This was not the greeting I expected as my husband and I checked in at the
Charleston airport for a long awaited trip to St. Lucia. “I’m
not going to be able to issue your boarding passes because your passports
expire in less than 90 days.”
“But we’re only going for a week. We’ll still have more than two months remaining on them when we return,” I said.
We insisted; we cajoled; we pleaded. The plane left without us.
“I can’t imagine being more disappointed than I am right now,” I said as we sat in the café fuming. I’d spent months securing a writing gig at a luxurious hotel and arranging for complicated family responsibilities. We had just finished 11 days of hosting over 20 family members during which the image of the St. Lucian hotel room, perched on a mountainside overlooking the ocean and twin peaks, had sustained me. We had to fix it. Even though it was barely 7 AM, we began making frantic phone calls: trip insurance (no claim for this), the
St. Lucia hotel, passport offices,
the governor’s office (they’d help but it would take a few days) and American
Airlines (they’d had our passport expiration dates since I’d booked the tickets
|The room we never saw.|
This was not our first misadventure. Twice we’d booked hotel rooms in far-flung places and bailed when we got there. The remote beach and rocky shore in the
Cayman Islands was unsuitable for our family with young
children. It only took one look at the
garbage-strewn shore and dirty water in the Dominican Republic for us to rent a
car and drive elsewhere. It had even happened closer to home at a chain hotel during
the Savannah Jazz Festival. The room reeked
of cigarettes so we complained to the manager who said, “If you think that room smells bad, you should come to my house. It’s much worse.” Uh, no thanks.
Mention misadventures and everyone has a story. Two people told of missing trips abroad because their passports had too many stamps in them. Not enough empty pages! One of them was trying to leave on an expensive African safari he’d bought in a charity auction and lost thousands of dollars.
The worst misadventures involve the police. We were stopped by two policemen in the
who showed us their radar gun indicating we’d been driving 2 miles over the
speed limit. It was a shake-down. We gave them enough cash to buy themselves a
nice lunch and drove off. Our friend Jay
wasn’t as lucky in New Orleans
when a driver cut in front of him and his wife as they jogged across the
street. “What are you doing man? You almost hit us!” he yelled as he swatted
at the driver through an open window.
“I’m arresting you for assault, that’s what,” said the policeman in the
unmarked car. Instead of a weekend at
the Jazz and Heritage Festival, he stewed in jail awaiting bail.
Some misadventures require the police. My widely travelled friends Steve and Laurie only found out afterwards that their cruise ship on the
Nile had been fired upon by
bandits from the shore while they slept. My friend Randy tells about taking a
cab from La Guardia with an extremely agitated driver who continuously yelled
into a cell phone while obsessively clawing with a back scratcher and repeatedly
stopping in the middle of the expressway.
She dialed 911, poised to hit “send”.
Her son said later, “Sounds like a meth addict”.
Often misadventures end well. My friend Ed recounts, “We took a red-eye and landed at
Schiphol airport early in the morning. Our brains were half-asleep. Before we got out of the airport, I went to a
money-changing kiosk to cash in dollars for Euros to rent a lovely apartment
in Anne Frank's neighborhood.” He exchanged $1300 and took a cab across town to
pay the landlord but discovered that he only had the equivalent of $650. “I
took a cab back to the airport, talked my way through security, and got to the
kiosk. I told the lady that I was a total idiot, but that I had walked away
without checking my money. ‘I never make mistakes,’ she said, ‘but I will count
today's cash.’ In another minute, the supervisor appeared with $650 in Euros.
I instantly fell in love with the Dutch people.”
|At Copamarina Resort in Guanica, Puerto Rico|
Charleston I was very discouraged. “I have bathing suits and flip flops in my
suitcase. We are not going home. We’re going somewhere warm! Today!” I insisted.
On the phone with American Airlines my husband asked the essential
question, “Where can we exchange these tickets to go today that’s warm and
doesn’t require a passport?” Within 24
hours we were wading in the Caribbean in Puerto Rico.
“We fixed it.” I sighed.
It had paid to be flexible and proved once again that the difference
between a trip and an adventure is when things don’t go as planned.
Check document requirements and find help abroad here: www.travel.state.gov