I stand before you today, deeply humbled. Let me set the scene and you’ll quickly understand why…
Friday evening had been planned for many weeks. It was the night my wife Heidi, son Augustine, and I were traveling to London. Heidi’s sister lives in London and we were going to spend the weekend with her and her husband. I would then return to Los Angeles for one more week of work while Heidi and Augustine would continue to Germany.
We were booked on United—the same flight Augustine experienced his first flight on. The plan was simple: I leave the office at 1:00PM, we have lunch and leave at 2:30PM, arrive about 3:30PM and relax in the lounge until boarding at 4:30PM.
Packing took longer than anticipated and we were not out the door until around 3:20PM. I like being early to everything and it stressed me out that we did not leave on-time. Traffic can be unpredictable on a Friday afternoon. Brutal sometimes…I quickly loaded up the car, put Augustine in his car seat, and asked Heidi, “Do you have your passport and Augustine’s passport?”
“Of course,” she said.
We took off and traffic was bad. It took an hour to go 21 miles, but we arrived at 4:20PM, parked in short-term parking since I would be back on Sunday night, and started unloading the car.
It was there I made the fateful discovery.
Heidi had her passport. Augustine had his. But I didn’t have mine. In my haste to get out to the house, I left my carry-on bag on our bed. I did not have my passport, computer, toiletries, change of clothes, or anything at all…
My heart sank, then sank deeper as I looked at my watch. It was too late. There was no possible way, short of helicoptering it from my house, that someone could bring it to me in time. I almost cried. Heidi could have yelled at me or rightfully called me an idiot. Instead, she just hugged me.
The primary objective of my presence on the trip was to help Heidi with Augustine on the transatlantic flight. He’s no longer an innocent little infant. Now’s he a precocious two-year old who does not like to sit still. Walled in with me on one side and Heidi on the other, we thought the journey would better than Heidi traveling alone.
But the plan failed. I was the idiot who forgot my passport.
I ushered them through security then kissed them goodbye: boarding had already begun.
Now I had a choice to make. Do I just go home or do I find a way to get to London, knowing that I still had to fly back Sunday afternoon?
I started thinking about how else I could get there. I knew American, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways had evening flights. I figured only the 9:05PM British Airways flight would have award space, and it turned out I was exactly correct. At that late hour, space was only available in economy class, though that was least of my concerns at this point. If anything, economy class on BA was appropriate penitence for the mistake I made.
But if the point of the trip was to escort my wife and son, was I really going to fly to London just for an evening and morning with my sister-in-law and her family?
Yes. Yes, indeed.
Maybe partly of it was out of embarrassment, partly out pride, but I was not going to be left behind. I could not believe the travel expert had become the travel fool. Then again, this was not the first time I left something important at home.
Although it pained me to drop 25,000 Avios plus $203 on a coach ticket on British Airways, I wanted to fly nonstop and I wanted to depart asap. The website would not let me book for same-day travel because it was after midnight GMT. With minutes to spare before the Executive Club office closed, I phoned British Airways and secured the ticket.
Meanwhile, my passport arrived around 6:00PM thanks to my gracious and ever-generous parents, who wasted half their evening on my stupid mistake.
There was drama on the British Airways flight…stay tuned for that. But I’ll say this now. My BA flight ended up departing late, arriving very late into Heathrow, I got stuck for 90-minutes in the passport control queue, and did not reach my family until after 8:00PM. Some weekend indeed.
But I am thankful. That has to be my takeaway. Thankful for an understanding wife. Thankful for gracious parents. And thankful that I never feared that I could not get to London…I think that would be the first thought that crossed the minds of most people. I even knew which flight would have award space before looking. I’m deeply thankful for the ability that miles and points provide to make or change last-minute travel plans.
I cannot help but to feel it was also so unnecessary. I’ve put a small, round green sticker on my dashboard. It will serve as a permanent reminder—and memorial—to always travel with my passport.