How to take a horrific passport photo

Plans were made; we were getting the hell out of Dodge. My family and I were headed to the Riviera Maya in Mexico for five days prior to Christmas.

The night before we were scheduled to leave for our trip, I was prompted by an email to electronically check into our flight. “I love technology”, I thought as I swilled my wine.

I sat down at my computer desk and began the process of checking names and entering passport information. I had the first three completed and then came to my own name and began entering the passport data. I froze.  My eyes strained as they read my own passport expiration date. This past summer? Are you f*cking kidding me?

I sat in utter disbelief as the reality of the situation set in. Six of us were scheduled to leave for Mexico in nine hours, and one of us had an expired passport. What kind of moron lets their passport expire? This moron.

I explained my predicament to husband, who literally could not believe that I had not checked my passport expiration date. So I did what any other detail-orientated-but-let-one-slip-through-the-cracks person would do … I poured another glass of wine and then I cried. Wailed might be a little more precise.

Once the sobbing subsided and the eye swelling had begun I started making calls.

The first call I made was to our local airport security. They didn’t think a passport was required for travel to Mexico. Revelation, I was 99% sure that it was a requirement. Thanks a lot local airport security. The only thing worse was to believe you and end up saying goodbye to my family at the boarding gate.

The next call was to the travel agency where we booked our trip. While they were sympathetic to my predicament, there was nothing they could do. Jerks.

Yet another call was to the Minneapolis Passport Agency where a recording told me that I could make an appointment for a passport the following morning at 8:00 AM.

Hooray, a little progress, but with a catch. 8:00 AM? Our flight was scheduled to leave Des Moines at 7:00 AM and Minneapolis is a 4-hour drive. Damn.

I called the travel agency back to see if I could reschedule my flight to a later time leaving from Minneapolis. No. However, I could cancel and rebook. Well, that was something right? Cancelling would entail a no refund policy on my existing ticket and booking on a later flight at full charge. What a deal! I guess I wasn’t in the position to “deal” so I cancelled my flight and purchased another one leaving from Minneapolis at 1:30 PM.

The plan at this point was for my husband and kids to leave at the scheduled time and I would drive to Minneapolis, renew my passport, and take a later flight meeting my family at the resort later that day.

OK, talk to the kids, share the plan. They of course were in shock, and to this day have to think I’m a complete idiot. But they were polite and feigned sympathy.

Next, I needed a passport photo.

RAVE:   24-hour Walgreens – you rock!

Since I’d tipped back a few glasses of wine and it was 1:00 AM I let my husband drive. The manager/photographer/most-helpful-person-in-the-world was friendly and empathic to my dilemma. The result was a passport photo from hell.  Remember all the crying? I looked bad, really, really bad. I will have this photo on my passport for the next 10 years as a reminder of my negligence.

By the time we arrived back home it was 2:00 AM. I shuffled everyone to bed and was ready to start my road trip to Minneapolis. With no sleep, Brian wasn’t convinced that I could pull off the road trip to Minneapolis and travel all day to Mexico. Against my mild protest, he called his mom and asked if she could swing by, pick me up and be in Minneapolis by 8:00 AM.

RAVE:   The gracious lady said yes; she would be by at 3:00 AM to pick me up.

I was emotionally and physically exhausted and as much as I wanted sleep, I put on a pot of coffee. Nothing like caffeine to help take the edge off. BAM! By 3:00 AM I was wired for sound. The house was quiet. Everyone was getting a few hours sleep before their departure. I sat there alone, in silence, jumpy from caffeine and proceeded to worry about every worse case scenario that I could conjure up.

Finally at 3:01 AM my mother-in-law arrived. I went and hovered over my sleeping family, silently telling them “I love you, safe travels.” Not a stir.

We loaded my luggage and set off for Minneapolis. Me, my mother-in-law and a very large thermos of coffee. I proceeded to verbalize all of my crazy thoughts to my mother-in-law. Will Brian be ok with all the kids? He hasn’t flown for a long time and never just he and the kids. What if they don’t get along? What if it takes longer then four hours to get a passport? What if I miss my 1:30 rescheduled flight. What if I make it but miss my connecting flight? What if I make that but arrive in Mexico and there’s no one there to drive me to the resort? What if there is someone there but he’s a serial killer? How would they find me? These crazy thoughts and more coffee turned me into a completely insane, irrational woman. Sandy was calm and tried to be the voice of reason. At that point, she must have thought, her son could have done much better.

Finally we arrived in Minneapolis, found the Federal Building and camped out on the front step for half hour until their doors opened. Much to my surprise, a line was forming and more desperate passport stories started surfacing. I felt comforted. Idiots love company.

At precisely 8:00 AM the doors opened and I continued to hold my place as first in line. I produced my expired passport, paperwork, check and sob story. Then I folded and started the wailing process all over again. This agent looked me straight in the eye and with all the confidence he could muster said, “this will happen and I will make sure you make that 1:30 PM flight.”

“Thank you.” I sobbed. I’m sure it sounded more like “thunkuuuuuuuuuuuuu”.

My gracious mother-in-law could have left at that point, but she continued to sit and wait with me. And wait we did.

After four hours the kind agent waved me back up to the window, handed me my brand spankin’ new passport and said, “I told you it would happen.”

RAVE:   Minneapolis Passport Agency and its employees.

We were off to the airport. Once I was securely confirmed, bags checked, she hugged me and said, “this will all work out”. Thank you most awesome mother-in-law.

I called my husband Brian and told him the good news. He and the kids had just landed in Mexico. If all went well, I would be joining them ten hours later. I felt both relieved and ecstatic.

I don’t remember the flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta. The coffee haze had worn off and as soon as my head hit the back of the seat I was asleep. Finally free from all of my nonsensical thoughts.

Upon landing in Atlanta I had mere minutes to make my connecting flight to Cancun.

Passengers around me sensed my urgency and made allowances for my rush from the plane. The seas parted as I ran and conveyor belted my way across the concourses. I finally arrived at my gate with the final boarding call.

RAVE:   The kindness of strangers.

As I settled into my seat I thought of how lucky I’d been this far. Sometimes the world spins and turns at just the right way. I was lost in a moment of gratitude when I thought about my luggage. If I had to sprint to catch the plane, there was no way my luggage would make it. Normally this thought would throw me in to more hysterics, but the calm wave of gratitude continued to settle me. I would live the next five days in the clothes I was wearing or visit the resort gift shop. Either way, I was almost to my destination.

At long last, the plane landed in Mexico. I sailed through customs. Although at one point, a Mexican official did a double take at my passport photo and muttered “Lo siento” which I later learned was “Sorry”. Again, it is a horrific photo.

I followed the mass of vacationers to the baggage claim. Not that I anticipated any baggage to claim, but a girl can dream.

The carousel started and black suitcase after black suitcase spewed forth. I vowed then to purchase a yellow suitcase. How cool would that be? I was lost in this thought when I spotted my suitcase. How in the hell did it make it on the plane?

RAVE:   Atlanta baggage handlers – nice job out of you!

Once more through customs and I was safely in Mexico. Next stop, find the shuttle service that went to the Barcelo Resort. Not wanting to stand out as alone and frightened, I mingled in with some families. I called Brian and told him that I had landed, breezed through customs and had suitcase in hand. “I love you, see you in an hour”.

The shuttle arrived and I slipped aboard with a family of three. The driver was polite and drove extremely fast. The previous thought of a serial killer driver, quickly turned into traffic fatality. On that one hour trip I texted Brian every ten minutes … leaving if you will a cell phone trail, just in case. I didn’t think about the phone bill that would follow my paranoia.

After less then an hour, thanks to Speedy, we arrived at the resort. The resort consisted of five hotels in one area. We were in the “average” Colonial. I attempted to check into the Colonial but was politely told we’d been upgraded to the best of the best, the Palace.

RAVE:   Thank you Barcelo Palace.

Back into the Shuttle and off to the Palace. Living up to his name, Speedy was there in mere seconds. He opened the door, retrieved my luggage, I hugged him and gave him a huge tip … and there on the Palace steps was my family. We hugged, I cried, and so began our 2011 Christmas vacation.

RAVE:   Thank you family. I love you.

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2 Responses to How to take a horrific passport photo

  1. Kurt Nicholson says:

    That is one traveling nightmare, wow!

  2. Sandy says:

    What a wonderful true story. You are really good at this writing business.

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