Su Lum: Slumming
November 3, 2009
My friend Hilary Burgess had talked her way into a back entrance of the boarding area of our cruise ship and was hustling me along through security to the check-in counter. “Get out your driver’s license and your passport.”
I had my license in my hand and began pawing through the two-pocket hip pack she had loaned to me for the trip. I knew I had my passport – it had been sitting on my kitchen table for a month and had been crossed off the list – but, sinking sick feeling, it wasn’t in the little pack.
By this time we were at the counter, Hilary laid out our papers and I told the man I must have packed my passport in my bag, which was currently on its way into the bowels of the ship along with the luggage of the 1,800 passengers.
“You cannot board without a passport,” the man said flatly.
We dashed back outside and began hunting through the mass of suitcases still in the process of being loaded onto the boat. The head baggage man (Marty) noticed our distress, just as the guy who had taken our bags came by and said he remembered us and that our bags were already on the ship and rushed to get them (HUGE room, HUNDREDS of bags) and emerged with Hilary’s backpack, both of our suitcases and my Sequal oxygen concentrator which I wouldn’t need until the trip back.
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Hilary and I were down on our hands and knees ripping through everything (her pack alone has at least fifty pockets) just as it began to pour rain.
Marty was advising us throughout. “Whatever they told you, they WANT you on this cruise. Is there anyone you can call to fax them your birth certificate?”
Hilary got on her cell phone to call our friend Jack, who was staying at my house taking care of the dachshunds and who, lucky day, answered. I told him where the key to my firebox was and gave him the fax number. I had a sudden flash and asked him to check the little khaki bag hanging on a kitchen chair.
Jack’s last words to us as he drove us to the airport had been, “As long as you have your credit cards, your tickets and your passports, you’ll be fine.” The passport was in the small bag in my kitchen. When I realized that bag wasn’t big enough and transferred everything into Hilary’s little pack, I had missed the passport.
Marty herded me back through security to the waiting room. “Sit right there,” he told me, “and DON’T MOVE.” I, feeling like the most stupid jackass ever born on the planet, sat.
My old birth certificate is barely readable, black with white letters, and the fax came through a blur. Jack ran up to Mayor Mick’s place and got him to scan it and e-mail it.
Hilary found out that the scan had been received but was dubious – they were working on it. This was our last chance and it was hard to make small talk while we waited, waited. In all, two and a half hours that seemed forever.
I have had a lot of luck in my life, and the sight of the woman with a huge smile on her face waving my birth certificate (now reversed, white with black lettering, barely legible but it would do) was one of those moments. We hugged, we cried, we boarded.
When we disembarked, I presented the copy to the customs officer who said, “What do we have here?” but decided that since they had let me on the boat he’d let me off it.
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