When you’re generally a pretty organized person who usually puts things back in the same place each time and the night before your flight to Israel, Saturday night, you check your drawer for your passport and it’s not there, you’d be excused for freaking out. Which is what I did.
My next step was to irrationally search the same places over and over. Next, I spent a minute deep breathing, during which I remembered that I applied for a new passport months ago ... but it never came. After which was the right time for some severe blame (see my piece on perfectionism) for forgetting, not following up and assuming applying was all I needed to do before mentally checking the item off my list.
I may even have called myself mean names in my head for being human, including, but not limited to, “idiot,” “moron,” “flake” and “loser.” I had to message my boss to let her know “there was a small problem with my passport” because 184 women from across the U.S. and Canada were going to be waiting for me in Israel to lead their trip and I could hardly be MIA due to a stupid oversight.
My boss was great. We moved some things around with plans to get to the New York passport agency as soon as it opened Monday morning. My new flight was Monday at 7:50 p.m., landing in Israel at 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday. The trip started on Tuesday at 5 p.m. I told the minimum number of people about the “small issue” and here’s what I learned:
First, I have a lot of fellow flakes because nearly everyone had a terrifying passport story. Second, the passport office opens at 7:30 a.m., but the line forms before 5 (I think some people sleep there). Third and most important, there is no food allowed in the passport agency.
Sunday night found me in New York with not much to do (other than get to bed early to arrive at the office predawn) when I got a call from my Brooklyn-based brother. My niece was announcing her engagement that evening. Would I be able to come to an impromptu celebration? And come I did, only because of my passport snafu. It was truly a treat to be a part of that and I had to wonder at the string of events that made it possible.
I headed back to Manhattan where I was staying with a friend. We got up at 4:30 a.m., and arrived at the agency at 5. There were 23 people in line before us. I got in at 7:45 (I think they felt sorry for me when they asked when my flight was and I said, “tonight”). The guy behind the counter maintained his composure but looked pretty confused at my flakiness. Nevertheless, he processed my papers and told me everything would be OK and to come back in a couple hours.
I went out for sushi (thanks kosher GPS app) and came back. Still not ready. I checked in at noon. Not ready. I checked in at one. Not ready. I reminded them that I had a flight that night. Yes, they knew. I practiced my deep breathing and checked in at 1:30 p.m. Not ready. I had to leave for the airport at 3:30. Did they know? Yes, they knew.
Dale Carnegie said there is nothing sweeter to a person’s ear than the sound of their own name. I can verify this is true. At 2:03 I heard that sweet sound and the woman behind the counter, who now recognized me, handed me my absolutely most beautiful passport. I would have hugged her if not for the security glass.
I raced back to my friend’s apartment on the Upper West Side, quickly showered and changed, ate some dinner – still recovering from the no food rule – and hightailed it out of there to JFK. I arrived at the airport three hours before my flight and resumed normal breathing.
Apparently, I needed to be in New York for my niece. And apparently, I was meant to have a high dose of stress. And apparently, I need to be a little more on top of the situation in the future and never, ever, let that happen again. And I decided that I am neither a flake nor a loser. I am simply human.