“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?”

Duh.

“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.”

Geez.

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.

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

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.
      or,
  • 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.

Sincerely,

Southwest Airlines Lost Item Recovery Team”

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

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Getting back to the center.

A week ago Sunday, Boo fell and hit her head on her bedrail (she’s fine, after a run to the ER for some stitches that are already out and we’ve moved on to Mederma).   It was not our first trip to the ER, but it was our first encounter with a head injury and blood.  The injury itself and its aftermath knocked me off balance for the rest of the week.  I instantly became a helicopter, trying to catch her before she falls again, making that cringing intake of breath sound every time she got too close to anything that wasn’t soft.  She’s fearless, but evidently I felt it necessary to make up the difference.

Besides what was going on in my head, I didn’t get stuff done around the house.  All I wanted to do was keep her from getting hurt again.  Don’t run!  Slow down!  Be careful!  I didn’t make dinner.  I didn’t do laundry.  I just disconnected from the domesticity for a few days, and I’m only just now catching up.

When Something (note the intentional capital S…) happens, it’s so easy to let it take over.  And that’s OK for a while, I think.  We needed a few days to absorb what had happened.  It was a minor injury, yes, but there was a shocking amount of blood (YIKES) and my little girl had this awful (oh it looked TERRIBLE) wound right above her eyebrow and I was so worried about how it would heal.  There’s so much to worry about, so many unknowns.  When we don’t know how that Something is going to turn out, it’s so tempting just to shut down.  How can we possibly think about keeping a house clean when we’re so immersed in a really serious situation?

When the initial emergency is over, and you’ve done everything you can do to make it as OK you’re able to and you’ve handed it over to the experts, don’t drive yourself nuts reliving it.  Don’t “what if” yourself to death.  You are not helping by becoming a lunatic.  Pacing a waiting room, nervously dwelling out loud about how it impacted YOU and YOUR situation is not productive, and when there is a crisis, your energy is best devoted to being productive.  Full disclosure?  Monday after Boo’s accident, I think I actually made things worse by being so agitated.  I couldn’t sit still, so neither could she.  At the end of the day, we were both utterly worn out.  We would have been better served by me not trying to protect her from the entire universe and just allowing her to establish her own pace (as long as she wasn’t running STOP RUNNING OMG SLOW DOWN!!!).

It’s hard to let go, to relinquish the care of a loved one.  I felt terrible guilt that the person who was able to make Boo all better wasn’t me (although he was a very nice PA who has a 3 year old himself, and admitted to keeping a suture kit at home because these things happen).  I lost sight of the fact that making sure she was OK was the important part–we made sure she was OK.  We got her into the hands of the right people in an incredibly short amount of time.  Mr Incredible (who totally lived up to that moniker) and I were a team, and we each played our role to the best of our abilities.  And when we were calm (at least on the surface in the ER), she was calm.  There was such relief in that realization.

There is also comfort, at least for me, in routines.  I think I rediscovered my schedule on about Thursday, and it was so helpful to me to have an identifiable starting point.  “Today, I clean the bathrooms and I will do a load of laundry and I will deal with the pile in the kitchen (that was out.of.control) as my one extra thing.”  And it worked.  I didn’t spend time wondering how it would all get done.  It will all get done.  And we are OK.  And Boo is OK too.

All her eggs (and mine…) in one basket.

ICE (In Case of Emergency): What’s your plan?

In the last month, we’ve had 2 trips to the ER (minor stuff, but still emergent/after hours, etc).  The first trip was because Boo’s croup had taken a turn and we were suddenly dealing with a bad fever that was only going up.  She’s so rarely sick; we simply weren’t prepared to deploy.  Once we made the decision to take her to the ER, we spent a good 20 minutes gathering, running up and down the stairs, checking and double-checking things, going back into the house for one more thing… you get the idea.  It was much more stressful than it needed to be.

Yesterday, I dropped a glass and ended up with a “lacerated” (the very word makes me cringe) finger that needed more attention than we could give it at home, so off we went again.  Here’s why we weren’t scrambling this time:

My drivers license, debit card, and insurance card were in my wallet, not just tossed back into my purse after their last use.  Do you know where yours are?  Get up, right now, and put them where they go.  This departure was a bit easier simply because I’d spent some time getting a grip on the contents of my purse.

  • Triage at home:  we don’t have a traditional first aid kit, but the top drawer in our bathroom is organized.  Bandages are in a Ziploc bag, antibiotic ointment is right there, etc.
  • On the way to the hospital, my husband and I devised a strategy (it sounds so Mission: Impossible…).  “I’ll drop you off at the door.  You go check in, I’ll park the car and bring Boo.”  By the time they got inside, I was in triage (this is largely due to the ER staff being organized too.  Rock on!).
  • No time to line up a sitter?  Have a go-bag ready with stuff to keep the kid occupied.  I have a folder on my phone labeled “Boo”, and it’s full of apps that are just for her.  We were glad to have it, because Pop Pop Popcorn bought us 10 minutes of distraction so we could take care of the business at hand.  I keep a handful of crayons and a notebook in my purse (hi, I’m Mary Poppins, nice to meet you, even when my purse is manageable) because coloring is always OK with Boo.
  • We knew the answers to their questions.  Pop quiz:  What’s your deductible?  What’s the dosage of any medication you regularly take?  Do you have a living will/advance directive?  If you don’t know offhand, write it down somewhere or put it in your phone.
  • We stayed calm.  Going to the ER is one of those super-loaded events where you’re in a heightened sense of awareness and everything can seem so much more intense than it really is.  Once you get there, though, you’re where you need to be.  You’re going to get the help you need, so it’s OK to exhale, roll your shoulders back, and let the help happen.

Your ICE plan doesn’t have to be something written down, unless that’s what works for you.  Take a minute and identify the closest ER or Urgent Care Clinic (make a note of their business hours…) to your home.  Think about what’s involved in getting out of the house quickly if you needed to, and start streamlining that process.  You may never need to deploy (one of my new favorite words!), but if you do, having a grip on it will be a good feeling.