by John Delach
In my time as an active business traveler, I have suffered through self-inflicted difficulties due to my inability to concentrate on properly preparing for my trips. I flew hundreds of times from 1974 to 2000 and it was always a crap shoot that everything was in order. Most of the time it was, but when things went wrong, I developed a knack for overcoming my mistakes and never missing a flight. Here are two examples that involved my passports:
Mary Ann’s Passport
It is 1980, I am waiting in line to check in at British Airways JFK terminal on a Saturday morning. My flight, BA 178 to London doesn’t leave until 10 AM, but I am here two hours early to calm my flying anxieties.
I am as relaxed as possible as I wait on a short check-in line. I extract my travel documents for the agent to examine when I notice I am about to hand her a blue Bicentennial passport. My panic alarm ignites. I don’t have a blue Bicentennial passport! I have a plain old green passport. Mary Ann has a blue Bicentennial passport! “Oh shit, here I am at JFK with my wife’s passport.”
Upon reaching the counter, I tell the agent, “I have my wife’s passport. May I use your telephone?
Fortunately, Mary Ann is at home and answers my call. I don’t remember what expletive I used. Mary Ann agrees to drive to JFK and deliver my passport. The BA Agent lets me check-in, but sets my luggage aside until I had the right passport. She warns me: “I want you to know that I cannot hold the flight.”
“Understood, but I believe my wife will make it in time.”
Somehow, I pass the time. After 9:30, I begin to worry, but there on the approach road to the terminal at 9:45, I spot our baby blue Ford Escort. Mary Ann has made it! We trade passports, I kiss her, say, “thank you, I love you.” As I turn away, I hear her parting remark, “You owe me,” I sprint back to the BA counter, passport in hand.
In the old days, lack of proper ID was not always a deal breaker. Witness my adventure on a business trip on Eastern Airlines in 1982. Granted, I had two measures of VIP status with Eastern. First off, I was a member of their Ionosphere Club their private lounge where I checked in whenever possible. More importantly, I was a member of Eastern’s Executive Traveler group, one of the first frequent flyer clubs when they really mattered.
I knew Miss Jacobs, the receptionist at the Ionosphere Club at Eastern’s JFK Terminal since I regularly fly to Bermuda on Flight 807, Eastern’s morning flight.
She asks, “What form of ID are you using today?
Once again, that sinking feeling. I reply, “I have forgotten my passport.”
She tries to give me a break by asking if I have my voter registration card?
“All I have is my driver’s license and my Marsh & McLennan ID.”
“Do you think they will be enough to get you into Bermuda?
“I think so, My company has an office in Hamilton, and I believe the authorities will recognize that.”
“Okay,” she replied.
So far so good. Still, I have to get my story straight so I can make the case that my excuse is legitimate, and the immigration agent will buy it. I use the flight to perfect my story and calm my nerves.
Luggage and Bermuda forms in hand, I bravely approach the agent. I pass them to him together with my Marsh photo ID. He looks at my submission, picks up the ID and shows it to me without comment putting the ball in my court.
“I’m terribly sorry, but I left home this morning without my passport or any other form of identification. If you need proof of who I am, my firm has an office in Hamilton. Please feel free to call them and ask for Fiona Luck, our head of office. She will confirm who I am.”
The agent gives me a curious look that says that he knows who Fiona is and clears me to go.
My return is even easier as nobody could ever think I’m not an American. The US Customs Agent stationed in Bermuda basically let me slide through, but with this admonition: “You know, Mr. Delach, that sooner or later, if you continue to subvert the rules, some SOB will really break your balls and give you a shit load of misery! Repent, my brother, repent.”
I simply nodded to him as I walked away knowing his advice was bang on.
Still, that didn’t prevent me from ordering a bloody Mary at the departure lounge bar in celebration of my successful coup.