Friday, October 24, 2008

an interlude: crime, loss and great good deeds

As you might have realised by now, nothing on this blog happens without a twist. So instead of just ordering the Papillon from the lovely ladies at Designer Loft in NYC, I decided to wait and see what I might find in San Francisco. We were on our way to Pebble Beach Golf Resort for a few days, after which FMIL and I would stay on in SF. I boarded the plane for SF and BB in one of my fab new F21 outfits, bridal magazine in hand, thrilled with life. I couldn’t wait to see my Beautiful Boy! It was the longest we'd been apart since he came home and I can only assure you that absence made the hearts grow fonder and I was ecstatic to be reunited and on holiday with my darling and his darling parents.

We were booked at a hotel on the waterfront and finally checked in at about 4pm. The confusing change in time zones meant I hadn’t eaten anything all day and I was starving. I convinced BB to quickly pop out for a burger before unpacking and meeting his parents for a nice dinner.

We stepped onto the street, a chill wind cooling the sunny day enough that I needed to get my gorgeous leather jacket (a 30th birthday gift from BB) out from my oversized hobo bag. The streets were packed with tourists milling around and the whole atmosphere was festive. Just a few steps from our hotel we found an In-N-Out burger. Cool! I’ve never had one before, and I just love trying out the American standards we always hear of on TV. BB went and ordered for me while I got us a table. When he arrived with my burger, my bag was taking up all the space on the little table so I removed my bag and put it under my chair. In South Africa I would've hooked it on the chair's leg or put my foot through the handle, but I was relaxed, on holiday, in the super security conscious US of A!

I remember I was quite caught up with my In-N-Out burger, it's so good! Much fresher and tastier than McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's et al. I also hadn't seen my Beautiful Boy in a week, so I suppose I have to admit to being a little distracted by him too. We probably sat there for five minutes, maximum, but it was long enough.

When we got up I looked for my bag, annoyed that it wasn't where I'd left it, and then that cold but hot, calm yet hysterical feeling came over me and being me, I instantly burst into tears. No one around us had seen anything; it had just disappeared into thin air.

We started searching the area, checking rubbish bins and bathrooms and behind tables and chairs... nothing. I remember looking to BB every now and then and thinking, come on honey, you always sort everything out for me, find the bag! But it wasn't to be.

We spotted two police officers just across the road and went to file the report. All the while I'm bawling my eyes out and trying to remember the exact contents of my bag.

My gorgeous shiny purple Marc Jacobs wallet, with money, credit cards, driver's license. Argh, driver's license! What a mission to replace?

My adorable gold Nokia with 500 SMS's exchanged between BB and I during the long distance portion of our relationship! At this a fresh sob escapes me. The officers look concerned.

My BRAND NEW digital camera purchased in NYC the previous day. Damn!

My leather Lazaro makeup bag with my favourite pen, lip balm and memory stick.

The police officer is dutifully writing everything down, minus the adjectives, but to my annoyance he skips the pen, lip balm and memory stick! Although, I might've been mumbling in Afrikaans at some stages.

And then it hits me...


I'd hesitated in the hotel room, decided not to leave it there before I'd figured out how the safe works. I WAS AFRAID SOMEONE MIGHT TAKE IT FROM THE ROOM!


Passport includes my ten-year USA visa and (drum roll in my head as the light finally goes on) Mexican visa for next week!

So for the next week, while BB golfs at Pebble Beach with his Dad, I spend my days and nights pretending that I'm not shattered at my losses and trying to replace my passport and visas. These efforts included hours on the phone to voice automated government offices, a flight to the nearest SA Consulate in LA, trips between Pebble Beach and San Jose airport (thank you FMIL and BB!) and a constant run-around between police stations, embassies and travel agents. Not to mention time zone challenges and the fact that I'm at Pebble Beach in the middle of nowhere...

By Thursday BB and his Dad are on their way to Dallas on business, FMIL and I head back to San Francisco and the bad news is confirmed: even with my brand spanking new temporary passport in hand, I can't fly home via USA or the UK! So even if the Mexican Consulate in SF grants me an emergency visa in one day (which seemed unlikely!), all my flights from Mexico had to be rerouted via South America at great expense and there was NO WAY I would see my friends in London.

I'd dealt nicely with the financial/material losses at this stage, but this got me tearing up again. I'd been looking forward to our holiday in Mexico sooo much, it was the highlight of the trip for me, and two days in London was just the cherry on top. It seemed so unfair.

I wasn't ready to give up yet, though; so back in SF I tackled the various institutions once again, trying to get me to fly back into USA from Mexico. At the US Immigration office you're not allowed to have a cell phone with you, so I leave mine with FMIL and arrange to meet her four hours later when she's found us a hotel.

There I am running around SF on the hottest day in boots and jeans, overheating as I'm still trying to sort something out. I stop in at Kinko's to check my mail from the travel agent back home, and on a naughty whim decide to treat myself to two minutes on facebook. I spot a few messages in my inbox, one looks like spam cause it's from a Qasem Alloush? I almost don't open it, thinking it's junk. But the subject catches my eye: your passport.

You can just imagine my sense of wonder, surprise and disbelief as I read that Qasem picked up a passport and he thinks it's mine and a number to call him if it is indeed mine. I write down the number and jump up (almost forgetting BB's credit card there, oops close call!) to call Qasem. Mmm, small problem, no phone! And it's only one o'clock, I won't see FMIL or my phone for another three hours.

Long story short, well shortish: I called Qasem from a payphone, he answered, he was very kind and concerned, I almost cried with relief at hearing his voice, and then he said: he lives in San Jose, and he'd given my passport to the police.

Cue another long story about tracking down the passport at the correct police station. There is the San Jose Police Department, and then there is the San Jose State University Police Department. And the two have nothing to do with each other whatsoever. Then we move on to the chapter explaining how the police had misfiled the passport and denied having it. At this point I'm crying in frustration because now it's so close but still completely unattainable. BB and I both harass poor Qasem at this stage, trying to get as much information as possible about the handing over of the passport.

Eventually FMIL and I can't stand the red tape bureaucracy I'm getting over the phone and we jump back in our rental monster and drive out to San Jose (again). We find the State University PD and I make my case in front of an officer, threatening to personally search every vehicle and office there in order to find my passport. Eventually he realises he won't get rid of me and leaves the building to go look in another office. Five very tense minutes later he appears in the doorway, I look down to his hand, there is a small green book in it.

I nearly kissed him!

The first thing I did back in the car, after hugging FMIL and choking back more tears, was SMS Qasem. His reply was something like "Wow, so you are very happy now?" and the answer is yes, Qasem, I am oh so very happy now.

I know this travel ordeal was a small thing, an administrative nightmare that threatened only to take some pleasure from my trip. No one's life was endangered, no one was injured or ill or starving or living on the bread line. But that's the whole point.

In today's melancholy climate of global warming, economic depression, political mayhem, xenophobia, insane crime levels and every other reason to pop Xanax like Smarties, someone did something nice and decent and considerate, just because.

Maybe it's because he's also a foreigner in the US and understands the value of a passport? I don't know, but the fact is Qasem Alloush changed my life by picking up a passport lying around somewhere in San Francisco, he was smart enough to look for me on facebook (I wouldn't have thought of that!) and considerate enough to not just throw it in the bin when he didn't hear from me.

Thanks to that one act of random kindness, BB and I had the most incredible holiday in Mexico and got to spend time with dearest friends in London. I think that's a pretty big pay-off.

Oh, and to all the facebook haters out there, take that. I love facebook!

And so it happened that we left America, no dress ordered, various boutiques in SF still unvisited. All I had to show for it all was a very organised file filled to the brim with dress pictures, prices, order and shipping details, a lovely tan and a relaxed attitude courtesy of Qasem Alloush and Mexico...


Gossip. Style. Wed. said...

Oh Redframe, I had my bag stolen while backpacking Europe, and lost ::all:: the same things, so I know how you feel, it's horrid. Luckily, I was able to replace my passport at the American embassy in Barcelona that afternoon and was on a train to France that evening, so my heart goes out to you that it was such a long ordeal. At least you got to Mexico at the end!

Lisa D said...

Oh my Lord. What a post. Oh the stress of losing a passport w/ visas outside of your home country. I am glad it worked out for you!!!

Princess in Galoshes said...

I love stories like that. (Well, not the missing bad part so much as the decency of humanity sometimes-part.) :-)

Kimb James said...

did i ever tell you that you could quite possibly be the luckiest person EVER. I mean in the whole world even. let me know when you put your lucky charm on ebay-i'll be the high bid.

Guilty Secret said...

Wow. Do your stories ever end? Amazing.

What a relief!

Anonymous said...

Hurrah for Qasem Alloush!! I am so glad it all worked out in the end. :)

Jessica @ budgetsavvybride said...

what a crazy story!!! good to know there are still some good people left in this world...

PS- I love Facebook,too. There is no shame, honey! :)

bekapaige said...

What an ordeal, I can't believe this :( I'm so sorry that you had to go through that. Glad you got to Mexico!

Charlie said...

Thank goodness for nice people. Sorry you had to have something bad happen to find one!

Facebook rocks!

Hannah Noel said...

omg!! That would be so terrifying! I wouldn't be able to handle myself. So many valuable things lost =(
I'm so very sorry. You should come to Oklahoma, everyone is nicer!!

I'm glad you were able to get your passport back! thank God!!

Peonies and Polaroids said...

Oh my, how horrible and stressful. I'm so glad you got your passport back though.

And I thought there might be a twist or two in the dress tale yet!

Rachel said...

Wow - what an ordeal!! I would have been in tears!

Isn't it nice, though, that there are still decent people in this world??

redframe said...

GSW, it's so debilitating isn't it? You guys are so lucky that there are embassies everywhere and you don't need visas! The passport was okay, the visas were irreplaceable! Oh and was Mexico worth it...

Lisa D, thanks. It really is one of the worst case non-life-threatening travel scenarios!

Princess, if I'd only known at the start of the ordeal that the happy ending was on its way!

Kimb, I know, I think I have to find some way to spread my luck...

GS, when BB and I fell in love he promised me "a life less ordinary" and that's certainly what I've been getting! Since May though, it's only been the wedding-planning trials and tribulations. Phew.

Mrs S, what a lovely guy that Qasem!

Jessica, thanks! I ain't ashamed!

Beka, BB still loves pointing out how I needed to go through that to learn to chill the hell out... It did teach me not to struggle and cry against what can't be changed, yet still hope for the best. And Mexico, oh Mexico...

Charlie, what a great restorer of faith in people though!

Hannah, I didn't handle it very well for the first couple of days! Luckily BB's family was there for emotional & financial support. If I'd been on my own I would've been in a real predicament! I'll have to come to Oklahoma, if only cause it has such a cute name, Oklahoma!

Peonies, you know me, it never ends!!!!

Rachel, I shed tears aplenty... the first night we never made it to dinner, I just cried and raged and sulked and phoned creditcard companies, cellular service providers etc... fun!

Kitty Cat said...

Wow, what a story. I would also have thought that a Qaseem Alloush was a weird stalker-type dude and wanted to delete his message. Lucky you!!!