(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Monday, July 14, 2008

mon mésaventures.

well well well.

I am known for my misadventures. Try as I might to be all organized and shit, I always manage to have a few crises of the heartstopping sort. This trip was no exception.

The day of my departure, I managed to have my ATM/Debit card captured in an ATM. I was running around with my hair on fire cramming a week's worth of tasks into the last day (slight exaggeration). I ran out of money at the laundromat (yeah, that's right ... I was doing 5 loads of laundry the day I was to depart...) and of course they have no change machine and no money dispenser at the short-stop next door. So I jump in my car and run to the bank. I am at the ATM when my dogs have barking spasms. I am yelling at them from the ATM to BE QUIET, NO, BAD DOG...since a tweaker has appeared in a beat up pick-up and is egging them on from the next stall.

The machine is beeping ... my cash is in the dispenser. I grab it and run for the car. Race back to the laundromat so my stuff won't be piled in a damp steaming mess in a cart. Continue on with the chore at hand. As I am loading my car, my purse falls out and my wallet bursts open, sending credit cards flying under the car. Yes, it is true. I couldn't make ALL of this stuff up.

As I am crawling under my vehicle, it occurs to me that there is a card absent. Yes, THE most important card of the journey. My ATM/Debit card which accesses my checking account and funds for my journey and beyond. Yikes. I race through my bank experience. CRAP! I must have left my card! I immediately phone the bank and am told that, since my card is not from that bank, I will have to call MY bank and report it lost/stole and they will have to reissue me a card. WTF?! I immediately begin the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Accompanied by much supplication.

"You don't understand. I HAVE to have my card. I am leaving today for France. That card is essential. Please, there must be something you can do!"

"Oh my. Well, hold on".

My Irish maiden name should be Murphy instead of Fallon. See, I have this really weird luck. It fails me continuously and dangles me out over the edge of the cliff ... and then, just when I think I am going to have a nervous breakdown, it yanks me back up (not after having swung me for a loop de loop or two), snickers with delight and sets me back on my feet. You'll see. read on.

"Ms. Mancha?"

"Call me Kim."

"Really? I'm Kim, too!" lucky draw there! "Well, if you can have someone from your bank call and provide approval, we can release the card to you. Do you have a contact at your branch?"

I haven't been inside a bank branch in years.

"Uh. I'm at the laundromat, but yes I can do that. I'll call you back."

I race to throw the rest of my laundry in the car like a madwoman. I return to the house and start dialing for dollars. I had kept the name of a bank manager for our business account, and I dialed that branch. I've had accounts with my bank for over 20 years, but I've moved a lot and haven't been inside a branch in forever.

I get a helpful young man (my guy was at lunch) who offers to review everything and finally approves my request. I call back Kim, who takes the information and says she will call me back. Now so far, I'm in shock because you know how service employees can be. Your emergency is rarely theirs. But Banker Kim does return a call in about an hour and advises me I can come retrieve my card by 6:00 p.m. Are you kidding me? I immediately jump in my car and make my way there. We won't mention the fact that I have been wearing the same clothes the past 2 days as I slog my way through all of the crap I need to do. She probably thought "this chick is going to France??? she looks like she's homeless".

sigh. returning with my card in my hot little hands, I continue on with the final list of to do's, which includes cleaning my cabin stem to stern because I accepted a last minute booking for Sunday (the day after my departure). shakes head. About midnight, I brew a pot of coffee as I'm getting tired and have only just begun my journey.

I start loading the car. I drag 2 suitcases as big as me and hoist them into the car. I load 2 dog crates. I have the dog tote bag. A tote bag for all of my paperwork. A poster roll with a painting of my daughter's. and my getaway bag. Oops, don't forget 2 dogs and 2 leashes! I do a final stroll through the cabin and feel a little homesick already! (still battling strange emotions, what can I say?).

I am off at 2:00 a.m. It occurs to me that there better be a gas station open in this little po-dunk town. OMG! I left the fill-up for the departure not thinking about this minor detail. But I find one and guess what?! It is cracking busy with every stoner, tweaker and drunky! lol. But I get a full tank and I'm off.

It is a miracle I didn't drive off the road, I was so tired and fighting sleep every mile. Finally, I pulled into a McDonald's for a coke to try and wake up. It is a 2+ hour trip.

I drive to the top level of the parking structure to leave my car as agreed for my hero, Tom, who was handling getting it back to Seaside for me. At this point I realize I have to piss like a racehorse. (whaaa?? its TRUE!).

There are maybe 4 cars atop the structure. And a security car circling and circling. Eyeing me as I scramble to drag 2 bag carts to the car. You know how their wheels really only want you to go straight? try pushing 2 at the same time. At four in the morning. While you have to pee. Like a racehorse. So I unload the 2 suitcases, the 2 dog crates, the totes. And get the leashes on the 2 dogs and try and get them to pee on the asphalt where no previous doggy smells exist. Ain't happening. So I get them in the crates and then load everything precariously teetering and try to push these 2 carts simultaneously so nothing falls off. I start off with the 2 push method. I then switch to the 1 push, 1 pull method. Slightly more efficient. Did I mention that during this whole affair the security car disappears but a police car emerges? and parks about 3 car lengths from me and sits and watches all of this? grrr.

Somehow I manage to maneuver us into an elevator, off of an elevator, and through the terminal to the United First Class line. (yeah, I splurged and used extra miles. trust me, it saved my bacon on this trip). As I am called immediately and ahead of other queuers, I receive the to-be-expected glares from everyone in line. Tough shit, I think, I've paid dearly for this privilege.

As I am edging the carts up and digging for the folder of doggy passports, I have an immediate flash of a sickening realization. I left the carefully frozen doggy water bowls in my freezer in Seaside. I feel tears immediately well up. I'm a poor excuse for a dog mom. My dogs will die of dehydration in flight. They will shudder from fear AND THIRST. I rack my brain and realize there isn't a thing I can do. At 4 in the morning, nothing is open and even if it were ... there would be no portable doggy bowls that attach to the wire doors of a dog crate, let alone time for freezing water. I have failed my pets. There is naught to be done.

I begin the check-in process with the attendant, who is incredibly patient and helpful. She can tell by looking at me that I am already frazzled. She is smiling kindly at this ungodly hour. She sees that I am transporting dogs and doesn't bat an eyelash. She smiles as she verifies their information on the screen. She steps away for a moment and returns with FOUR DOG BOWLS EXACTLY LIKE THE ONES IN MY FREEZER!!! except for the frozen water. My eyes well up. She looks askance? I blubber that I was just agonizing over the fact my dogs would have no water because I left the bowls in the freezer and I was so worried and then here she was with the bowls! She just calmly smiled and said "we always provide them." She hands me some forms to fill out for each dog. Name? When last ate? drank? instructions? They will replenish water as I request! Then she hands me some orange perforated cards. At each step of the journey, I will be presented with one of these cards as confirmation that my dogs are safely stowed. United Airlines is the BOMB!

Then she tells me that it will just be a little extra time because someone is on their way to put some extra holes in the dogs crates. WHAT? She says that international requirements are that the crates are vented on all four sides, not just three as 100% of the crates for sale in pet stores are. She says it is a common problem. Here comes an equally nice woman with a special drill attachment to drill 3 holes the size of a quarter in the rear of each crate. Now, they could just say oh, sorry wrong crate. Or have had attitude for days regarding the inconvenience. But Oh No. United Airlines ROCKS the BOMB-diggity! After papering their crates with big orange stickers "Live Animals" and arrows pointing the right direction for "Up" and tagging them with multiple tags, we are ready to go to bag inspection. I rebuild the cart pyramids and push them slowly to the bag xray line. 3 people rush to beat me. When a fourth and fifth set try the same, I insist I can't keep letting everyone ahead of me. They glare. "Sucks to be you", I thought. At least I don't THINK I said it out loud.

I remove each dog, one at a time. The fellow empties each crate of dog bed, special liner, and t-shirt that smells like mom (at least I got THAT right). He swabs the inside and runs the tests. I am allowed to return the dogs to their crates. He tells me that's it. Someone is on their way for them. I give them a last little lovey-dovey and head for security. I have to stop and buy a big tote for my multiple little totes as they are being vigilant about the 2 bag rule. By now I feel like I've run a marathon. I feel sweaty and sticky and oh, by the way, I still have to PISS LIKE A RACEHORSE!!!!

I have everything reloaded into the new capacious tote bag, I have my security documents out and I decide I have enough time to dash into the women's room. That was my first mistake. As you may remember, I don't have a great track record with travelling and rest rooms. I head into the stall, lock the door, set down my tote and place my passport in its totally fashion-forward Kate Spade lime green leather holder on the toilet paper dispenser. As I'm doing this, I have a conscious recollection of my wallet experience that day long ago in France. I smile to myself and sit down to finally PISS LIKE A RACEHORSE. I am still hot, sweaty and sticky ... but finally I am relieved of this extra burden. I depart to go wash my hands. As I'm washing, I have ANOTHER conscious recollection that I have no recollection of picking up my passport. I rifle through my purse and confirm that yes, I am part of the living dead ... I run back to the stall and there is NO PASSPORT! I run back to my tote bag, emptying it. I empty my purse. I have an out of body experience wherein I observe myself in slow motion, beginning to have a breakdown. I see a restroom attendant and barely stammer out some gibberish ... "passport...stall...just a few seconds...gone!!! WHO DO I ASK????"

She looks at me as if I have 2 heads. "Why did you have your passport on the tissue paper dispenser??" I fight the urge to grab her by her scrawny neck and shake her like a rag doll. "Who??? Where??? HELP???" she shrugs and says,"ask one of those TSA People."

I squeak some sort of ungodly sound; likely one you've heard made just before cardiac arrest. I scramble out to the line just outside the door and beseech a woman on the other side of the railing to keep out unverified, unsearched, un-x-rayed individuals such as myself out. I repeat the same gibberish, feeling my temperature AND blood pressure rise.

"Can we page someone?"

"Call airport police." Points to the white phone.

I grab the phone and dial the code for paging. "The paging office opens at 7:00 a.m."

I slam down the phone and dial Lost & Found. "The lost and found office opens at 7:00 a.m."

I run to the head of the security line and ask the screener if anyone turned in a passport. in a lime green holder. He eyes me. "No, and even if someone tried, we wouldn't accept it."

"What would you do?"

"Send them to Lost & Found".

"But Lost & Found is CLOSED!"

"Call Airport Police."

There is no number on the white phones for Airport Police.Panicked, I see a security official walking through the terminal and I accost him. I incoherently tell him my story. He gives me all of the same advice all the other people have.

"But there is NO number for Airport Police. I'm flying to France in an hour. I have dogs that are already being loaded on the plane." At this point I am half crying, half hysterical. He writes a number on a scrap of paper.

"This is the number for Airport Police."

I dial the number on my cell phone. A woman answers. I recount my story. She sounds incredulous that I could have allowed this to happen. By now, in between each conversation I have had a steady stream of self-castigation going in my head. What kind of idiot, dumb ass who KNOWS HOW SHE IS could have let this happen!?!?

She gives me all of the same advice. I implore her to issue a page in the airport.

"But what would we page?"

"How about, has anyone found a LIME GREEN PASSPORT HOLDER WITH PASSPORT? If so, dial the white courtesy phone???" (Is it really that difficult???)

"We can't do that. Have you gone to the United desk? you should let them know not to load your dogs."

"I can't do that. I HAVE to have my passport back. I HAVE to get on that plane. You HAVE to do something."

"Hold on. I'm going to call our restroom supervisor."

"I already talked to the attendant. She didn't see it."

"Hold on. I'm calling."

Okay at this point, I am BEYOND in a panic. Of course, you know my passport contains my Visa. I'm sick. I keep thinking of the joke about "now don't lose it" that Randall Graves commented when he read I received my Visa.

"Ms. Mancha?"

"Yes", hopeful for good news.

"Restroom supervision hasn't received it yet. Do you have a phone number? Can you give it to me and I'll call you if we find anything."

"Okay." I give her the number, feeling sick and helpless. We hang up. I return to the white courtesy phone and dial paging. Miraculously, someone answers. An old-man sounding someone.

"I need you to do a page. I lost my passport and I need you to page to see if anyone has found it."

"We only page people. I can't do that. What would I say?"

I mean really. Isn't it obvious? "How about has anyone found a LIME GREEN PASSPORT HOLDER WITH PASSPORT? If so, dial the white courtesy phone??"

"I'll have to check with a supervisor. Please hold." Before I can protest, I hear music. My cell phone rings.


"Ms. Mancha? TSA Security has informed me that someone has turned in your passport".

I begin sobbing loudly. "Ms. Mancha, are you okay?"

"Its just that...I'm sorry. I haven't been to bed and it has been a stressful morning (blurted between sobs) and I'm moving to France and I need that passport."

"Well calm down. Go ahead and go through TSA Screening and tell them the supervisor has your passport. Good Luck."

I hang up and turn towards the wall, crying...at least more quietly. I attempt to compose myself and get into line. I have no clue what time it is. Tears continue to flow but at least I'm not crying out loud, for crying out loud. I tell the gentleman about my passport. He asks, "Is that all your upset about? Is there anything else I can help with?" I now return to sobbing out loud. He seemed so genuinely nice. I shake my head. I go unload my tote bag and backpack and shoes and jewelry into all of the baskets and step through the magic machine. No beeping. I retrieve all of my stuff and approach the TSA Counter. There was a group of about 6 people having a meeting (what did I tell you, they are everywhere). Someone walks up on me quickly from behind. "Can I HELP you?", rather intimidatingly. I turn and they see my swollen eyes and wet cheeks. They back off a bit.

Upon hearing my story, they hand me my Lime Green treasure. I sign some papers. I return it to the locked compartment in my purse and trudge toward my gate. I collapse into a seat and exhale. I'm shaking. I'm physically and mentally exhausted, worn out, doubtful and discouraged.

And I haven't even boarded the plane.

Remind you of an I Love Lucy episode? me too. If only I could have done one of her "Waaaaa..aaa..ahhhhhhs", I probably would have felt better. I swear, if any of this would have been on camera, we'd have money in our pockets.

Next episode. J'Arrive.

Yes, there's more.


Cheryl said...

Oh my freakin' goodness!!!! I'm crying while reading this...I wish I could've been there to help send you off...I would've loved helping!! And, I never received the picture albums...hopefully someone I know has them! I love you!! C

Our Juicy Life said...

oh Kim, I'm so sorry you went through this. Sounds like it was a nightmare. I can't wait to hear the next part, like are the dogs ok? Are you ok?

Stacey said...

Holy crap. Please please please don't EVER tell Jon about any of this. We will never travel again. This is what he imagines will happen on every trip.

Clearly YOU made it somehow with at least one limb attached, since you are writing this.

You are a bad, bad woman for leaving us in suspense about Louie and Bruno. OMG.

Expatbrit said...

"Stronger makes you that which kills you does not!" - Yoda Soup For The Chicken Soul

Stephanie said...

You survived - hooray! What i can't believe is the way that people at the airport were reacting - as if this had never happened to anyone else?!
I'm traveling with a toddler, all the way on to the plane so i am going to have to hotglue our passports on to my body or something!

Randal Graves said...

Bloody hell.

Please tell me you had a very stiff drink or twenty when you arrived in France.

Je ne regrette rien said...

C-aw, shucks! the albums are in storage ... my list got too long for the time left. But hopefully we'll get them to you soon. I love you back!

OJL-the best part was the dogs. they are perfectly fine and United was awesome. That which doesn't kill us makes us ... blah blah, ha - crazier than ever, I say!

Stacey-my lips are sealed. Plus it is my lot in life to have experiences like this. no hope for the wicked, I suppose!

EPB-Grave danger I was in. Impatient I was! (smile)

Stephanie-take it one step at a time!

RG-Can you say G&T at 7:30 a.m.? I can!

Utah Savage said...

I held my breath through that whole piece, and now I'm going to go piss like a race horse and have a good cry. I'm so relieved for you. But, for god sake, do the laundry the day before, if there ever is a next time. Please? You scare me. So does your writing. it's that good.

nate b said...

if there was ever a farkle story to be told... it *must* run in the blood, as i can relate all too well.

"It is cracking busy with every stoner, tweaker and drunky!" -- sounds like Seaside!

"I haven't been inside a bank branch in years. " -- this cracked me up for some reason, especially since you WORKED for banks for years. but who goes to bank branches any more?

great story, glad you survived.

Diane said...

I'm almost to ascaird to read the next part..but I will.

Je ne regrette rien said...

U.S.-you are too kind. and yes, next time I will plan ahead more carefully.

Nate-LMAO, I almost included a Farkel reference but I thought it might make people think I'm even more of a bastard than they already do! I guess anything worth having might be worth being tormented for .... hmmm.

D-it gets better, not worse - thank goodness!

La Framéricaine said...


That's why you'll always find me wearing one of those totally dorky Eagle Creek, black, Cordura, hangs around your neck, awake or asleep, travel wallets with every doc on earth in it. Kate Spade, my ass!

Now I will go and take that Valium that I was saving for the next phone conversation with a family member...

Congrats on getting both you and your pooches on the plane, in First Class no less.

Je ne regrette rien said...

Kate Spade needs to add a string, I suppose. Sorry I pushed you to drugs! Yep, I flew so many corporate legs that I had enough miles to treat myself! yay! and after my pre-boarding experience, I needed all the free alcohol I could lay my hands upon!

latelatebloomer said...

oh honey, i just read this and so so so know what ya felt like. thanks for sharing, as it makes me feel like i'm not alone when i do flakey stuff like this. boy, do i have stories. like the time i got stuck in Nice because i forgot that that europe is on military time, not 12 hour clock time.... ekkkk.
just discovered your blog, as i am planning my escape from LA to Paris and am perusing all the fab and helpful blog and yours, my dear, is among the most fab!