This is a bit of a long story, probably too long for a blog post; but a story worth telling. It’s about the worst, and best, Mexican vacation I’ve had. You can probably guess it had a happy ending, but we definitely weren’t sure it would turn out that way as events were unfolding.
Planning and Prep
In 2013, my daughter Katie had planned to have a “destination wedding” before she had even picked a date. It was her dream to get married in Mexico on the beach. At the time, my wife Gini checked our passports – hers was missing and she ordered a new one; but mine was good to go. However, since the date had not yet been chosen, she didn’t pay close attention to the expiration at that time (that’s an important part of the story).
Katie finally picked a date of July 7, 2014 (she thought 7/7 would be easy for Blake to remember), and my wife didn’t catch the fact that my passport would expire in November of the year she checked. I, being a guy and depending on my wife to do everything for me, never bothered to check. Bad Move.
I decided it would be handy to stack a federal holiday against the wedding trip so I could get in some extra days for scuba diving, dolphin swimming, and maybe a jungle tour; so we scheduled our departure for Friday, July 4th. That holiday would end up working against me.
We got to the airport for our scheduled flight, and the agent checked our passports and ticket information; but he didn’t catch the expired passport. The TSA agent also checked them all, and didn’t catch it. We went to board the plane and the boarding agent checked the passports and she didn’t catch it. We rode the plane in blissful ignorance, with me entertaining the grandkids, the happy couple together in first class, and my wife napping a few seats over from the grandkids and me.
However, when we got to customs in Mexico, they saw the problem with the passport and pointed it out to me. After about 15 minutes of semi-decent English on their part, and very poor Spanish on ours, they made it clear to us that there was nothing that could be done in Mexico; that I was to be put back on the next plane to the US.
I actually did pretty well maintaining my composure during the ordeal; but I did have to speak back when the Mexican official told me (as I was getting on the plane) “If I came to your country, they would require me to have a passport” – to which I responded “Well, I guess you’d be the only one out of 12 million or so …” Probably not my best moment of the trip, but I was frustrated.
Sitting in the airplane on the tarmac, I briefly considered the possibility of claiming sudden chest pains – maybe I could escape from the hospital and make it to the hotel. That plan was abandoned along with my previous idea of slipping a $50 bill into the passport and asking them to check again. With my luck, I’d be arrested and put in a Mexican prison hospital.
I wasn’t there to experience it, but Gini and Katie both told me it was a sad long cab trip for them to the hotel. It was definitely a long sad weekend for me!
Of course, I picked a Federal holiday to do all of this, so nothing could be done that day when I arrived back in the country (I might have been OK had I left the day before). My wife and daughter contacted the travel agent, and she said that the passport office in Dallas could expedite a passport renewal on Monday (the day of the wedding), but that it wouldn’t be ready until 3:00 pm (or later), and there were no flights leaving that late. The wedding was at 4, so even if had there been, it wouldn’t have helped. I accepted that fact that I’d goofed (big time), and would miss the wedding.
After I moped around the house much of the day on Saturday, feeling sorry for myself; I decided to post the explanation on my Facebook page, so family and friends that knew of the wedding would know why I wasn’t in any of the pictures. It was a gut-wrenching tragic tale (no joke – one of the guys in the wedding party said he started crying in the airport!); so much so that a co-worker, Alison Wheelock, shared it with her husband (an American Airlines pilot); and she left me a message to call Bob as soon as I could.
When I saw the message, I was thrilled! Probably Bob had some connections that I hadn’t even thought about. Shoot, maybe he was so touched by my story that he was going to fly me down there; he’s a pilot after all, and surely they get to borrow 777’s from time to time, right? Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. Bob’s recommendation was the same as the travel agent’s – that I go to the Dallas passport office and ask to have it expedited.
I was disappointed. Not that I really thought he could fly me down there or anything, but that possibility had already been explored and rejected as unworkable. I explained to him what the travel agent said, that there wasn’t enough time to get it expedited and still make a flight. By this time, I had already accepted that I would miss the wedding, and just wasn’t prepared for more disappointment. But Bob explained further. He said that the passports are actually processed and printed right there in the office in Dallas, and that even though they only promise them by 3:00 (for a fee, of course), with the “right sob story”, they could possibly speed the process.
Then, he hit me with the zinger. He said
If it were my daughter, I’d be the first one in line when they opened, begging them to do whatever they could.
I really didn’t think it was going to work, but I decided that if nothing else, I would be able to look Katie in the eye and say I did everything I could possibly do.
So, on Sunday I headed out to Walgreen’s for a new passport photo. I ended up staying up all night so I wouldn’t sleep through the 4 am alarm. I got to Dallas at 5, and found they wouldn’t let me in the building until 6. Then, I found they wouldn’t let me upstairs until right before the office opened at 8. However, I somehow ended up being the first one they processed.
Paperwork was submitted and sob story told to the first clerk by 8:05, and repeated to the second clerk by 8:25. Both were very upbeat, but could only offer hope. So, I waited more. I grabbed a bite to eat at Micky D’s hoping to burn some of the wait time, and found that it got me all the way to 8:45. So, I just sat and waited again, really just figuring that I was going to be telling my daughter that I did my best.
And then they called my name at 9:55, and handed me a red envelope with my new passport inside! I sped up I-35 and 183 to DFW Airport, got to the gate as they were boarding the flight at 10:40; and made it to Mexico by 2:15. Katie had moved the wedding to 5, just in case, and as you can see from the photos, it all worked out well.
Needless to say, Alison and Bob are new family heroes.
As you can see in the photos, the wedding came out beautifully. In the photos are Katie’s children Tristen (11 in the photo) and Kylee (8 in the photo), Katie and Blake, and my wife Gini (who got to perform the ceremony) and me. The beach was great, the weather was perfect, but most of all, I actually made it.
As a Vacation
OK, as a vacation, it wasn’t great, but things turned out well. I made the trip, got a great story to tell (what other good American can laugh about being deported from Mexico?), and still got to squeeze in a couple of fun things the next morning. Gini and I took the grandkids for a skyrider trip (big kite pulled behind a powerboat), and Katie and I did a quick run through town and rented a waverunner. No scuba diving or jungle tour for me, but a win for sure!