We’ve all heard the travel horror stories before: getting scammed in Thailand, missing connecting flights and being stranded in a foreign country, crashing a rental car, etc. We hear these stories and we might even know a friend-of-a-friend’s-brother’s-college-roommate who had something like this happen to them, but never in a million years would we think that something similar would happen to us. “I’m an extremely cautious person” and other ridiculous mantras run through our heads while we (internally) judge the traveler for being too trusting/slow/insert-adjective-here. Don’t deny it, you do it too. Until, that is, it finally happens to you. The nightmare. The trip-ruiner. The final straw before you break. This is the story of my stolen passport.
Almost 2 weeks prior to leaving for my study abroad program, my purse was stolen from under my desk at work.
No, it wasn’t locked up and I know that’s on me. I’ve since learned from my mistake. The purse was deep in the corner under my desk, and you couldn’t see it unless you actually came behind my desk and crouched down. My coworkers and I were at a birthday lunch for a few others and myself for just over an hour, but that was all it took for my life to be flipped upside-down.
To make matters worse, that was the day that I decided to bring all of my important documents to scan so I had digital copies while in Europe. I had my birth certificate, passport, social security card, car registration, tons of birthday gift cards, credit cards, a little bit of cash, my keys, iPad mini, my favorite sunglasses and headphones. Ugh. AND it was my Tinkerbell purse! I seriously hope the person who swiped it really needed it.
After we returned from the birthday lunch, I reached for my iPad, intending to stream the afternoon World Cup game. When my hand never connected with the straps of my purse, I thought (hoped?) it was a joke at first, since a few coworkers and I have a reputation for pranking each other.
When the ugly reality started to settle in, I wouldn’t allow myself to panic. I called security and then campus police. They came and filled out a police report, but my immediate concern was that the thief had my car keys and registration…perfect for stealing my car (although looking back, it might have been easier to catch them if they HAD taken my car). The cop went and sat by my car until I could get over to it with security to pop it open…I fortunately had a spare made recently and it was still in the glove box. Divine intervention?
That night, I got home and made a list of everything I could remember being in my bag, right down to the new pack of gum and purple pens I like to use from my gym. I quickly canceled my 2 big credit cards that were swiped, paying little attention to my small debit card (my least-used with little money). New cards were on the way and thankfully no unwanted activity was on either card. The thief spent the $70 I apparently had on my debit card at a gas station down the street, and then tried to spend $100 at Whole Foods. At least it’s a healthy thief…? By that time, I had reported the fraud and filed a claim. I worked with the campus police, hoping that they would be able to follow up on the video surveillance from Whole Foods, but never held my breath.
After I got this situation figured out, I drove the city civic building to talk to the passport people. There was so much information on the Internet about getting a rush passport, that I was getting SO CONFUSED! The last thing I read said that I would have to go to Colorado to get my passport. That wasn’t going to happen in this life.
When I arrived at the appropriate passport office in our city, the lady at the desk told me there was nothing she could do but refer me to the website that said Colorado.
Now, up to this point, I HAD NOT CRIED. I didn’t allow myself to, but at this point I started to tear up. I thanked the lady and was about to leave…
…but as I reached the door, called to me to wait. She gave me the phone number to a “super-secret” passport place that would be able to work with me quickly to get the passport.
I called them and figured out what I needed to get together. I had everything, but still needed a certified copy of my birth certificate. Stupid California.
I went online again and found the LA County Clerk office that held the vital records. I called them and was on hold for over 30 minutes. I got step-by-step instructions on how to get a same-day birth certificate. Fortunately, I was able to get the certificate and have it shipped overnight it to me. Whew!
After I confirmed the shipping information for my certified birth certificate, I called my sister and cried to her and asked if I could see the little girlies. I just needed some loving from my adorable nieces, which I knew would brighten my day and put everything into perspective. Fortunately, my sister and nieces were fairly close and they came to pick me up and take me to lunch. The best part? The oldest asked me in her sweet little 5-year-old voice, “Aunt Shelly, did someone take your purse?” I said yes, and she replied with, “That’s not very nice.” I just giggled because she’s just too much!
The next few days were crazy. I went to the passport place on Friday to submit for my insanely rushed passport and was told I’d receive it after 3 business days, which was the following Thursday morning.
I was told I’d get a call.
Well, that didn’t happen. And I was a wreck. To say the least. I wasn’t telling a lot of people about it: my coworkers knew because it all went down at work, I told my sister, and my parents knew.
Soon, however, people were randomly coming up to me, telling me how horrible of a situation I was in, and asking me what I’m going to do, and the like.
I had to constantly remind myself that most of them were coming from a good place in their hearts.
But some of them are the type of people who just like to “be in the know.”
Anyway, the day I was at the passport place, my coworkers gave me my going-away gift (read: money…enough to cover the rushed passport of roughly $500), even though I was coming in to work the following week. They were so generous and helpful, I just burst into tears. I don’t do that normally, so I’m sure it threw some of them off (and made some of them cry too). I was also speechless, which never happens.
It was such an amazing feeling to know that I am loved and supported at work. And to top it off, a few friends from my ward gave me a little something as well. It was all so overwhelming. I think that any time a horrible thing happens, like REALLY horrible, all of the small acts of kindness that occur immediately after are magnified so much.
Fast forward to the last Friday, the day before I was driving to California for my flight to Europe…and the day after I was told to expect my passport.
I was going crazy, to put it lightly. I couldn’t focus. Nothing had been going right lately with Europe and I just had that sickening feeling in my stomach. I later found out that there was a problem with the courier, so my passport was still in LA as of Friday afternoon.
My flight was Sunday morning.
I spent so much time/money/energy into this study abroad and couldn’t just throw it away because someone didn’t do their job. I got the number for a contact down in LA and talked her through the situation.
What ended up happening was this: “Rachel” (yeah, didn’t know her last name or company name) was going to take the passport to her house over the weekend and text me her address in Beverly Hills. This way, I could go pick it up whenever my mom and I arrived in the area.
While I hated adding an extra 3 hours to our trip to SoCal, mom was game and we went and FINALLY got my passport. Unfortunately, I had to renew it after only 1 year.
The good news? I wrote this in Prague.
Has anything like this happened to you before? What happened and how did you handle it?