my international travel adaptor. It lives there; that is its home. If it wasn’t in that pocket, it was not of my luggage. (Ok, if something can be ‘not of this world’, then the same rule must be applicable to luggage, SURELY.)
Still, I spent about five minutes staring into the pocket, occasionally groping around the bottom in case my passport had shrunk to minute proportions in the previous 24 hours, or fallen into a secret compartment I had been unaware of.
Then I tore everything out of both travel bags.
I went downstairs and announced admirably calmly: “Bad news. My passport’s missing.”
“What d’you mean?” said Raff, understandably.
“My passport! It’s gone! It’s not there! I’ve checked- it’s- this is- ARGH! I can’t believe- I think I might- I might have- no, I couldn’t, I’m so anal, surely not! How- no, WHY, yes; why why, WHY does this always happen to me?”
We went out to the garage and scoured Raff and Carol’s car. It wasn’t there. Similarly, it failed to turn up during any of the several subsequent sweeps of my bags.
“Think back,” said Carol. “When did you have it last?”
“When did I- that’s a good question, I- ok, let me think, I’m pretty sure I had it at Stansted- yes- they check the passport just before baggage reclaim, so I had it- I seem to remember sitting somewhere looking at my photo in the front- it’s a crap picture- blue background doesn’t suit my complexion-”
Instead of gripping my by the shoulders and shaking, Carol said, “So you think . . .”
“Right. Yes, well. It could be in the bathroom just off baggage reclaim. Or the Duty Free. OR the arrivals hall at Stansted.”
I called the airport, and followed the voice prompts to Lost & Found, which had closed at 4:30 or two hours prior. Then I called the Irish Embassy and left an incoherent message on the emergency message machine. Then I called Stansted again and followed another perilous IVR trail to a dead-end.
Following is the text exchange with Andrew:-
Me: Honey, disaster here. I appear to have lost my passport. No, I’m not even kidding. We’re trying to get someone at Stansted. Not looking good for flying tomorrow x
Meanwhile, Raff took over telephonic negotiations. Using a combination of lethal charm (similar to Yogi Bear’s but several degrees more potent) and applied blagging, he managed to hunt down the Duty Manager at Stansted. And if you’ve ever tried to use Stansted Airports’ IVR system, you will appreciate the skill involved.
“Yes, thanks for taking my call. I have a friend here – she’s Irish,” (like that had anything to do with it) – “and she came through the airport yesterday, thinks she might have left her passport there. And it’s an emergency, because, she has a flight to catch first thing tomorrow morning. So if you wouldn’t mind- if you could just- oh, I see. I understand.”
Then he emitted a sequence of ‘mmms’ which ranged from noncommittal to negative, before he said, “So you have it then?”
Carol and I had an extra-large gin & tonic while Raff biked the 90 minute round trip to Stansted to collect my passport.
There aren’t many friends who will do that for you.
Or, for that matter, get up at 03:15 in the morning to drive you to Cambridge to catch a bus.
Of course, they might have wanted to be ABSOLUTELY SURE I left.
I haven’t told them the coach stopped at Stansted en route to Heathrow.
LOOK IT WAS ONLY FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES AND THERE WASN’T MUCH TIME LEFT OVER AFTER I GOT MY HOT CHOCOLATE.