So, as promised, this blog post to to tell everyone what the heck happened when we tried to leave the country. I can tell you what happened, but I still don’t really understand how it happened!
Monday was lovely to start with. We got up and had breakfast at Drexel’s with the family. Waved goodbye to Mum and Dad (had a little cry), then hung out with Auntie Hannah and packed and weighed suitcases in the hotel room.
Nice and early we headed to the airport, as Auntie Hannah’s flight was a few hours before ours. We waved her off to her plane and turned around to the counter to this question
“Do you have a current American passport for your daughter?”
Pardon me? What? The ticket lady hands us the passport, and sure enough, it’s her baby passport which expired in 2012. Shawn and I look at each other slightly panicked. We can both remember the evening a few days ago when we very carefully put the passports into the bag. The woman is telling us to check all our bags and pockets, but I know absolutely certainly that there is no other place that I would have put any passports in our luggage.
Of course, I knew up until a minute ago with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t be trying to get on an international flight with an expired passport for my daughter, so that didn’t feel terribly reliable all of a sudden!
All we can think of is the expired passports which we’ve kept in a box full of concert tickets, wedding invitations, kids drawings – our memory box. This is currently in our shed, under who even knows what, half an hours drive up the coast. I run out of the airport with Zoe and jump into a cab that was just dropping someone off. Shawn stays with the bags and the boy to try and figure out what to do about flights.
Suddenly any tiny jokes we made about everyone in the family being able to move except me because I don’t have a visa come back to bite us in the butt as Zoe takes a little convincing in the cab that we won’t leave without her! The box of chocolates that I was going to drop in a friends postbox for my lovely lunch people helps amazing well (Sorry Rach, Tasch and Vivian!).
When we finally make it home Zoe and I tear out of the cab, throw great piles of things out of the shed – mattresses, boxes, a chair, a microwave, cleaning things – and I clamber over everything to the very back of the room and HEAVE the memory box outside. We then just upend it onto the ground and start piling things back into the box one by one. I can remember taking the old expired NZ passports and cutting off the corners and putting them in the box and I’m slightly terrified I might find the current US passport with the corner cut off!
We find 5 passports, with the corners cut off. Luckily they are all actually expired, but still no US passport! After going through the box twice we have no more options. Shawn has talked to the US embassy by now and organised to see them tomorrow as we really can’t find it, but we still have to make our new flight to Auckland (with international flights postponed to the next evening). So we pile everything back into the shed, probably ruining the beautifully careful packing we did the day before and definitely putting numerous holes into the plastic bags we bought to protect the two single mattresses, making all our previous care with them pointless. Nothing gained except an array of impressive bruises in a range of beautiful colours and 5 expired passports, which I’m not letting out of my sight right now!
We get back to the airport and get our new flight to Auckland and check into the hotel Shawn booked while I was taking incredibly expensive cab rides for kicks. We are totally wired and exhausted. After an unthrilling and expensive hotel bar dinner, our kids try to go to sleep while Shawn tries to rebook flights, hotels in LA, car rentals when we arrive – all in the same room. Funnily enough we don’t get much sleep.
We head to the embassy nice and early. Everyone is really kind. They ask for the expired passport to help look up our information and discover………
We never renewed it.
There is no current passport.
On the one hand – this is a great relief to me. I’ve always thought we were very careful with passports and we take pains to not loose them, and obviously that is working. On the other hand – we didn’t renew the passport! This was top of our list 6 months ago! How did we miss it! How did we not notice when we packed them up for the flights a few days ago?! I still don’t quite know.
Still, everyone is delightful. They replace the passport really quickly and without a particularly high price (I even asked about a stupidity fee) they even tell us how we can get the emergency passport converted to a real passport at no extra cost. They reassure us that this isn’t that funny or impressive and say we’d have to work much harder to make them laugh at us – we promise to be more ridiculous next time.
We even finish early enough that we can go and spend the day at Butterfly Creek. We all nearly fall asleep in the nice warm butterfly room now that the panic is somewhat abated. Finally, we make our flights, they let us on with our beautiful new emergency passport and we’re off.
All in all, we were very lucky. Air NZ and Southwest both very kindly moved our flights without extra charges. We were able to just pick up the car a day later. We did have to pay for extra hotels, and just eat the cost of the original night in LA, and pay for ridiculous taxi rides in Wellington and Auckland, but that is apparently the cost of just completely forgetting to renew a passport.
As a wonderful postscript to the saga of the expired passports, I moved them all to my checked suitcase in LA, thinking that we no longer needed to worry about them. Then, sitting on the tarmac in the plane, someone calls my name and brings me 4 of the 5 passports (which had been together) on the plane. They had fallen out of my suitcase. It’s a lovely feeling flying for 3 hours knowing that your suitcase is obviously open and loosing things. We got to Denver and found that the zip was open 3/4 of the way! Since then I’ve had time to repack everything and even found expired passport #5, and nothing else seems to be missing at all – but for a while there it seemed our passport adventures would never be over.