The summer I was fourteen, I crossed into Central America using a fake ID. It wasn’t the birth date on the ID that was fake (in Mexico, if somebody wanted to get their lips on a non-virgin pina colada, they could've if they were still sucking a pacifier).
No, what was fake was the ID itself.
Roughly six hours before we flew out of the Nashville airport with the rest of my missions team, I was standing inside Kinko’s Copies, waiting for my 9th grade yearbook picture to scan. As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I was one desperate desperado. A day before I was to leave, my mother drove me down to the county clerk’s office where the notary glanced at my cutesy birth certificate (you know, the one with the stamped feet?) and said, “That there’s not your birth certificate.”
My mouth fell open, as did my mother’s; this whole time we’d assumed that that was the original. But, no…the original had been lost somewhere between Pennsylvania and Tennessee, and we had no idea how to find it. I forget what criminally-minded friend suggested a fake ID as compensation for my lack of an authentic birth certificate. What’s even more surprising is that my parents -- who are covered head-to-toe with worry warts -- let me do it. I mean, we did talk about it. My dad said something like, “If you get into trouble, I’ll come down there and fetchya.”
So, I simply got a pimply-faced employee at Kinko’s Copies to make my fake ID, then spent the next sixteen hours in a state of panic so profound, finding an airport bathroom became as much of a priority as getting through customs (which I miraculously did).
My trip to Greece four years later was just as taxing. My college girlfriends and I had such a horrific sense of doom, we called our close relatives and friends and told them each a tearful goodbye. It was awful. I didn’t want to get on that plane for the life of me, for I feared -- if I did -- I would most certainly lose it. Being on the Georgia tarmac did nothing to calm our fears, for our plane was not moving! For four hours we just sat there, chomping on peanuts and sipping apple juice (even ominous premonitions cannot quench college students’ appetites), then this Mr. Incredible voice came over the intercom and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Brown speaking. I’m sorry for the delay, but while we were taking off some baggage, we discovered a mechanical error. We couldn’t’ve flown without it.”
When we arrived in Piraeus, Greece -- absolutely exhausted and waterlogged (due to all those salty peanuts) -- we stood in front of the baggage claim like zombies until someone on our team looked around, saw we were the last ones there, and said, “Umm…guys? I don’t think they’ve got our luggage.”
He was right. Our luggage "just so happened" to be the ones Captain Brown’s crew deemed suspicious and decided to take off (I guess it was the uniformity of our bags). If they hadn’t taken them off and rerouted them, they would have never discovered that mechanical error and our plane would have never made it across the seas.
Talk about serendipity.
Exactly one year later, my friend and I flew from her family’s home in Germany back to New York. Because she wasn’t from the States, at U.S. Customs she had to stand in the international line while I slipped through the permanent resident one like I was buttered. Small delays along the journey had made the timing of everything very nip and tuck, and there was no way we would make our next flight if my friend didn’t get through within the next five minutes. Five minutes passed, and there were dozens of people still in front of her.
“Just go on!” she yelled. “I’ll take another flight!”
I nodded, then gulped. Although I had traveled a lot since I crossed into Central America using a Kinko's Copies ID, I had never flown alone. But there was no time to waste, for I now only had seconds to spare. Tossing my bag over my shoulder, I waved farewell to my friend and started charging down the airport terminal like William Wallace after screaming, “Freeeeedom!” I have to admit, I kinda enjoyed the rush: my scarf was flopping behind me; my leather boots were grinding into my heels; the bottle of vitamins I had in my purse opened and were spilling all over the place (amazing that security didn’t think I was a drug runner).
When I finally arrived at the proper gate, everyone had already boarded the plane, and they were just about to seal it up. Once they saw how frantic I was, the stewardesses must’ve felt compassion, for they let me through. Seated on the plane, I unspooled the scarf and shed my jacket. It took about ten minutes to calm down enough so that I could breathe without the barf bag, but the entire flight before I stopped sweating.
Two weeks after my high school graduation I went to Bogota, Colombia with the Petersheim family. We hadn’t even left the Atlanta airport when I lost my passport. I dug and dug through my bags and cargo pockets, trying to remember where I’d stuffed it. My body was launching into Panic Mode when the tall, dark-headed son of this family walked up with a mischievous grin and passed me my missing item. Apparently, I had dropped my passport while waiting to check in my luggage, and he simply stepped on top of it--thinking he’d hide it for a while, then procure it like magic. Although I didn’t think it was funny at all, I was so relieved to be holding my passport that I couldn’t hold it against the fellow (plus, he was pretty cute).
I will be flying to the United Kingdom three weeks from now. As of this afternoon, my girlfriends and I have solidified one week of our two week stay. This is a little nerve-wracking, to say the least. After I’d spoken with our future host in England and jotted down some notes, I called my tall, dark-headed husband over and proudly said, “Look, honey! I’ve even got the train station we’re going to use to get from London to Greenwich!” I glanced down at the library receipt I had written everything on. I turned it first one way, then the other--hoping the different angles would help decode my Rosetta Stone scribbles.
“Yessss?” he said. “What’s the name of the train station you’ll be using again?”
My husband then gave me that same mischievous grin he’d used when he handed back my passport years ago and said, “Well, honey…sure doesn’t look like you’re gonna get very far.”