What Losing My Passport Taught Me About the Goodness in People

(Disclaimer: this blog is not about the healthcare system. We will return to our regularly scheduled programming after the holiday).

My family and friends will tell you that I’m not the most, um, patient person in the world. That I can be, well, somewhat “abrupt” with people, particularly bureaucrats and customer service people. It’s something I’m trying to change, though.

I made this resolution a couple of months ago after spending several days with my friend Alisa, who has been learning about and trying to live her life according to Buddhist principles. What principles? Simple things, like: Do no harm. Listen to people. Slow down. Be in the moment. Recognize that other people’s happiness is just as important as your own. And don’t kill bugs, even when you find a large spider in your bathroom.

Many of you know the saga of the lost passport and delayed trip to Cancun, where, for the past two days, my husband, our three sons, one son’s fiancé, and one son’s girlfriend have been soaking up the rays and rum on what was supposed to be the trip to celebrate my 50th birthday.

The good news is that I got a new passport, thanks to Diva at Inter-American Group (IAG). Dropped off the paperwork at her office in DC at 8:30 a.m., Friday morning, and had the passport in my hot little hands by 4 p.m. I’m writing this from BWI airport, awaiting my flight to Cancun.

But here’s the thing—from the minute this started everyone has been so amazingly kind and generous. My husband, for offering to stay home with me (and really meaning it). My 20-year-old, for the huge hug he gave me (he’s not a hugger). My 17-year-old, for listening to me when I broke down and not texting his girlfriend during my crying jab. My 26-year-old, for finding IAG even as he was flying from Los Angeles to Cancun, calling Diva, making her promise that she would get me a passport by 4 p.m. Friday, and then telling her to call me. Which she did.

But it doesn’t stop there. Diva, who pretty much runs this agency herself, was incredibly patient and thorough in explaining all the steps I had to follow and paperwork I had to complete.

Kathy, the passport lady at the Monticello post office in Williamsburg, gave me a 3:45 appointment when I called at 1:45 (these appointments usually take weeks to land). She double-checked everything three times, “because I would never forgive myself if something was missing,” she said, and gave me a huge hug when I left.

Julie, my travel agent, handled my hysterical emails and calls with grace and aplomb, and made sure someone would be there at the airport to take me to the resort.

Even the traffic gods were on my side, allowing me to drive from Williamsburg to DC in the dark (I hate driving at night) after only about four hours of sleep the previous night, with no accidents or traffic.

I spent eight hours Friday hanging out in coffee shops working. And even though I never bought more than a bottle of water, cup of coffee, or sandwich, no one asked me to leave and everyone was cheerful and sweet. And the Internet was always free.

When I arrived at the Embassy Suites at BWI, the front desk ladies were so happy to see me I almost asked for some of whatever it was they were drinking. Oh, and by the way, this hotel lets you leave your car there for the duration of your trip—at no extra charge.

A few hours later, I received a Twitter notice from a woman I know virtually but have never met. Gail Kent publishes a daily “news update” from our region. She pulls the content from online sources and, yesterday, highlighted my passport blog, providing valuable visibility.

Cut to this morning. At check in, the AirTran airline representative asked why I wasn’t flying their direct flight to Cancun. (Because I booked on some el cheapo web site and they didn’t offer it, I thought, but didn’t say).

“Would you like to switch?” he asked. “You’ll get into Cancun 45 minutes later.”

“Sure,” I said. “How much?”

“Now, did I say anything about money?” he asked, handing me the ticket. This time, he was the one who got the huge hug.

Onto the gate, where I asked if there were any upgrades available. At this point, I’d spent so much money in the past two days I figured a little more wouldn’t hurt. And do you know, there actually were several seats available in business class. One of which is now mine—gratis.

Finally, there is one more person I’d like to thank. Whoever came up with the brilliant idea to put fresh flowers in the ladies’ room at the airport. It’s amazing how happy a bright bouquet of flowers can make you feel—even at 5 a.m.







8 Responses to “What Losing My Passport Taught Me About the Goodness in People”

  1. Debbie Anderson

    Always a pleasure to read. So glad things have worked out for you!

  2. Alisa

    Great story. Happy birthday!

  3. Anan

    So glad you made it! What a wonderful story, Debra! Enjoy.

  4. Michele

    Debra–Had no idea what you were going through and yet you still continued working on our assignment without a hiccup–what a pro! Enjoy Cancun and enjoy 50!

  5. Cindy

    As if a 50th birthday wasn’t memorable enough! Good things happen to good people; glad you finally made it!

  6. Toni

    Hope you had an easy flight and arrived to beautiful weather and a delighted welcome from your very supportive family. Oh, one more thing: Happy Birthday!

  7. Alisa Bowman

    I love that you were showered with so much kindness–and that you took time to notice it. This, however, is my favorite line: “My 17-year-old, for listening to me when I broke down and not texting his girlfriend during my crying jab.”

  8. Alex Howson

    Debra – I loved this. Thanks for writing such a cheering story even in the midst of stress and chaos. Enjoy your well deserved break and happy birthday!


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