“I promise I’m not an idiot”: what to do if you lose every single piece of identification while you’re on a trip

OK so this past weekend, I met up with some of my gal pals (who are LOVING that I just called them that) for a long-awaited weekend of beer and cursing relaxation.  I flew from Vegas to Baltimore on Thursday afternoon.  About 3 hours into the 4-1/2 hour flight, I took out my wallet so I could buy a cocktail.

Cue the foreshadowing music.

Roughly 18 hours later, I was at my friend’s house in Hershey PA (you know you were wondering where the Vegas locals go for vacay…) and I grabbed my purse because we were ready to go get some food.  I started pulling stuff out that I wouldn’t need with me (i.e. flight snacks) and I realized that my wallet was not in my purse.

I was 2100 miles from home with no money, no cards, no driver’s license.  What’s a girl to do?  I answered a round of “You’re kidding, right? Are you sure? Is it in your suitcase/in the car/under the couch?” and then it was time to deploy.  The first phone call was to Southwest Airlines, who told me 25 minutes later that I needed to go to southwest.com to fill out their lost item report.  Because nothing is more reassuring than telling the internets that you are adrift in Central PA with nothing that says you are who you are.  Yikes.  Clicking “submit” was like telling Jesus to take the wheel, let me tell you.

Then I called Mr. Incredible at work, which was humbling.  “We may have a situation.”  As ever, he hit the ground running and cancelled cards and did All The Right Things.  He’s good in a crisis.  And then after that, there wasn’t much to do.  It was day one of a 4-day bender trip, and I was in good company who, I must say, rallied to my aid.  Those bitches ladies do not let one of their own go thirsty hungry.

In the back of my head this whole time was the nagging question, “How exactly, in this post-9/11 era, does one travel without identification?”  I called Southwest again, because talking to people is more comforting than clicking around some anonymous website.  “Randy” told me “Oh, just go to the airport, they’ll know what to do.”  Um…..?  That’s not very reassuring, Randy.  Can you give a sister a heads-up about what’s in store?  “There’s a process.”

Cue more foreshadowing music.

So Monday afternoon, well before my flight, I got to the airport.  I went to BWI lost and found, just in case.  Nope, nothing there, but go downstairs to the police and see if they have it, because sometimes they put stuff like that in their safe.  HOPE!  Alas, nothing there either.  Le sigh.  So I schlep back upstairs and two terminals over to the Southwest counter.

“I lost my wallet on the way to here.  I don’t have any ID at all.  Can you help me?  I promise I’m not an idiot.”

And he did.  He did some quick verification as to who I am and where I’m going, and then he checked my bag, so I wouldn’t have to get a suitcase through security.  Then he gave me my boarding pass and sent me to security.  “Good luck, ma’am.”  Eeeek.

So I’m cool like Fonzie (“ayyyyyyyyyyyy” *two thumbs*) in line.  I get to the “picture ID and boarding pass please” lady, and I say “I lost my wallet.”

“I’mma need help up here”, she calls over her shoulder.  Everyone in line immediately looks at me like I’m Up To Something.  I step over into the penalty box and try to look inconspicuously wholesome.  A few minutes later, TSA Officer Dash comes up to me and starts asking questions.

“What happened?”


“Do you have anything in your purse with your name on it that you didn’t make?”

No.  Not even a business card (stupid no-glory job).

“What time’s your flight?”

About two hours, and it’s delayed.

“Are you a smoker?  Smoke ’em if you got em.”


He then gives me a form to fill out, which grants him and the TSA to access “A Database” that contains my information.  I will be answering some questions about my life, and that will verify my identity.


He gets on his batphone, hits 1 and CALL, which means a red phone rang in a secure room somewhere off premises.  He gives his own verification code, gets one back, and gives my name and date of birth to start the process.

He asked where I work, where I live, where I lived before that because I haven’t lived where I do for very long, what kind of car I own, the name of one family member, and a couple other questions that only I would know the answers to.  Basic life stuff, nothing really invasive, and it’s all in a database somewhere.  Freaky.

I get past that portion of the program, and it’s time for the swimsuit competition.  I receive a THOROUGH pat-down from a very nice and professional female agent.  Let’s just say, she and I became, and shall remain close, and I will always remember this encounter fondly and with no regrets.

And then I’m through.  So if you lose your wallet on a trip, there’s hope.  You’ll get home.

Here’s what I wish I had known or done in advance:

  1. Quick inventory of what is actually in my wallet.  Insurance cards, AAA card, etc.  For no other reason than to be able to determine quickly just how up the creek I really am.  Also, cleaning out anything unnecessary (am I going to Costco on this trip?  the children’s museum? work?  then I don’t need those cards.)
  2. Copy of at least my driver’s license somewhere in the world.  Even if it had been at home on Mr. Incredible’s computer, he could have emailed it to me, and then I wouldn’t have been *quite* so sketchy at the airport.
  3. Dude, check around the floor before you get off the damn plane.  Really.  Are you new?

As an epilogue to this adventure, I received an email from Southwest Lost and Found yesterday:

“We are happy to tell you that we have located an item that closely matches the description of your reported lost item.

You only need to reply to this email, within 45 days from today’s date, with the following information to facilitate its return:

1) Verify the shipping address for your item.

2) Method of payment for the shipping cost. (Why do I have to pay?)

  • We use FedEx ground to return items and would ask that you supply a FedEx account number to pay the shipping fees directly to FedEx.
    • If you do not have a FedEx account, one is easy to get by clicking here.
  • If you have a preferred shipper, please give us the company name and your account number and we will do the rest.

After we receive this information, the item will be shipped to your desired address and we will close the report. We cannot hold these items in perpetuity, so if we do not receive a reply within 45 days, the item will be salvaged and the report closed.

We would like to thank you for flying Southwest Airlines and to invite you to try us again.


Southwest Airlines Lost Item Recovery Team”

You better BELIEVE I’ll be flying Southwest again!  HOLLA.


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