Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Not Getting to Guate

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It's a drag not being able to go on a trip you've been looking forward to for months and months.
Our recent trip to Guatemala was nearly snatched away for me by circumstances beyond my feeble control.

My passport went AWOL.

It turns out you CAN replace a lost of stolen passport in very short order, if you are willing to pay an "I'll-never-be-this-careless-again" fee and can afford to hire the entire cast of The Bourne Ultimatum to walk your application through the U.S. State Department.

It also turns out that you should NEVER under any circumstances cancel a flight and then try to rebook it a few days later. Doing so immediately puts you on Darwin's Least Fit List as well as guaranteeing that your security screenings in every airport you visit will be alarmingly personal.

Here's what happened. I booked Julie and myself and three other friends into Las Tarrales, the tropical lodge/finca of our Guatemalan friends, Andy and Monica Burge. We were to head down to Guatemala a few days prior to the Fourth Annual Birdwatching Encounter to relax, unwind, and generally shake off the frost and icicles of this horrible winter.

The day before our departure, I was ready to go and only needed to get my passport, which I always keep in a certain place. It wasn't there. I looked everywhere. Nothing.

I reported it lost. Gave up the trip in despair, sent Julie on her way and wrestled with a Matterhorn of disappointment at missing the trip and at myself for being so careless. For my entire life I've never been someone who has lost things. In fact, I'm the one in my family that gets asked to find things others have lost.

So, no tropical vacation. And no seeing my Guatemalan pals. No celebrating my birthday in Guate. No raising my binocs to fill them with aracaris.

Of course, the kids were thrilled that I was going to be home for a few more days. Julie and I were to have left Guatemala before the Encounter was over, on March 6, to attend a birding festival in Kearney, Nebraska. The plan now was for me to meet Julie in Columbus upon her return from Guatemala, in time to fly to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Rumination. No passport, no tropical vacation. To top it of I was in the middle of a horrible chest cold. Probably best just to stay home and heal up and slow down and accept my fate like a big boy.

Then again, I love a logistical challenge.

So, I decided to see if I could go. Could I get a replacement passport in time to meet Julie and everyone for the start of the Encounter? Yes.

Everything quickly fell into place--or so I thought. Canceling the plane ticket and then re-booking it seemed easy. The woman at the airline's 800 number made it seem like no big deal to re-book. It wasn't. The airline (which shall remain unnamed pending the settlement of my refund request) ended up canceling the Nebraska leg of my trip arbitrarily. This resulted in twin sets of hassled begging at the ticket counters in Columbus and Lincoln. One was successful, one failed and in order to return home to Ohio on time this past Sunday, I had to buy another ticket. One way. Last minute. As they say in Guatemala: ¡Muy expensivo!

But that's a story for another day. Back to (not) Getting to Guatemala.

It was the chance to surprise Julie and my friends in Guatemala City that got me psyched. So I did everything necessary to fly south. Ordered my passport, re-booked ticket, hotel reservation in Columbus, got a ride to the airport from my dad.

The last thing I did before leaving home was e-mail Julie:

The kids are in at my folks' house. It's snowing again here. It's going to be a quiet night at home. Hope you're having fun!

The stage was set. Now I needed the passport delivery gods, the airline gods, the weather gods and the lords of logistics to smooth my path in order to spring the surprise.

Tomorrow: putting actual hands on actual passport.


On March 11, 2008 at 10:35 PM Anonymous said...

More pictures please...

On March 11, 2008 at 10:51 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Anon: Tomorrow I will overwhelm you with photos.

On March 11, 2008 at 11:30 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

Ah, babe. It's almost as painful to read it as it was to live it. Leaving without you was the pits.

On March 12, 2008 at 6:40 AM Jayne said...

You are so determined and creative Bill. Can't wait to hear how this turned out!

On March 12, 2008 at 8:12 AM Mary said...

Ahhhhhh! How long do I have to wait? Your story is like a bad dream and now I'm anticipating the happy ending.

On March 12, 2008 at 10:53 AM Danielle said...

I'm also eagerly awaiting the conclusion! I had some mega-airline hassles myself recently: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/mahlu002/oneday/2008/02/boycott_air_travel.html and http://blog.lib.umn.edu/mahlu002/oneday/2008/02/boycott_air_travel_part_ii.html. As you can see by my post titles, I'm ready to throw in the towel with flying, but I suppose that would make getting to Guatemala just a wee bit more difficult...

On March 12, 2008 at 11:18 AM Mel said...

Want to read the end of the story! (I wish for a happy ending!)
¡¡¡Buena suerte!!!

On March 12, 2008 at 12:10 PM Patrick Belardo said...

I'm still reeling from not getting to meet you, Zick, and all the others. Long stort. There's always next year I guess. I had passport problems myself earlier this year. I happened to look at mine and noticed that all the ink on the main info page was splotchy - or was it mold? It must have gotten damp in Costa Rica last year. I had to pay the full price of a new passport to get a replacement - $130 or so. Luckily, I noticed in January and not the day before a trip.

On March 12, 2008 at 12:32 PM Rondeau Ric said...

I feel like I'm a kid again at the Saturday matinee waiting for the next installment of the cliff hanging serial that wasp playing.

Be careful or you will end up on a no fly list, then you will have to settle for Rondeau.