Remember where you lost it
So went the slogan in the Ministry of Sound telly ad from the summer of 2005, as it slowly zoomed in on a comatose figure collapsed under the shadow of palm tree on an Ibizan beach, to the pulsing backbeat of DaRude’s ‘trance smash’ Sandstorm.
Why am I able to recall this so well? Of all the many things you may fancy losing on the White Island, your passport is probably not high on the list. My ‘Oh Shit’ moment came at the check-in queue at Ibiza Airport. After some frantic jabbering at the Thomson rep who had doubtless witnessed it before, I was on the flight. Just a little humourless grilling from the Border Officer at the other end – ‘Which school did you go to?’ Maybe they were on a recruitment drive? – and I was home scot free.
‘I’ll never make that mistake again, noo-oo!’
Fast forward to September 2011. I’d spent the evening in Vancouver at the tail end of my Canadian rail trip, eating sushi inelegantly, hanging out with some press trip pals in a swanky style bar, then having a nightcap in a Greek taverna which looked like it could be a Sopranos set, replete with the owner fast asleep in a chair, remnants of his moussaka plastered over his shirt.
Back in the hotel I’m packing my case. And then unpacking it and re-packing it. Again and again, many times over, with furious OCD precision. I begin to tear the room apart like a crazed detective on a drugs bust. You know, one of those maverick ones. Oh well, at least I’m forced to sift through my leaning tower of press packs and bags of promo tat. The white Calgary Stampede cowboy hat is a sad casualty.
Around 4.30am I finally admit defeat. The passport’s gone. Over a furious chain smoking session (and a confusing encounter with the nightporter, who thought I’d just wandered in off the street) I resolve to bite the Virgin Media bullet and phone around the various hotels I’ve stayed in over the past week and also check if my passport just happens to be covered on my annual travel insurance. (I thought I was being clever by purchasing this instead of my usual single trip travel insurance, but no dice.)
Hi didledly dee, it’s off to the Consulate for me. Worried I might sleep in, I resolve to stay awake.
I get there just ahead of opening. There’s a big sign on the door instructing ‘anyone without a prior appointment’ to phone their helpline. I do so, standing right outside the office’s glass doors. It doesn’t bode well, a recording telling me I need to leave a message. Bureaucratic, Kafkaesque nightmares play out in my head.
I leave the message as instructed, but then I take some initiative. (A desperate measure for the likes of me.) I accost a staff member entering the office, steaming cup of Timmy’s in hand, and explain the situation. The boding begins to shift in my favour.
To my utter relief I’m welcomed into the inner sanctum a few minutes later. I’m given some forms to fill out by a very calming, reassuring, very British lady who sends me across the road to get some photies and tells me to return in a few hours. I’m soon the proud owner of a shiny, new emergency passport, my wallet some $150 dollars lighter.
There’s nothing like exploring a new city on no sleep, magnified by the surreal, giddy euphoria of a lucky escape. The tree-lined avenues look that bit wider, the Victorian buildings that bit more charming, the reflective skyscrapers seem to gleam a tinge more in the late morning sunlight. I have Five Star’s System Addict on a constant loop in my head for no apparent reason.
I had a long list of must-dos which was always going to be ambitious in a day. Brekkie on Granville Island, Gastown, a stroll around Stanley Park… all plucked from the bucketlist and consigned to the waste basket. At least I can put a tick next to sampling a Mocco Chilly (the waitress had to clarify with the manager if it was their closest equivalent to a Frappuccino) from Blenz. As I start sucking on it, I get the call from Lobstick Lodge in Jasper, some 500 km away. The passport was in my bedside drawer. Useless to me now.
The rest of the tick list flies straight out the window. Instead I head down to the shore. I watch the float planes at the harbour. They’re everywhere, like taxis outside a train station. I walk along Georgia Street and pass dozens of bike shops and joggers. Up Denman Street to peek at the famed hole in the wall food places. Asian faces all around. Everything seems bizarrely heightened and multiplied. I spot a single, absurdly bright red maple leaf on the sidewalk and decide to pocket it, my ‘goodbye Canada, good luck’ talisman.
To scratch my traingeek urges, I snap a streetcar (no time for a ride) and jump on the Skytrain to the airport, Vancouver’s driverless subway built for the Winter Olympics. It’s underground for most of the journey and not as exciting as it sounds, but it’s cheap and my head’s in the clouds already. Now I am no big fan of airports, but today even this seems charming. Light, airy with artificial streams and giant fishtanks.
As I finally touch down on Blighty soil, I finger the smooth, ultra-bright maple leaf in my pocket, smile and think, ‘how ’bout dem leafs?’
This post was written by me, but sponsored by Insure & Away.