I am an idiot. Or…

I am an idiot.

Or perhaps more accurately, I currently have so many balls in the air that I am dropping them and thereby acting like an idiot. The effect is the same, even if the root cause is different.

This morning, I woke up at Jed's at 4-ish. The alarm was set for 4:30, so I could be ready for the Airporter Shuttle due at 5:10. I got up early, showered, dressed, and a good thing, because the shuttle arrived at 4:50. As I stepped onto the shuttle, I had a sudden realization. A sequence of them, actually. They went like this:

I was flying to Vancouver. Vancouver is not in the United States. Vancouver is in Canada. Canada is another country. Flying to another country requires more ID than a driver's license. Specifically, for me, it requires both my Sri Lankan passport and my green (alien registration) card. I did not have either of those on me. They were in Chicago. There was absolutely no way they could be gotten to San Francisco before my 7:40 a.m. flight.

I spent the 45 minutes to the airport in a state of adrenaline-heightened shock, trying to figure out a) how I'd been such an idiot, and b) what my options were. When I got to the airport, the nice lady at the Alaska Airlines ticket counter said that she thought they'd let me through if I had a fax of the relevant documents, plus my driver's license. I called Chicago, waking up Kevin and persuading him to take my documents across the street to Kinko's to photocopy them and fax them to the ticket counter. He sleepily did so, though he was dubious about the efficacy and wisdom of this plan.

When the documents arrived, the nice ticket lady had disappeared, but a nice ticket man said that they'd be willing to let me fly with them, but that I'd be taking some risk of either not being allowed through Canada customs, or not being allowed back into the U.S. Normally, I wouldn't think being exiled to Canada for a few days while we straightened out paperwork would be such a bad thing -- I adore Canada and its oh so charming Canadians. But a) I needed to get on a plane to Sri Lanka on Sunday evening, b) Fed Ex had told me (while I was waiting for Kevin to photocopy and fax) that they didn't do same day shipping from the U.S. to Canada, so I couldn't have the real documents in hand when I attempted to re-enter the U.S. on Friday, and c) I was far more worried about the mean U.S. immigration people than the nice Canadians. So I asked nice ticket man to please call Canadian immigration and tell them the situation and ask them what they advised.

Then I called Kevin and fretted some more while I waited. Kevin thought I should just give up and come home, but I was loathe to abandon the $300 spent on that portion of the plane ticket and the day of academic excitement and scholarly interaction at AWP. Not only would I be presenting as part of a panel on South Asian lit., getting the chance to spend more time with various S. Asian academics including Sejal Shah whom I met so briefly in NY, but I'd be attending a University of Utah party with old classmates and professors, and even seeing some of the Vermont College and Roosevelt University folks. It was going to be a one-day academic extravaganza. And I had a $100 hotel room reserved too. So I waffled.

In the end, the decision was taken out of my hands. The nice AA ticket man came back and said Canadian immigration said no no no. Absolutely not. Faxed documents could be faked, and if I got on that plane to Vancouver, I was not going to be allowed out past customs. So the Vancouver jaunt was cancelled, and I was going home to Chicago with my tail between my legs, my head hanging low.

The plus sides: The hotel let me cancel my room, no charge. AA rescheduled me home to Chicago today, no charge for the change fee or new ticket (though naturally, no refund for any of the old ticket either, and they shipped me through Seattle, which is where I am now, so it's already a long, long day.) All the service people involved were very nice to me, perhaps because I was clearly about to cry all over their nice clean counters. (The nice reservations lady at the Marriott in Vancouver called me a poor baby with much sympathy in her voice.) I'll get another day in Chicago to prepare for the Sri Lanka trip, which will hopefully help me avoid a much bigger travel fiasco. I'll get a chance to look at the new book cover draft Friday and let them know what I think (the mehndi foot, btw, got nixed by the sales team, so I have no idea what they'll be showing me). I'll have some time today to work on student responses, rather than squeezing them all into Fri/Sat.

The minus sides: Well, those are pretty obvious at this point, I think.

Gods, I feel dumb.

14 thoughts on “I am an idiot. Or…”

  1. Oh boy.I totally sympathize. It sounds like my trip to WorldCon last year — though I did finally end up going, getting there was a horrible nightmare of missed flights and mind-crushing stress.

    I’m glad you’ve got some Kevin waiting for you today!

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Why don’t you become a citizen??? You are availing of every benefit this country has to offer but not responding by shouldering the responsibilities that come with citizenship. Sorry, I have no sympathy :(.

  3. Anonymous Coward – Am I missing something? That strikes me as a pretty trolly comment and I’m fairly sure that being a citizen wouldn’t have helped with the passport situation.

    Mary Anne, we’ve all been there at some point!

  4. Anonymous Coward

    I know my comment is harsh but I am no troll. Please judge the comment on its own merit – “Why don’t you become a citizen??? You are availing of every benefit this country has to offer but not responding by shouldering the responsibilities that come with citizenship.” – without ascribing any label to me or without the present passport difficulties.

  5. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    For what it’s worth, being a U.S. citizen wouldn’t have helped — you still need either a passport or a birth certificate to enter Canada, neither of which would normally be in my wallet.

    The question of why I’m not a citizen isn’t really anyone’s business but mine, frankly. The U.S. government has no problem with my being a resident alien for the rest of my life if I choose. That’s part of what resident alien cards are for.

    And in fact, there are quite a few benefits of citizenship I don’t get — eligibility for various grants and scholarships, for example.

  6. Don’t feel bad, Mary Anne. I did the same thing years ago. (Almost the same thing, anyway.) Having grown up in upstate NY, I’d driven to Canada a thousand times, never needing a passport. Then, in 1997 or thereabouts, I had to fly to Canada, and it never even occured to me that I’d need my passport.

    They ended up letting me through on the basis of my Social Security card (which has my 7th-grade signature on it, so yeah, I feel safe).

    And I met Adrian Paul (of the Highlander TV series) on the plane, so it turned out to be an okay experience in the end!

  7. Oh. I just remembered the second time I did that. I was living in the UK, and on the train to the airport when I realized I’d forgotten my passport.

    Luckily I always carry a photocopy of my passport in my suitcase, and getting _into_ the US as as American citizen with a photocopy wasn’t a problem. I was staying long enough that having my passport Fed Ex’d to me was possible.

    But the worst part of this story is that I did this ridiculous thing one month after my husband had forgotten _his_ passport when flying from the UK to the US.

    So my embarassment now officially outweighs yours! 🙂

  8. i would bring your passport anyway, even if you have your birth certificate with you. Although technically you just need the BC, having flown back and forth between US/Canada a number of times in the last few years, the hassles are much less, well, hassle-y if you have your passport (I bring both, actually). Especially with your non-american citizen status, I would bring all the darn documents you can fit in your purse 🙂 (although some days, that non citizenship business might work in your favour, too ;))

  9. This kind of thing happens with the link to the UK and Ireland all the time. No one ever remembers what the rules are, and it only takes a security alert to change them. It took us a week to work out if we could even take the pets to Ireland because no one was sure if quarantine regs applied.

    And re not taking US citizenship
    a) non-citizens are net contributors to the US economy (as they are in the UK).
    b) the US requires naturalized citizens to promise to defend the country by force of arms. I know a few Quakers who emigrated who stayed as resident aliens for this reason,

  10. Sorry about the blank post, first.

    Second: Mary Anne does plenty to give back to the US. If you scroll back she worked with new citizens and second gen immigrants who are citizens to help make sure they voted in the last election. More than many citizens I know who didn’t even bother to vote.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Yes, she took people to vote and that is admirable – I applaud her for that (though she could have voted herself by being a citizen). I do not for a minute doubt that she does more than an average citizen. Yet, when you have lived in a country for decades and choose not to become a citizen, calling the officials “mean U.S. immigration people” sounds disingenuous.

  12. Anonymous Coward – why are you being so nosy? The U.S. government has no problem with people holding resident alien cards so what is your problem? Everyone games the system. Don’t tell me you don’t hold back as much as you legally can on your tax return.

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