You lost what??? – by Diana Rodriguez

by Susannah Grant posted on 28 January 2014

Diana Rodrigues shares her humorous adventures travelling with kids, but without passport(s):

YOU LOST WHAT???                                                         

PassportsWhat is the worst possible thing you can think of losing when you are on a trip?  Your passport.  Imagine my horror when I discovered, as we were about to leave San Francisco to fly home to Paris, that I could not find my one-year old daughter’s passport.

My husband’s reaction was “You lost WHAT? Are you SURE?” Silly question – I had torn the room apart, unpacked and re-packed the suitcases three times, called reception, room service, housekeeping who all said “You lost WHAT? Are you SURE?” The taxi was at the door, the plane was not going to wait, so we had to leave for the airport.

At check-in we explained the problem and the check-in clerk said “You lost WHAT? Are you SURE?” (I was gritting my teeth by this time) “Well sir, ma’am, you’d better talk with border control and see what they say”.  We consulted with the very serious officials who said “You lost WHAT? Are you SURE?” (By this time both children were crying, I was holding on to my sanity and my husband was looking at me as though I had committed a hanging offence) “Well sir, ma’am, you can leave the USA with her, but whether the French border control will let you in with her is another question.  It’s your decision…”

Decision?  What decision? There was no decision to make – we had to leave. So we boarded the plane in a high state of nervous tension.  The flight from San Francisco to Paris was eleven hours long.  Naturally I did not sleep.  I was imagining the scene as we arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport and the French border guards saying “You lost WHAT? Are you SURE?” I imagined them taking my child from me, sending us back to the US, charging us with child abduction…. It was a nightmare journey as I tried not to hyperventilate over the Atlantic Ocean.

We arrived in Paris and stood in line for passport control and I bravely said to my husband,  “I’ll tell them it was all my fault and ……”  “NO!” snapped my husband – “don’t you say ANYTHING.  Let me deal with it.”  Suitably chastened I followed him, pushing my daughter in the baby buggy, while he went straight up to the desk with our small son in his arms and airily presented three passports and said a cheerful “Bonjour!”  My heart was pounding, my hands were damp and I pasted a sickly smile on my face as I tried to look unconcerned. The border official looked at the passports, looked at my husband and the child in his arms, gave me a passing glance and said “Allez-y! Passez!” and we were through!  That was IT?  For THAT I suffered for 15 hours and imagined the worst?  What an anticlimax. I can only think that he didn’t see the little one in the buggy, and for that I shall be eternally grateful.

You would think that once was enough, but no.  I did it again.  Less dramatic this time but just as nail-biting.  We were driving up from Madrid to France, but by this time we had six children so there were eight passports to keep track of. “You do have ALL the passports?” asked my husband.  “Yes, of course I do” I replied testily.

It is a seven-hour trip to the French border from Madrid and when we were about five hours into the journey I just did a double-check and counted the passports – one, two, three, four, five, six, seven….  SEVEN? “Oh no! I don’t have Sebastian’s passport!”  “You what? You said you had them all!” “Yes, well I don’t.” “So what do we do now? We can’t go back to Madrid. We’ll just have to wing it.”  “Wing it? What does that mean?” “We’ll have to hide him.  He’s only little, put him on the floor under some coats and they won’t see him.”  So at the border (in those days there was still a border control and everyone had to present a passport), the official counted the passports, peered into the car and counted heads and nodded us through.  And that is how baby Sebastian crossed the border into France, smuggled illegally under his elder siblings’ feet….

You can be sure I count passports very carefully nowadays.