This post should be about all the fun I had in New Brunswick at Knit East (which was fabulous) and about a really cool shop in Saint Andrews By-the-Sea (pro tip from Deb Barnhill – the "by-the-sea" part is silent) but sadly, I’ve misplaced my camera cable (again) so all you get today is words. It’s a quick story about nice people.
On Friday morning, I gathered myself and went to the airport, met up with Cat Bordhi, and got on a plane. We arrived, unpacked – and I set about teaching and working for the weekend. Monday morning, back I went to the airport in Saint John, where I knit until it was time for my flight. I went through security, and then plunked myself down to wait. While I was sitting, I rummaged through my purse for my passport. I couldn’t find it. I panicked. Totally panicked. Sure, I was flying within Canada, so I could get by with my drivers license for that flight, but in about 10 days I get on a plane to the US, and 10 days isn’t really enough time to replace a passport. Renew – sure, replace? Not so much.
I dug around in my bag with increasing nausea, and then decided to empty it out entirely- in case I just couldn’t see the passport. I took everything out, checked everything that could possibly have my passport tucked inside it – then checked the stuff that was really too small to have my passport tucked inside it – like my wallet. (Why I did that, I can’t explain. I guess I was hoping that my passport had shrunk or something. That it wasn’t gone… just suddenly… tiny.) It wasn’t there. It truly wasn’t there, and with my heart sinking, they called my flight.
Once on board, I searched again. I am not the sort of person who loses important things. I have had the same set of keys since I was 15 years old. I have never had to replace my ID. I’ve lost ten thousand tape measures, and I apparently have an aura that repels darning needles in a way that means that one can’t be in my possession for more than sixteen seconds, and it’s fairly obvious that I have no regard for the location of a camera cable… but important things? Never. I sat there trying to figure out where it could be, what I had done and how I was going to tell my publisher that I wasn’t going to be going anywhere because I am an idiot. Did I leave it in the hotel room? No, there was no way I’d done that. I make a careful sweep of all hotel rooms as I leave them – and my passport is in a green leather folder that’s obvious. I would have seen it. I checked under the bed – everywhere, and besides I wouldn’t ever have even taken it out of my bag. Did I drop it somewhere? Did I leave it behind? In my mind I retraced every step I’d taken with the passport, and suddenly it hit me.
I’d left it on the plane on Friday. With certainty- and in that moment, I knew exactly how it had happened. I got on the plane with Cat Bordhi and we sat down. I put my passport in the seat pocket in front of me. I always do this. I put the passport with my boarding pass and a pen in it right there, and then when the flight attendant hands out the customs cards, I have it all in one handy place. When the card comes, I take out the passport, boarding pass and pen, fill out the card and tuck it all together into my bag, ready for when I land.
(This is not, as Debbi would say, my first rodeo.)
So what went wrong? I was flying from one Canadian city to the next, so the customs card that’s my passport cue never came, and at the moment when I usually check to see if I have all my stuff, I was chatting with Cat about how people like me and her screw up other peoples patterns all the time because we think we know what they mean and so we don’t really read them… and off I got, and there it stayed.
I must have looked visibly upset because the flight attendant asked me if I was okay. (I suppose the way I was ransacking my belongings over and over might have been a clue) I told her what I’d done, and she assured me not to worry. If Air Canada finds a passport on a plane, they turn it in to Passport Canada straightaway, and I could apply to get it back. It wouldn’t take too long. A few weeks, she thought. You can imagine that this didn’t do a lot to make me feel better. "I only have ten days." I told her.
"Oh. " She said, and offered me the drink cart.
I spent the rest of the flight coming up with a plan. I would call Passport Canada as soon as I landed. I would get the papers together that afternoon and go down there, and I would make it happen. I would find a way to make the massive machine that is Passport Canada move at breakneck speed, and it would be okay. I would convince them.
This didn’t do a lot to make me feel better either.
By the time I landed, I’d given up. It would be what it was, and I was the fool who’d screwed it up, and there was nobody to blame but myself. (I briefly tried to blame Cat for being interesting, but that’s not her fault. She just is interesting.)
I gathered my stuff (really, really carefully) and got off the plane. As my foot touched the ground, an incredibly beautiful woman wearing a yellow Air Canada raincoat asked me if I was Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I was.
She said "I have your passport" and handed it to me.
Resisting the urge to kiss her on the mouth (with tongue) I asked what had happened. Apparently the plane hadn’t been checked in Saint John on Friday, and so my passport had been found when the plane returned to Toronto. Right before they were going to turn it over to Passport Canada, one of them decided to run my name through the computer and see if there was any chance I was coming back soon. They saw my flight for Monday morning, decided there wasn’t a lot of difference in handing it over Friday afternoon or Monday morning, and called me at home to leave a message saying they had it, and I could pick it up at the desk in Toronto. (I didn’t check my messages.)
If that wasn’t nice enough, then they thought that there was a chance I wouldn’t check my messages over the weekend, and decided to keep track of me and the passport, watch my flight schedule, leave notes for each other over the weekend so that everyone knew what was going on with the passport and could keep it safe, then went out into the rain on a Monday morning so they could hand it right to me, so nothing could go wrong.
I can’t tell you how impressed I am that a great big company like that went to so much trouble for me – all to make sure I didn’t go without my passport. I can’t imagine how many people fly through YYZ on Air Canada over a weekend, or how many staff members had to co-operate to make sure it worked, but I’m really impressed – and going on a book tour – which is amazing.
Thanks Air Canada. I’m sorry for what I said about the pretzels. You’re nice.