Preamble: I’ve always struggled with “everything happens for a reason”. On one hand, I believe in a higher power, God, the universe, a collective consciousness and the power of a higher power to manifest things in one’s life. On the other hand it’s hard to find the reason in some things.
As many of you know our “The Path of Stillness in Germany” Retreat began on Sunday, Sept 4. We had ladies flying from Salt Lake City, Phoenix, San Francisco and Austin (me). This first travel day is always exciting and this was no different. We would all meet in Detroit and fly to Frankfurt together from there. I dropped my dogs off early with at our friend, Susan’s house and got in my ride to the airport. I question whether to curb check but ultimately, as always, decide to go in. There’s a bunch of people ahead of me in the priority line but I’m not worried, I’m early, I’m TSA Pre – no problem.
It’s finally my turn and I hand may passport to the agent for check in. I did try to check-in online previously but it errored and said “see gate agent”. “No Biggie”, I thought. As he swipes my passport, I check email on my phone, and I notice he swipes it again and again and now he’s entering it on the keyboard. Now he has my attention then he says “I’m sorry, Miss Lamb, I can’t check you in because your passport is no good”. I’m just looking at him in total disbelief as I try to process what he’s saying. I’m thinking to myself “listen carefully, very carefully”. He repeats “your passport is no good, it expires in less than 90 days”. I can’t do the math and am just looking at him and find myself repeating “what, what are you talking about? It’s good until November”. To which he replies it needs to be good for 3 months beyond your return date and sometimes 6 months. I start to get what’s happening and what he’s telling me and start to panic a little. I explain we have a retreat business, I need to meet my group in Detroit and be in Germany tomorrow. What can I do? He says “you need a new passport”. Me: “ok, but what else can I do right now to get on a plane”. He talks to others and tells me, as he’s handing me my boarding pass and checking my luggage “Ok, you can call the German Embassy in Houston, tell them you’re going for a short trip only and ask them for permission to wave the 3 month rule”. He gives me my documents and tells me to promise to call and resolve before getting on the plane otherwise he will personally be fined by officials in Detroit. He recommends talking to the agent at the gate since she is the one who recommended the embassy idea. I sigh in relief and head to the gate.
At the gate I ask the agent who again I should call – she says the Germany Embassy in Houston. So I do but … it’s closed. It’s Sunday. Oh yeah, Sunday before Labor Day which apparently the German Embassy in Houston recognizes as well. The gate agent and I are trying to find something on line when the agent who checked me in comes to the gate. I tell him the embassy is closed and then he tells me he’s very sorry but he can’t let me get on the plane and he gets on his radio and calls down for the baggage handlers to remove my luggage from the plane. I’m in shock and walk to baggage claim in a trance and plop down on the seat to wait for my luggage. At a loss, I just sit and stare and …. and …. I don’t know what exactly. I’m startled to attention by the sound of my bag hitting rail of the baggage claim and collect my luggage and shuffle to the taxi stand
In the taxi back to Susan’s multiple text are flying around about next moves along with frantic searches on the internet “expedited passport”, “same day passport”, “24 hr passport”, “24 hr passport weekend”. Everything is either not open, or really can’t help. One website has a “chat” function and after giving them all the info over chat, they say they can have it to me by Friday. FRIDAY! Uh – NO! I do try calling every service as well, just in case and one answers He tells me, very abruptly I might add, “nothing can happen until Tuesday anyway and you are calling me from Texas, I can only help if you are in New York, If you were in New York I could have your passport by 5:00 pm but you’re are in Texas, goodbye” and he hangs up. The search continues as well as going to the state department website for ideas. I find out (which I knew before from an incident in 1996 where my passport was expiring and I noticed 3 days before I was set to leave and flew to San Francisco to renew – a story for a different time) in emergency situations like life, death, or leaving within 14 days, a person can get a passport the same day at select state department locations. In order to do this, one calls the automated system, sets up an apt time at a location, brings all the required paperwork, their old passport, and a new phone at the appointment time and can possibly receive a new passport by 3:00 pm that same day.
OK, this sounds potentially doable. I would want to get in somewhere first thing Tuesday morning to have the best chance of getting to Germany by Wednesday morning. So first I check potential flight departure cities schedules which would get me to Frankfurt by Wednesday am and where also locations who accept appointments. This narrows the search to a first wave of Atlanta, Houston, and New York. Ok, now which will have appointments available Tuesday am? Atlanta and Houston both have appointments on Tuesday and 9:30 and New York doesn’t have one until Thursday but I remember the guy who I talked to and said he could have it by 5:00. Next step, contact the airline and see what it will cost to change my airfare – ugh! At least they’re waving the change fee which is really an irritant because as I look at my original itinerary it says at the bottom “Passport Confirmed” and in my mind they should wave all fees but I try to be patient and keep my eye on the ball. Houston is the optimal idea, I could drive there, they have an apt available at 9:30 but the flight to Frankfurt leaves at 3:05 which would be cutting it close. Atlanta was the next optimal because of the 9:30 available appointment HOWEVER the new airfare to fly from either of those cities was insane and approximately six times more than flying from JFK. I booked the JFK flight and quickly called the guy I had spoken to before. Desperately I asked “if I come to New York, can you guarantee you’ll have my new passport by 5:00 pm and I could make a flight to Frankfurt at 8:00 pm”, he says he thinks so and he’ll email all the forms.
Ok, so now I need to find a flight to JFK, on Labor Day Weekend. There’s a decent flight at 4:05 through Minneapolis arriving JFK at 11;30, it’s 2:30, I’m 45 minutes away from the Austin airport, I book it and head back to the airport.
Again, a bunch of folks in line but not worried. As I wait, I pull up my email and there’s an email from the airline, my 4:05 flight is delayed until 8:05 and I won’t make my connection so I need to talk to a gate agent for rebooking. It’s my turn, the agent tells me there are no other flights. Now I’ve been looking at every possible scenario all afternoon so I KNOW. I say there’s a flight through Atlanta at 4:50, Gate Agent: “There are no seats”, Me: “There are seats in first class”, Gate agent: “I can’t put you in a different class of service than your current ticktet”, Me (very controlled): “what about another airline”. As she calls other airlines, I use my app to find the 4:50 flight and see I can book it using miles (it’s my backup plan). She comes back to say she found another flight which leaves at 7:00 pm, connects and get to JFK the next morning, connects through Seattle. From Austin to Seattle to JFK! Time to initiate back up plan. I hold up my phone and say I’ll just book the first class seat at 4:50 with my miles. She takes my phone and changes the conversation with the person on the phone to begin my new booking. After, she hands me my phone and I see an email describing miles were used to book a flight. THEN she says to me “oh no, the seat is gone”. What? She’s like “I don’t know. The seat is no longer available” and she gets back on the phone. She looks at me and says ( I can tell she’s passing on whatever the person on the phone is saying) “what if we refund 15000 miles and put you in economy comfort>”. I say “what if you refund me ALL the miles and put me in economy comfort?” She listens to the person on the phone and says “what if we refund 15000 miles and credit your account another 15000 miles and put you in economy comfort”. Now, still in control and measured but definitely louder than previously I loudly say “How about you refund all my miles and put me in economy comfort. It’s the airline’s fault I’m not on my original flight and you told me there were no other flights, I tell you there is and you tell me you can’t because it’s a different fare and I buy the other fare so I can get on the flight AND THEN YOU GIVE AWAY THE SEAT I’m buying so why don’t you refund everything and put me on that flight?!?!?” She agreed, finished checking me in and I headed to JFK.
I arrive at my hotel at 1:30 in the morning and am starving so I ask the front desk if there is room service. I already knew the answer would be no but he also told me the deli across the street was open 24 hr. I'm totally in, I find the deli and it's huge and it has everything and the food is amazing and I remember how much I love New York and how I've felt drawn here for the last few months but not sure why.
Yesterday, I filled out all the paperwork yesterday because the company A-Passport & Visa Services worked yesterday to make sure everything was correct. I met with them this morning where they told me they were actually going to have to go to Connecticut because the New York appointments were all taken and they won’t know anything until 3:30 after which their person will drive it to JFK and meet me.
It’s 3:00 now and I’m awaiting to know if my passport is renewed and I’m headed to Germany. The suspense is killing me so thought I would do this to keep my mind off of it.
Wish me luck every and yes, I think most of the time things happen for a reason even if we don't every find out what that reason is.