Indianapolis tomorrow. I haven’t been there since, well, the time I left my passport behind. As a U.S. citizen flying to the U.S. via Canada, that made for an interesting trip.
I picked up two colleagues very early the morning we left town. One mentioned, rather casually, that he was often scrutinized by customs and immigration. Apparently, he had “the look.” The other was only slightly less suspicious — the absent minded professor, gadgetry dangling from every pocket. And indeed, passing through No Man’s Land at 4:00 am, I was told to park the car and we were told to step inside. This was a first for me; normally I sail through the checkpoint. Our documents were examined; information entered and retrieved. Thirty minutes later we were inexplicably released to continue on our way.
I’d boarded the airplane in Canada by providing my driver’s license, no problem. But when I tried to board for the return flight in Indianapolis several days later, I was denied. And I was flabbergasted. Post-9/11 regulations were still novel. I had no idea how to respond.
Thankfully, one of my colleagues stepped into the fray. He respectfully raised the issue to supervisory level, reminding the airline representative that the company had allowed me to board in Canada — with this documentation. My problem was their problem, he persuaded. Eventually, they agreed to allow me to board, but only if I signed off. Whatever Canadian customs and immigration might impose upon landing was beyond their control and solely my problem, they insisted. The options (perhaps a fine or jail) were a bit unsettling but the alternative (renting a car and driving home) seemed worse!
Fortunately, we also had a layover in Chicago and we all began working our connections. By the time we touched down at our final destination, we had a plan. A copy of my passport had been FAXed by my employer to the airport and to the border station at the bridge. One colleague proceeded me in line at customs at the airport. He provided some advance credibility for my own spiel about this conference. Although the customs agent was very unhappy and sternly reprimanded me when I processed through, I remained apologetic and contrite, per instructions. But my other colleague was behind me in line, just in case it got out of hand.
It was hairy but it worked! On that trip, two colleagues became trusted friends. These kind and considerate gentlemen hold a special place in my heart. I don’t know how I would have fared without them. I don’t know yet what I’m getting into this time in Indy but I will have proper documentation! And I’ll be happy to make more friends on the trip … I just hope it’s less eventful.