Yes I know, it is the one thing you should guard with your life when you travel, and yes I have been travelling for more than 5 years at the time and yes I am also surprised that it happened to me and yes…..blah blah blah.
This was the day when I realised I can also turn into a moron every now and then. I was travelling in Egypt on business. I stayed in a hotel close to the Cairo airport, which had a shuttle transporting guests to and from the airport, very convenient.
I was on my way to the airport, excited to get home, after a very long week of traffic, haggling, sand and 9 million people. On the way to the airport I always check my travel documents; passport, airplane ticket etc. Then I phone the wife to say I am finally heading home.
Arrived three hours before departure, greeted the driver and walked through the terminal doors, eager to get out of the pressing heat. Once inside, a threatening man asked to see my passport, which I confidently attempted to retrieve from my travel bag. Only one small problem: The friggin’ thing wasn’t there!
The horror. The shock. The disbelief. I rummaged through my luggage, to the point of turning the suitcase bottoms up, desperately searching for the little green book. I have heard stories of people turning white when in shock. This is true. Upon realising my passport was missing, the blood drained from my face, turning my tanned skin into the colour of snow. I felt slightly nauseous. My heart stopped beating and I had clammy hands, instantly. At that point I didn’t fully appreciate the amazing effects of adrenaline.
After a few seconds and a million thoughts, I realised where I left the passport; in the damn shuttle. Through panic and heart palpitations and some heavy breathing I remembered that there was an information desk in the terminal building. I had to get the number of the hotel to confirm my suspicion. (I chucked my reservation after I checked in.)
The thing about information desks…The availability of information is directly proportional to the person working at the desk and his willingness to help. In my case there was no availibility of information. Nothing. Nada. zilch. Idiot was on the phone and probably faked the conversation out of fear of having to deal with an anxious looking, pale-faced, raving lunatic.
To cut a long story very short, one of the friendlier security guards assisted me (out of pity) and he got hold of the hotel concierge. They confirmed that they found the passport and have instructed the driver to return to the airport. I should wait outside. Some relief, but I still didn’t have the passport in my hands. (Looking back I think I must have scared some people in the airport building)
There are two types of waiting. One is just waiting, and in this version you just wait for time to run out. Like waiting for a bus or train or plane, with all the documents ready. You are where you need to be. The other version I call anxious waiting, and this is a totally different ball game. Time becomes a precious commodity. I knew that the shuttle would need at least 15 minutes to get back to the airport. In the anxious form of waiting 10 minutes is equal to a trip to the Moon.
I did everything poster boys for anxiety would do. I chewed all twenty of my nails, yes toes too, I smoked at least 10 cigarettes, (pretty good for a non-smoker) and walked 7 km up and down in a space of 24 metres. Seconds felt like years and I was convinced the Egyptian revolution would be over by the time I get my passport back.
I was ecstatic every time I saw a bus on the horizon, but Murphy is a permanent resident in my house. Just before the apocalypse struck, I received a phone call from a guy speaking very poor English. The driver. He was asking where I was. I told him I was waiting outside as per instruction. He said I was not. I said I was. He said he was standing outside the car and I’m not there. I again re-iterated, annoyingly, that I was. He said he’s walking to the door of departure and…
It dawned on me. When I was looking for the information counter I went down a flight of stairs and I have been waiting for the shuttle at…Arrivals. Me. Moron.
Then I turned into Neo from the Matrix, as time slowed down all around me. I sprinted up the stairs, bumped into 17 people, got the passport, thanked the driver, rushed through security, check-in, security, customs, security and only breathed again when the plane lifted of the runway. Neo made it with no time to spare.
There is no medicine for stupidity.