Treasure Hunt

July 16, 2007

In the autumn of 1987 I took my first cruise, a Windjammer trip, to the Caribbean. At the time all the identification that was required was your driver's license. Two years later, in 1989, I took a second cruise to the Caribbean, this time with a passport in hand. The passport provided some cheap souvenirs; each new island (country) visited added their visa stamp to one of the pages. Martinique, Dominica, Guadalupe, St. Lucia, Grenada, and others all graced the pages in the back of that passport.

In 1994 I traveled to Europe and added stamps for Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Flipping through the pages at home made me feel like a world traveler.

In 2002, in preparation for a Hawaiian cruse, that would include a stop at the Republic of Kiribati, I renewed my passport. At the end of that process my original was returned to me, with (I believe) a hole punch in the number to mark it as expired. I liked that I was allowed to keep my cheap souvenirs, the record of where I had been in the world. The 2002 cruise was disappointing, mechanical difficulties on the ship prevented us from seeing Kiribati so I didn't add stamps to the new passport.

In two months time, however, I am returning to Europe and was looking forward to adding new stamps to my passport. Only I can't find the blasted thing anywhere. Moving in 2004 resulting in a lot of boxes in storage. And since professional packers were employed to fill those boxes I have only a vague idea of what is where now. Over the past several weeks repeated trips have been made in vain to the locker to sift through the boxes looking for the one that has my passports hidden away. I've racked my brain again and again trying to remember the last time I knew for certain where my passport was located in the Illinois house, hoping that memory would give me a clue as to which box to search. Short of emptying each of dozens of boxes piece by piece, I have no way now of finding that little blue book.

The United States is changing their travel requirements, no longer will US citizens be able to go to places like Mexico or Canada, or US holdings in the Caribbean without a passport. This change has resulted in a huge backlog at the State Department as thousands upon thousands of new passport applications have been made. The newspapers have horror stories of people who have waited months to get their passport.

I have 61 days.

Over the weekend I downloaded and printed off the various forms I need to present. First is a form explaining that my current passport is lost, next is an application for a new one. Of course, without a passport I need to prove who I am all over again. A quick web search and $33 spent should get me a certified copy of my birth certificate from New York by the end of the week. Next will be new pictures, and then a trip to the post office. In addition to the passport fee ($97) I'll have to pay for expedited service ($60) and then I'll have to wait.

The hardest part will be stopping the search for my missing passport, once I set the wheels in motion for a re-issue of it, I assume it would royally screw things up to find the missing one and try to stop the re-issue process. I figure that a day or two after the new passport arrives in the mail, the missing one will fall out of a previously searched drawer or box. Which will actually be okay; I'll still have my visa stamp souvenirs.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.