Getting ready to fly to Nashville for PyTN on February 4th, I couldn't find my passport. Without a huge amount of time to look for it, I decided to risk trying to fly without it and fortunately, the TSA accepted my Australian drivers license, a US credit card and an "enhanced" screening as a substitute.
Upon my return to Boston on February 9th (delayed a day due to weather), I started the hunt for my passport in earnest.
The last time I'd definitely had my passport was January 11th when I cleared through security at Reagan National Airport after the LSA conference.
I contacted Reagan National, Logan, JetBlue. Nothing.
I contacted my dry cleaner and car rental place. Any friend whose car I'd been in. Nothing.
I went to the RMV (where I'd recently renewed my car registration). They had a whole drawer full of passports left behind but not mine.
For the next few days, my wife and I turned our apartment upside down looking for the passport.
Finding the passport was particularly urgent as I'm scheduled to attend the International Morphology Meeting in Vienna from February 18th–21st and have a flight booked out of Logan the evening of Tuesday, February 16th.
In order to get a replacement passport, I'd have to contact the Australian Embassy and report mine lost. But the moment I did that, my existing passport, even if found, would be invalid.
But on Friday, February 12th, I gave in, called the Australian Embassy and reported my passport lost. I had a faint hope that maybe it had been turned in and they had it but they informed me that, even had that happened, I'd need a new passport to travel.
Can I get a new passport in time to make it to Vienna? It was too late on Friday to get down to Washington DC and Monday, February 15th is a holiday.
You know that Liam Neeson movie, Unknown, where he's lost his passport but the embassy is closed due to a holiday. That's me.
The Australian Consulate-General in New York and the Embassy in Washington are the two obvious places I could go to get a new passport.
New York (also closed on Monday) requires an appointment but have availability. Washington is just walk-in.
I figured the embassy is likely to have the quickest turn around so I decided to go there and booked a 6am one-way flight from Boston to DC for Tuesday morning.
The Australian Embassy informed me they may be able to issue an emergency passport the same day. That would enable me to fly back to Boston and make my British Airways flight to Vienna as originally planned.
Worse case an emergency passport would take until Thursday which still might give me time to make it to Vienna to catch the second half of the conference.
Here's the catch, though: my lost passport contains my US Visa. In order to re-enter the US, I need to get my Visa replaced as well as my passport.
You can only get US Visas outside the US.
Can I get my US Visa at the US Embassy in Vienna? Well the problem is there's no guarantee they'll put it in an emergency passport.
At the very least I need to go to Washington DC to apply for a new passport. That's about all that's certain at this stage.
But in order to get the passport, I need a verified copy of my birth certificate and passport photos which, not only meet the exacting biometric requirements of such photos but which are guaranteed by a non-related Australian citizen or person in a certified profession who has known me for more than 12 months.
Over the weekend, my parents faxed the Australian Embassy the verified birth certificate.
This morning (Monday, February 15th) I confirmed my Australian friend here in Boston, Nick Foley, was around to guarantee my photos.
Next was finding a place that could reliably take passport photos. Apparently the majority of photos submitted with passport applications are rejected as not meeting requirements. I don't really have much of a second chance so needed to find someone who knew how to take Australian passport photos.
The Australian passport site recommends one photographer in Boston. I called her and fortunately she's open until 2pm today so I'm heading down there shortly.
So I go to drive down to Boston to get the photos and my car won't start. Engine lights going off like a Christmas tree.
Had to Uber it down to Boston and was 10 minutes late but fortunately the photographer was there and I now have my Australia passport and US visa photos ready to go.
No time to work out what's wrong with my car and get it fixed so rented a car from Enterprise (and got them to pick me up). Met up with Nick Foley and got my photo guaranteed.
Late news warned against early morning travel on the roads. Ugh. I'll get an Uber again rather than ask my wife to drive me to the airport.
Only four hours away anyway. Not going to get much sleep.
On my way to the airport. Was getting worried when Uber was showing driver as 1 minute away for 10 minutes.
First obstacle traversed: got through security without required identification.
Landed at Reagan National Airport.
Arrived at Australian Embassy just before 8. They let me in the building at 8. Passport office doesn't open until 9 so waiting in lobby.
Submitted forms and had interview. The guy was super friendly but said the emergency passport probably wouldn't be ready until tomorrow morning.
There were two factors that seemed to slow things down: (1) due to a weather advisory, workers in DC were told not to commute in during the morning which reduced embassy staff; (2) there were some oddities with the verification of the birth certificate.
Besides when the emergency passport could get done by, the other big question that emerged was whether to apply for the full replacement passport in DC and have it sent to Vienna or just apply in Vienna.
The embassy said they'd give me a call in the afternoon with an update so I walked in the rain 10 minutes to a Starbucks to get wifi.
I started investigating online what it would cost to change my flight to Vienna by a day. Over $2,000!!!
Was just about to despair going to the conference at all when I got a call from the embassy saying if I had proof of the conference, they may be able to still rush the emergency passport through today.
No promises. But my hopes are back up.
JetBlue doesn't have any suitable flights to get me back to Boston.
I've optimistically booked a flight on American tonight leaving at 6.30pm and getting to Logan at 8pm. It's cutting it fine on the Logan end but that seemed better than cutting it fine on the DC end.
I still only give everything working out today a 50-50 chance. But I'd rather leave that in the hands of the embassy rather than screw up myself by not having a flight to get back on.
If I can't get my emergency passport today, I'll cancel the conference trip. I just can't justify BA's change fee.
So the best case scenario is: I get my emergency passport this afternoon, fly back to Boston and immediately hop on my original flight to London and Vienna. I'll attend the conference then wait in Vienna until I get my full passport and then apply for the US visa.
If I can't get my emergency passport today, I don't know if I'll overnight in DC or head back on the flight to Boston I just booked.
At 2pm I walked back to the Australian Embassy to make sure they had everything from me they needed.
They told me not to go anywhere to which I replied "I don't have anywhere else to go".
Sounds encouraging, though.
At 3.04pm they called me to the counter and handed me my emergency passport!
As long as I can make it back to Boston with no delays, I'm going to Vienna!!!
I got to the airport at 3.40 for my 6.30 flight so switched to the 4.30. Got to the gate to find the 4.30 canceled.
I'm back on the 6.30 but if that's even a little late, I'll miss my connection.
The wait to board the flight from DC back to Boston was agonizing. Every minute I'd look to see if they'd canceled or delayed the flight.
At around 6.00pm right when we were about to start boarding, they announced a delay of 15 minutes to departure and an expected arrival time of 8.24pm.
Even the original 8.01pm it would have been close but I convinced myself that even with a 8.24pm arrival I might make it.
We did board for a 6.45pm departure but when we were all on the plane the captain announced that we'd been asked to hold until 7.30pm. He did say they may take off earlier and the flight would only be an hour.
I thought maybe if the 9.30pm flight to London was delayed, I could still make it.
We took off at 7.24pm with an estimated landing of 8.33pm. We ended up touching down at 8.32pm.
If I didn't have to collect luggage and change terminals it may be been doable. But everything would have to go right with both baggage collection and terminal transfer for me to have even a hope of making it.
I didn't rush off the plane because I knew the bags wouldn't come out that quickly. As it turned out, they didn't come out quickly at all.
It was a couple of minutes before 9pm before the baggage carousel started. My bag was one of the first out. I grabbed it and ran to the shuttle bus which showed up at just the right time.
I figured I didn't need to check my bag. It's small enough for carry-on, I'd just have to throw out some of my toiletries.
By the time I got to Terminal E, however, it was past 9pm. My wife was actually there waiting for me when the shuttle bus arrived. She'd driven down to the airport to either cheer me on or cheer me up depending on how things went.
After a long day with highs and lows, that was one of the sweetest things anyone could have done for me.
The British Airways staff at the counter had clocked off at exactly 9pm. Some other airport staff told my wife that if they'd stayed just a couple of extra minutes, I probably would have been able to get on that flight.
So, despite incredible efforts by the Australian Embassy to get me an emergency passport in just 6 hours, I'd missed my flight.
Had the flight from DC landed just 10 minutes earlier or the bags come off the plan just 10 minutes faster or the BA staff stayed just 10 minutes longer, I would have made it.
If the 4.30pm flight hadn't been canceled, I easily would have made it.
Of course, if I hadn't have lost my passport in the first place, I would have made it.
The next challenge became: could I get on another flight.
I called British Airways and the guy said that because my travel had started, he couldn't change it and I'd have to go to American Airlines whose delay caused me to miss the flight to make alternative arrangements. I explained the two tickets were unconnected but the BA guy claimed AA would still have to take care of it.
As the American Airlines ticketing staff had left for night, I spoke to the baggage department. They looked up the tickets and said, no, there's nothing they could do about it.
I called BA again and got another person. They said my "no show" counted as a cancellation but he could overlook that and let me change my flight.
However, when he priced it, he said it would cost $2,500 to change to fly the following day.
I instead (to avoid losing the ticket entirely) changed the ticket three months in the future for $300. I travel enough to London that I'm sure I'll use it at some point. No reason to waste it.
Thank goodness my wife was there to support me. After a crazy day (and a crazy week before that), it was so disappointing for it all to fall apart.
While still at the airport, I decided to just check on my laptop how much a completely new flight to Vienna would cost.
Turns out I could get a Finnair-ticketed flight the next day for $1,300. Given I had to travel overseas anyway to get a new US Visa, I jumped on it. If I'm going to have to pay money anyway, I may as well catch some of the conference and also go to a place where the US Embassy wait times are short.
Here's the irony, though: the Finnair-ticketed flights are British Airways operated. They are the same flights BA wanted to charge me $2,500 EXTRA to change to!
So it seems I'm off to Vienna after all.
I still have to get my full replacement passport and US visa while there, but things for the moment seem back on track.
Compared with Tuesday, my Wednesday and Thursday (so far) have been pretty uneventful.
Got to Logan early, took the overnight flight to London, changed terminals, experienced the usual rude security staff at Heathrow, flew to Vienna, experienced the usual official-of-few-words at passport control. Took the express train and two metro trains to finally get to the hotel which is a stone's throw from both the metro stop and the conference venue.
The lady at the hotel check in commented on how "new and fresh" my (emergency) passport looked.
"Yes, it's less than two days old," I replied.
Had a shower and changed clothes. Bought my first Red Bull actually in Austria and about to head over to catch the afternoon sessions of the first day of the conference.
Conference ended on Sunday. It was fantastic and the people I met up with made all the troubles to get here worth it.
Now I'm just waiting to hear from the Australian Embassy here when my new passport has arrived and from the immigration attorneys when the paperwork for my US Visa application has been filed.
Passport arrived in DC yesterday and Visa application paperwork got finalized on the Eldarion side.
Both are on their way to Vienna via FedEx with an estimated arrival at noon on Monday (one is going to Australian Embassy, the other my hotel).
I've finished the Visa application paperwork on my side and have my interview scheduled for Tuesday morning at 9.30am.
Assuming all goes well, I'll be able to catch my scheduled flight back to Boston on Saturday March 5th.
My passport and visa application paperwork both just arrived at the FedEx facility in Vienna.
My visa application paperwork has arrived at my hotel.
Picked up my new passport from the Australia Embassy yesterday and had my emergency passport turned into a BSG prop.
Had my interview at the US Embassy this morning. Approved within minutes and I'll be able to pick up my new passport with the new visa on Friday and fly back, as originally scheduled on Saturday.
When I left the US Embassy, I actually cried. I haven't felt such a release of stress in a long time.
Yesterday I went to the US Embassy again to pick up my passport with a freshly minted visa.
It's all (almost) over. Last step is just flying back to Boston tonight and hoping there's no issue with re-entry.
I re-entered the US on Saturday night. No issue at CBP. Not even a comment on my new passport and new visa.
So the story has come to an end. All-in-all it's cost me about $6k once you add up the various consulate fees, the last minute flights to and from DC, the Uber trips and car rental when my car wouldn't start, the rebooking of the flights to Vienna due to missing my connection, and the extra two weeks spent in Vienna waiting for the passport and visa.
So I do still need to sort out my car.
I do still hope to find my lost passport. There's incredible sentimental value to it.
I got the passport four days before I got married. So it has the stamps from our honeymoon to Japan, our various trips to Israel, Jordan, Chile and Easter Island, Peru, and many more.