I have never lost my passport. I lose money, credit cards, DVDs, books, CDs, diaries, wallets, but never, ever, my passport.
Monday night, I was putting final touches on a public talk that I was delivering in Singapore on Tuesday evening.
I was flying out at 3:30pm the next day with a buddy, who was trying to get some head space.
My flight would leave at 3:30pm. I could pack in the morning in peace, and then meet my mate at the airport with enough time for a drink and some duty-free.
As these scenarios moved through my mind, my wife shouted out from the bedroom, “Where is your passport?”
“In the Donny Brasco draw, like always,” I replied.
I was always intrigued with Lefty’s, (Al Pacino), dresser draw.
After a life-time of work, (in the Mafia), he had nothing to show for it except prostrate cancer and a dresser draw where he leaves his Rolex before going out to be executed.
“It’s not here, it must have fallen behind,” she said, that was at 10pm.
We searched everywhere; nothing was left unturned. I found things that were lost for years, but no passport.
By 3am desperation had set in. My wife attempted optimism, “Don’t worry we’ll find it. Ring DFAT see what you can do, in case.”
A passport is the only thing one really needs. People get killed over a passport and you’d rather have an Australian passport, than say an Iranian one.
Really, the globe knows little about us and likes us enough not to deny us access.
I rang the Department Foreign Affairs and Trade’s emergency number and was told, “You’re best solution is to find it but if not, go to the DFAT offices at 8:30am and explain your situation.”
“Don’t get angry at them, please…,” my wife warned me.
I was at the DFAT offices at 8:30am.
“This is an awkward… I lost my passport last night, it has never happened to me before, I need to fly out at 3:30pm for Singapore, please help me… I need to deliver a public talk tomorrow evening.” I was pathetic, but honest.
“Here’s the form, get you birth certificate, complete all the requirements and get it back to me ASAP!”
“Thank you, thank you!”
“Don’t thank me, we can’t guarantee it,” she said
I got photos done, found a friend to sign the declaration that they knew me for at least 10 years, and had my birth certificate, which had to be faxed from South Australia, to DFAT directly, all with the help of my wife’s deft administrative skills.
By 12noon, all the documentation was there. I had to board by 2:30pm!
The DFAT office was now full, Melbourne’s cultural diversity was writ large, Somalis, Vietnamese, Greeks, Italians, Albanians, Brits, Anglo Australians, all waiting for passports. Some needed them in a week and were worried.
I was called, to go to Counter 17.
“Thank you, thank you”, I said; I even used a trembling bottom lip.
“Look, we’ll try. I am not too optimistic” she reminded me.
My wife was on the phone to Qantas trying to organise alternate flights that could get me to Singapore in time for my lecture by 7pm the following.
The only option was to use my existing Singapore flight as a return ticket to Perth and from there, buy an additional return ticket to Singapore – an extraordinarily expensive exercise.
My wife packed my bags, and was now at Tullamarine Airport with my friend.
As a sign of optimism she checked in my bags in with my mate. She was imploring, negotiating and baffling Qantas staff to keep the flight open.
I finally got my passport at 2:20pm, my wife had organised a courier to deliver me to the airport, which normally took at least 30 minutes from the city.
We made it in 17 minutes.
I got my boarding pass, the counter manager was ringing Qantas Flight 09, I kissed my wife and ran just like one of those romantic American films.
I made it, drenched in sweat as I was wearing my winter jacket.
Soon after we took off I quickly downed two scotch and dries, and thanked heaven and earth that the bureaucracy I had to deal with was Australian, not Greek.
If not for their cool efficiency, I would not have been on the plane.