It seemed like the perfect plan. My wife’s sister who lives in Berlin recently had a hip replacement. My wife wanted someone to go and stay with her for a few days to make sure she’s doing okay.
Chivalrous bastard that I am, I volunteered.
My school has the entire week off. I got a great fare on Air Berlin. I made a lunch date with Torsten Schmidt, the coach of Robert Harting, so that I could continue to badger him into helping me understand why the Germans consistently produce great discus throwers.
My wife and mother-in-law dropped me at the airport on Saturday and then headed to the outlet mall while I breezed through security.
Got a couple of magazines. A nice iced tea. A rather excellent gyro.
They begin to call out group numbers. I heard mine, stepped up and handed over my boarding pass and passport, the guy takes a look at it, then looks at me and says “Please step over to the counter.”
As I do, he yells to the counter person “Check his passport!”
At this point, I imagine everyone in the vicinity figured they had just nabbed a terrorist trying to board with a fake passport. I could not imagine what was the deal. Then they told me.
“Sir, your passport expires in two months. You cannot travel to Germany within three months of your passport expiring.”
Imagine my vexation.
I stood there probably looking a bit stunned and watched the plane fly away without me.
After a while, the gate supervisor explained to me that this was a fairly new regulation and that I might be able to get an expedited passport on Monday and they would put me on their next flight, which would not be until Tuesday.
My immensely patient wife came back to the airport to get me and immediately upon our arrival home started working the phone to make sure Air Berlin was going to honor the supervisor’s promise that I would get on the Tuesday flight.
Long story short, they were less than keen about doing that in spite of my wife’s pointing out that that they ought to let a guy know there might be a problem with his passport before he is ten feet from boarding the plane.
The last person she spoke to in Berlin finally told her that I should show up for the Tuesday flight and basically throw myself on the mercy of the ticket agent.
At that point we had no idea if they’d let me on the flight or if they’d say “tough luck” and make us eat the cost of the ticket.
Luckily, we had one other option. If I could get a new passport on Monday and get to O’Hare by 4:00ish I might be able to use a buddy pass on United (another of my wife’s sisters is a stew) that would at least get me to Frankfort. From there I could figure out how to get to Berlin and then come home on the return portion of my Air Berlin ticket.
If you can’t tell by now that my wife is a saint, just know that she spent about seven hours at the passport bureau with me on Monday and if you think that was a barrel of laughs…try it some time.
Got to go. I’ll finish the story later!