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Sean Patrick Hagen

Just a Vancouver coder

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It has not been a good 48 hours. Also, I’m an idiot.

As of right now, it has been nearly 24 hours since I woke up, and nearly 48 hours since I was supposed to be on a plane. It has been a stressful two days, and it’s not quite over yet.

Let me spin you a tale.

On Wednesday, I was supposed to get on a flight that would, by the end of the day, deposit me in Hawaii. However, I had discovered the night before that my passport had expired in July. Discovering this the night before you need to use your passport is pas bien1. So, cue my girlfriend and I trying to figure out what my options are2. From what I was able to figure out online, it seemed like I had three options:

  1. Try to get a piece of paper that’d let me get on the plane anyways.
  2. Get a new passport using the “I done fucked up, need passport now” option at the passport office.
  3. Not go to Hawaii

Option three was right out. Screw staying in cold & rainy Vancouver while my family gets to be in warm & rainy Hawaii. We figured the best course of action was just going to the airport the next day and trying option one, and if that didn’t work I’d catch a flight later on with the new passport from option two.

Get to the airport, apparently there is no option one. Okay, maybe trusting the person at the check-in counter wasn’t the best idea3, but I don’t like causing a scene – especially when I had to get up at 4:30am and am still trying to come to terms with being up before the goddamn sun. So, the agent at the counter prints me off a copy of my flight info because I’ll need that at the passport office to prove it’s an emergency and I need a passport pronto. So I hug my parents & sister, kiss the gf goodbye, and head back to the car.

I drive downtown, so that I can be at the passport office right when it opens. As part of the “figure out what the hell to do” not-freakout the previous night, I had printed off the application form dealio that I needed to get a new passport. I had mostly filled it out. I figured the important bits were the references, so I made sure to get that info. I chose an old friend of the family, and my gf’s brother4. I didn’t fill out the guarantor section, because it was late and I was tired – not ideal “thinking straight” conditions. Thankfully, because I already have (had?) a passport I didn’t need a guarantor.

I get to the passport office before it’s open, which gives me some time to go over the application and finish filling it out5. I go through the rigmarole of getting in line, getting a number, waiting, then finally getting to talk to someone. Turns out, yeah, I do need new photos for my passport. So I trudge over to London Drugs – but they’re not open for another twenty minutes. After spending the next twenty minutes trying not to stare at the guy tweaking out while waiting, I get in and down to the photo section. Turns out, a bunch of people are in the same boat – there’s six other people who need passport photos. Thankfully, getting photos is a quick and painless process. I’m in and out of London Drugs in under twenty minutes. I head back to the passport office, get back in line, wait, and get to speak to another agent.

Remember when I said trusting the check-in agent wasn’t a smart idea? Yeah. Turns out that they don’t know a ton about the rules and whatnot surrounding getting a passport. Turns out, proof that I’m – as of that very moment – supposed to be boarding a flight isn’t proof of an emergency. It’s just proof that I’m an idiot and missed my flight. I need a confirmation of a flight within the next few days that requires a passport. So had I discovered my passport had been expired on the previous Friday, I would have been fine.

However, it’s not Friday, it’s Wednesday, day of my flight. I need to book the flight before I can prove the emergency to the passport folks. So I go sit down, and call the airline. I get connected pretty quickly – apparently 7:45am on a Wednesday is a slow period for their help lines. Hooray for me. I manage to book a new flight for Friday, December 23rd. Same flight plan, actually – leave Vancouver at 8:30am[6^], get to Hawaii at some time after 6:30pm. Only downside: it’s going to cost me. As in, I’ve got to put ~$1200 on my credit card, right now.

Okay, I’ve got enough room to handle that. Not ideal. But between that and the fee for my emergency passport this has suddenly become a very expensive mistake on my part. About $1500 because I forgot to check my passport as soon as the flights were booked. At least at the end of this I’ll be in Hawaii. I’m not spending Christmas & New Years on my own, wallowing in self-pity6, so I buy the tickets. I go back to the first counter, get a new number, go back and sit down. Through some twist of fate, I end up back with the same agent. I have to write a small note explaining why this is an emergency, and give the confirmation number.

Quick side-note: I’ve always felt that the kind of “respectible legal-ish sounding” form of writing is very awkward. Instead of just writing “I done fucked up, here’s a confirmation number for a flight two days from now, pls I can has passport”, I write in this tone/style that just sounds like the version of me that has never done anything fun, and whose favorite food is white toast (but no butter because it’s too rich for his taste).

Anyways, I get everything sorted, and get a receipt telling me that my passport should be ready for me after 1pm the next day. Groovy. I go home, and play Overwatch7. The next day I get up at 11am8. I bum around the house for a bit, have some food, then drive downtown to pick up my passport. I head out at 1pm, get to the parking garage right across from the passport office at about 1:30. Head on in, find out that apparently everything is good, they’ve just yet to print the actual physical thing out. That’s something they do at that office, but it sounds like it won’t get done for another hour or so. I decide I’m going to go home and bus back, because parking in downtown Vancouver9 is crazy bananas expensive. Plus, I can grab my camera, and maybe wander about after picking up the passport.

Sometimes, what looks to be a smooth drive is actually a road full of potholes and the occasional spike trap.

Once I make it back to the passport office, I get in the pickup line again. Only this time, when I get to the desk, I find out that it’s not just a busy day. Of the three references I gave, they only managed to get in contact with two10. Not a problem, right? They only need two, after all.11 Well, turns out using the gf’s brother as a reference is not a good idea when you’ve been living with your girlfriend for over two years. See, in BC that means you’re common law. Which means he’s close enough to a brother-in-law for him to be disqualified as a reference12.

So, once again I go into “solve the problem like a robot then you can have your stress meltdown” mode. For the next few minutes I’m a messaging rockstar. I’m sending text, Facebook messages, Google Hangout messages – trying to reach someone, anyone. If I can get a cell phone number for the reference they can’t reach, great. If I can get someone ( or more than one someone, preferably ) to be a reference, I’m good – especially now that I can make sure we’re not related in any conceivable form and that they’ll be by their phone. I send messages for about 15 minutes, and exhaust the options at my disposal. Despite having decided that the freakout can wait until after I’ve got a reference and have handed in the form, the rest of me apparently didn’t get the message. At this point I’m basically a sweaty, stressed-out mess. I’m basically holding it together with willpower13 at the moment.

Eventually responses start coming in, and I’m able to pull myself together and get back in line. I head over the line again, meet another person who needs a passport because they forgot to check and need to fly out of the country, eventually get to the agent and hand over the form. I’m told the supervisor will take care of things right away, and that I’ll get called up by my last name if everything goes well.

I go sit down, and manage to put off having another mini-freakout. After another time-dilating wait, I get called.

Finally.

After a very stressful14 24+ hours, I’ve got a passport. On the outside I look like this, but on the inside this is me.

I head home, and check into my flight with my brand new, good for 10 years passport. At this point, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to be up until I get on my flight. See, I have a problem with sleep. The problem is my body likes it too much. I sleep through alarms on the regular15, which is why I have three alarms for when I need to get up for work. However, the next morning is not something I can sleep through. I cannot afford miss16 this flight. So staying up until I get on the plane it is!

We’re not done with this tale quite yet, though.

At 2am17 I get a message from the airline. My flight’s been delayed. Until 10am. Fantastic!

However, at this point I don’t trust myself to fall asleep before I get to the airport if I try to leave later. Like I said, I can’t afford to miss this flight. So, I head to the airport as if I was catching a flight that wasn’t delayed.

And that’s how we end up here.

7:44 AM.

I’m hungry and tired18. And sore. That weird “you’ve been awake and so I’m going to punish you until you do that unconcious thing” sore your body does when you’ve been up for nearly 24 hours.

I just want to already be in Hawaii.

So. What did I learn.

First, let me make this perfectly clear. I am not a smart man, sometimes19. If you’re an infrequent traveller, like myself, here’s a piece of advice: as soon as you have a ticket confirmation, check your damn passport. Don’t find out the night before that your passport isn’t valid. It sucks. And will cost you more money than you want to spend before going on a vacation.

Second: I’m too old to be staying up for long periods of time like this. I’m sore, I’m probably a bit cranky20, and I’ve had way too much Coca-Cola ( and an energy drink that made me feel a bit sick ). I just want to be in Hawaii.

Also: the folks at the passport office21 are all awesome. They’re quick, professional, and probably deal with more stress freakouts than some other government offices.

This story is not quite over yet though. I’m going to go find some food, and hope there’s a good spot for me to sit when I get back to the gate. And that there’s a short or non-existent line at the food place. And that somehow the flight will suddenly become a direct flight to Hawaii, and will only take 1 hour. And that I’ll get upgraded to first class.

At the very least, not having any delays or surprises before I get off the plane in Hawaii would be nice.

That’s over 2600 words on how life can really suck occasionally. Hopefully more things happen22 that make me want to write. Getting it all out has been nice. And also a good way to only have to tell this story once.

  1. Not good. Not good at all.

  2. It turns out that in moments of “oh fuck oh god” stress, the gf and I kind of become robots – dispassionately assessing options to try and figure out the best course of action. We save the tears and bawling for when we’ve figured out what to do.

  3. Turns out, not a good idea for several reasons.

  4. I am not a smart man.

  5. Cue mini-freakout about not having a guarantor.

  6. That’s what drunken weekday nights are for.

  7. I’m a tank/defense guy, myself, although I’m trying to get more comfortable with heroes like Hanzo & Soldier 76.

  8. This turns out to be also not a good idea, but hindsight has better vision than I do.

  9. Especially in the lot right across from Waterfront Station, as I discovered.

  10. The very same one I had told the day before it was fine the passport people couldn’t reach her at her home phone because they had managed to reach the other two references.

  11. You’re cute when you’re hopeful in the face of such dramatic irony.

  12. Me, file footage from that moment.

  13. And whatever you call “not wanting to be the person who got thrown out of the passport office for having a meltdown”.

  14. And sweaty.

  15. Which my gf puts up with like a champ, because she’s awesome and I constantly wonder why she sticks around.

  16. Literally and figuratively.

  17. Apparently a popular time for getting these kind of things

  18. Sleep sounds better than sex, right now.

  19. Often. Most of the time. Nearly constantly. Me being able to walk without somehow short-circuiting is a medical mystery.

  20. Okay, a lot cranky. If the guy next to me on the gate waiting area bench thing doesn’t stop twitching and making the bench move I’m not going to have a freakout because I didn’t come this far to get kicked out of the airport, but I shall give him a very British death glare.

  21. At least, the downtown Vancouver office.

  22. Preferably, good or awesome things.