The day I forgot my passport

Paris Eiffel TowerI like making lists.

I make grocery lists, lists of conversation topics, and (most importantly) packing lists. I do it because I’ve left too many things behind: a razor, a jacket, a jar of coconut oil. So for my trip from Paris to New York, I made a 30-item packing list on my handy Reminders app and started my trip confident that I had everything.

That is, until the lady at the check-in counter asked for my passport.

In an instant, I realized that I was going to miss my flight, I was much less smart than I thought, and these list things weren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

But I had the slimmest of a chance: what if my flight were delayed? So while I stayed at the airport, doing my best to negotiate in French and figure out my options, Fred raced back to our apartment (a 50-minute train ride each way) to retrieve the only item that I absolutely needed to have. He knew exactly where it was: in his laptop bag, next to his own, right where he had put it when we were crossing over from London to Paris.

Of course, my negotiations were in vain – apparently a driver’s license or digital copy of your passport won’t do, and no, they won’t check in just your luggage without a passport. Fred showed up 5 minutes before my flight was supposed to leave, and I was given clear instructions to return at 7 am the next morning to get on the waiting list for a flight at 11 am, which was fully booked (as was the other flight that day). I only had three days in New Jersey before I had to fly to Vegas, so I was praying to the airline gods that I’d get a spot.

You’d think that was quite enough excitement for the day, thank you very much, but it didn’t end there.

At 7 pm, exhausted from an afternoon mostly spent at the airport, we decided to venture outside for dinner. As we were leaving the building, I turned to Fred and ask him if he had the keys to the apartment, which locks automatically when you shut the door. Can you guess what he said?

We called our Airbnb host, who sympathetically but firmly explained that there was nothing she could do – after all, we had requested to have her spare set of keys. The only solution was to visit a nearby cheese monger the following morning, who was holding onto keys for the landlord. I told her I needed to be at the airport at 7 am, and tomorrow morning wasn’t soon enough; we contemplated climbing up the building into our second-story window; I wondered how the heck to say “locksmith” in French, and whether anyone would possibly be open this late.

On the brink of utter frustration and exhaustion, I ran to the cheese monger to check if they were open – and they were, for precisely 25 more minutes. I had that much time to convince a stranger to give me a set of keys without authorization from the landlord, whom I couldn’t reach because I had no more phone credit to call my Airbnb host. Luckily, he took pity on me.

So the night ended in an unexpected place: not on a plane, but in Paris, at a little couscous restaurant, eating savory grilled chicken, lamb, and sausage. “I think this is our worst day ever,” said Fred. But he was grinning, not frowning. We were both exhausted, starving, and had wasted a lot of work time, but we still had a nice meal and we certainly didn’t hate each other.


When I arrived at the airport the next morning (bright and early), I was greeted with some good news: “We have an extra flight at 9 am today because one was canceled yesterday.” It took a few minutes before I realized what flight that was: my flight. This was confirmed by a fellow passenger, who explained that the plane had had mechanical problems. “Yesterday was a long day,” he told me. So it was – and if I hadn’t forgotten my passport, it might have been even longer.