I think everyone remembers that feeling of flying alone for the first time, that freedom, excitement and sense of adventure.
There was an amazing blanket of snow on the ground, our little school had Christmas on the brain, and that feeling of being able to go home was palpable. I couldn’t wait to break out of small town country living, and go back home to tropical air and South American flair.
My Father was meticulous about sending me not only details of my travel plans, but had set me up with every possible phone number I would need at the Foreign Service, including Passport Emergency number. Every possible scenario was drilled into me, and I had to know exactly who to call and how to respond. I never had to worry though, my Father was so diligent that my passport would arrive for me to sign exactly 1 week before leaving, without fail, and upon my return I would send it back within the week, without fail.
I was a pretty seasoned traveller by the time I was 17, I knew every airport and could navigate my way through without a problem. One morning after class, I was called out into the hallway, the courier was standing there with the Head Master’s assistant, I signed for the small envelope. Everyone looked at me strangely, the assistant was always snarky about not being able to sign for another person’s passport. She didn’t understand, it was the property of the government, and only I could sign it with my Father’s permission.
I took it, ran back to my room and put it in my travel purse. I never trusted putting it back in the office in the safe. As I was coming back, one of the new grade 9’s I recognized as the 4th member of the diplomatic kid group was sitting outside the office tears rolling down his face, panicking. I asked him what was going on. He explained his passport hadn’t arrived, and the assistant told him he couldn’t have his tickets, and there was nothing she could do if his passport hadn’t arrived. He also explained that since his parents were in Japan, with the time difference he couldn’t get a hold of anyone.
As much as I wanted to throttle the Head Master’s assistant, who for some reason was in charge of this stuff. I told him to wait. I ran back to my room, grabbed the master list my Father had given me. I ran back to find him paralysed, still crying, and thinking he was not going to be able to see his parents over Christmas.
I took his hand and went into the Head Master’s office to be faced with an angry Assistant for interrupting her. I asked to use her phone, she looked at me and reluctantly allowed me.
I called the passport office, explained the situation, and asked for the kid’s passport to be released after they contacted the person on call at the Embassy in Japan. In every Embassy there is always someone on call who is part of the diplomatic corps, which helps during times like this. Within 30 minutes, everything was sorted out, and the passport was being couriered that day.
The assistant was shocked, she asked how I did that, and I said “I know the system”. She explained that no one ever gave her phone numbers or contacts.
The kid made it to Japan, his Father sent me a thank-you card.
I loved how meticulous my Dad was.
Word to the wise, make sure your kid has a master contact list when going away to school.