A couple of things drive me into a mental state of complete anger and anxiety: getting lost, George W Bush, religious crazies, and losing important travel documents.
Let’s examine that last one a bit more shall we?
But first a little background.
So I’m on a business trip in Germany. I’m out with some colleagues having a nice dinner, then a few drinks, and then we go to a place called “the Cave” which is a tiny bar in what looks like a wine cellar with a cute little dance floor and a bartender/DJ with a love of the 80’s and early 90’s.
We’re all having a good time and yours truly decides to go back to his hotel at a respectable 1:00am. It’s a nice cool fall night in Heidelberg as I walk by the cathedral (a feature of most European towns that is sadly missing in most American ones). I get to the hotel, right next to the quaint “Old Bridge”, put my keycard in the door, a procedure that the owner of the hotel assured me would be sufficient to gain access to the hotel after the receptionist has left, and, of course, all it does it beep insultingly back at me instead of unlocking the freaking door.
A bit pissed, I call the hotel (their number is luckily printed on their stationery taped to the door). Naturally, there is no answer. And there is no answering machine. It just rings. And rings. And I stand there, and listen to the rings.
I briefly consider plowing into the door with my shoulder or scaling it like Spider-Man, but discard both options as too likely to either get me in trouble or make me die.
What to do? Know anyone I can call in Heidelberg at 1am to crash at their place?
Yes actually, two people. Both cell phones straight to voicemail.
Think damn you! You have two college degrees for God’s sake!
I stand there getting cold for a bit, then head back to the Cave. I explain my dilemma to Olaf, my boss. Olaf, saint that he is, says “No problem, you stay with me.” Really? Awesome. Thanks Olaf. What a cool boss. So then we dance for another hour and all go home. I get to bed late, get up early, and get a ride back to my hotel. A quick shower, throw my stuff in my suitcase, and I’m out the door to get to the train station for my train to Frankfurt for the Book Fair.
Fast forward three days.
It’s my last day of the book fair. I am packing all my stuff up because (as usual) I’m running late and need to check out and get to the booth. Where’s my passport? I look everywhere. It’s nowhere. What? WTF? I always keep it in the same place, it should be there. Only it’s not.
I take everything out of my suitcase and go through it. It’s not there. Then my computer bag. Same thing. Okay, now I’m starting to get a little nervous. I’m supposed to be on a plane at 5pm, that’s nine hours away. What the hell am I going to do?
Calls to the hotel in Heidelberg (who so graciously happen to be working at this time of day, fuckers) reveal that I didn’t leave it there. I might have left it at Olaf’s, but there’s no one home for a few more days, so I can’t check. Damn. I really need to be more organized.
What next? I could ditch the book fair, train it back to Heidelberg, taxi to Olaf’s check if it’s there, then somehow get back to Frankfurt, give Olaf back his keys, and get to the airport. Hmm. With all my stuff? And what if it’s not there? Bad plan.
Next plan. I show up without a passport but with a really good story about how the small family-run German hotels are pieces of crap and lie to you about your key opening the door late at night. Hmm. Probably won’t get the sympathy vote. Bad plan.
Next plan. Obviously, I need a new passport. Where would one get a new passport? American embassy. Where’s that? Usually they’re in the capitals. Damn, that’s Berlin. But Frankfurt’s a big city, they might have a consulate or something. Damn, why is it so damn hard to pull up web pages on a BlackBerry? And why do all Government web sites look the same and never have the info you want– ah there it is.
There is a consulate in Frankfurt. Yay! But it’s out in the suburbs? WTF? Grrrr. The consulate does have an emergency passport replacement capability. Yay! But you have to get there before 11:30am. Grrrrr.
Well, at least I have a plan of action.
I get to the Fair with all my stuff. Drop it all off. I have one meeting at 9:30am with some members of an Italian consortium. I consider ditching it, but it’s my only meeting all day and I don’t want word to get to my boss that I didn’t do my part to help the Sales people. I go to the meeting. I wait. The Italians are late. A guy from our company comes in and says, “They are going to be another hour at least, they just got to the main train station.”
I’m running through the halls of the Frankfurt Book Fair trying to get to a cab. Damn. Why are these halls never ending and filled with people just strolling along picking free shit up from every stand. What do they think this is!?
Okay, taxi acquired. Feel better. Just have to get to the embassy. I look at my watch the whole way. I get there at 10:49. Sweet. This is going to work.
The fucker behind the three feet of bomb-proof glass tells me I can’t bring my laptop in the embassy. He also tells me that there is no place for me to leave my bag. What!? I have to run down the street about half a mile and there’s a convenience store whre they have lockers.
I’m back. Soaked in sweat. The security guards, who are all Americans enjoying the sweet life of a Government employee overseas, take their sweet time getting me through the ridiculously tight security (actually, it’s not ridiculous but probably necessary considering how hated we are, which is a shame. Thank you George W. Bush, you fucker).
I FINALLY get to the building where I get my number to see a representative of the US State Department who (after waiting a half hour) I tell my story to: “Lost passport. Flying out tonight. Need replacement.”
It’s surprisingly easy to get a replacement passport, you just fill out two forms and say “I swear” when he asks you if you’re telling the truth. The only tense part was when he looks at his watch and says, “Oh, you better get to Desk 14 to do your payment before they close.” Because, apparently, Desk 14 is the only desk in this whole damn place who can process payments and apparently it’s too much fucking work to do it past 12:30pm. I walk up to Desk 14 and it’s empty.
I am about to become a human nuclear bomb in the middle of my own consulate… when the guy walks in.
“You just caught me.”
Actually, you just narrowly escaped being fried to death in an explosion of a human nuclear bomb and you owe me your life… but whatever.
Pay. Wait. Half an hour later. New passport.
My new passport is really thin. It’s like five pages. “It’s just temporary, you have to get a full replacement back in the states,” the representative of the US State Department tells me.
Whatever. As long as they let me on the plane.
My new passport, besides being ridiculously thin, is also ridiculously new and shiny. My old passport was broken in and beat up and even had extra pages put in it because I ran out of pages to put stamps.
Anyway, the taxi ride back to the Book Fair is considerably less stressful. I walk back to Springer’s ridiculously large booth (spanning three aisles – most booths are half of one aisle). Heather asks me, “So did you get a new passport?”
I look at her nonchalantly.