I did not arrive the recommended 75 minutes early, but I got to the outside baggage check of a certain airline in plenty of time for what was a slow travel day. One bag to check in - piece of cake. I handed over my license. As the Baggage Check man went to place it on his computer in order to have two hands to type, it slipped from his fingers and fell behind the screen into the depths of his kiosk. It was just a slip. He finished the transaction, returned my credit card, printed the luggage tag and boarding passes, and then it was time to fetch my license.
He looked. He got a flashlight. He took off his hat to lean in. He happened to have an extended reach grabber doohicky-thingymajob. To no avail. At one point he was practically standing on his head to reach behind the computer, his feet were in the air. He pulled out drawers, machines and cables. He found old eyeglasses, a single glove a newspaper, pens, and all kinds of stuff under an inch of dust. I even looked for it myself. The driver's license was nowhere to be seen. His white shirt - all of him, was covered in dust except for his befuddled smile and shrug.
I missed the flight.
I recommended he find someone who could reschedule my trip. One by one each of the three additional airline personnel responding to his radio help plea insisted on looking for themselves. More peering and more dust. Obviously one of those things where you have to try looking for yourself. It had to be somewhere. The complete disappearance was an odd story to have to keep repeating. A new agent returned with a new flight schedule for me. She was pleased that it would leave in 90 minutes and I would still arrive at my destination that same day. I reminded her that I had no license. She reminded me that I would need an ID. Yes. Exactly! There is a problem.
I suggested that I could go to a local DMV and that the airline might put me up for the night and reschedule my flight for the next day. The agent was certain that they would only provide a corporate rate voucher for a hotel stay - disbelieving that they would pay for the whole thing. Then it was my turn to disbelieve.
I assure you I was a very nice and patient person throughout this. But at that moment a question slipped out of my mouth as to why I should incur any expense at all for this inconvenience. She informed me that they "are not in the habit of putting people up who do not have a license?" She said it as though it were a question (hoping I would buy this answer). "Could I speak with her supervisor" - I said as though it too were a question. She made a call and then let me know that the supervisor would be down from the gates and could speak with me in about 2 hours if I wanted to have a seat. Hmmm, as it happened I did not want to have a seat. "I think I should leave you my name/number for him to call me and instead go to a DMV before it closes," I said. She began to think out loud again - "You will probably need your ID at the DMV?" Again with the question mark at the end of her statement. "What?!" I responded utilizing both a question mark and an exclamation point at the end of my interjection.
Ready to leave - I asked for the hotel voucher the agent alluded to (just in case the supervisor forgets to call me). She was reluctant to give it to me, now pondering out loud if I would need to go back to Chaves County to get a new license or not. Surely not!
As I got on the PARKnRIDE shuttle to my car and was welcomed to Albuquerque by my driver - I called the closest DMV to inquire about the replacement process. It would not be a problem. As I entered the DMV office I had remembered to get reading material for the anticipated wait. I took a number but was only seated about 45 seconds when they called for me. The nicest person in the world assisted me and I was out of there in no time with my temporary paper license.
During a short and voracious visit to Burger King I called the 1-800 number on the hotel voucher. It was obviously an independent company that books stranded travelers for several different airlines. She asked me to wait as she looked up participating hotels. I hear her begin to laugh and assume she is continuing an ongoing conversation with the person next to her on the phone bank. But alas, she had found two hotels. The first was a Fairfield Inn and the second, she began to laugh again, was the "Possum by the River," or something to that effect (or something to that infect). "I'm sorry" I said, "did you say Possum?" "Yes," she responded. We agreed that it did not sound promising and I received a confirmation number for the Fairfield.
At the Fairfield they did not have my confirmation. Maybe I will have to go to the 'Possum' after all. But, the second nicest person in the world was working behind the counter and took care of me and I was in. They even took care of certain things I didn't plan on needing that night. Nice.
My first thought was to call/visit friends I love in the area, but decided instead to lay low and not impose. It was a quiet evening and I got sleep!
I got up at 4:15 am, happily found breakfast even though it wasn't supposed to be available for an hour, and headed back to the Airport. The airline lady checking me in generously assigned me seats in exit rows without extra charge. She was making a bona fide run at nicest person in the world and just got a vote from me.
Then I was put in the line where you don't have to take off your shoes or take your laptop out. Awesome! Oops, having a paper license issued the day before was cause for ejection and a "follow me for a complete bag check and pat down." The TSA agent explained at length how and where he would pat me down. "Sir, I will need to do this... do that... and touch here... in this manner... The blah blah blah ended when he said, "and I will need to run my hand up the inside of your leg to the point of resistance." "The 'point of resistance?!'" I said with both a question mark and an exclamation point inflection. Was I to resist physically or verbally, because I was ready to do both. I resist, I resist!
I assure you I was a very nice and patient person throughout this... though I was challenging the Christian notion of whether one had to hold captive both their thoughts and their tongue. I did make it to my destination but I have yet to get my call from the airline supervisor.
What have I learned through all this silliness and mix of kindness and befuddlement? Well... I'm going to Google Albuquerque hotels and see which one has the word Possum in its name. But I have also been reminded that it is best to go through life with a sense of humor.
Paul had to say it twice, but he did not put any stipulations on it when he told the Philippians to "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice" (4:4). In the end I am glad I am not the one who dropped someone else's license into a black-hole. I am glad my job is not to speak to stranded travelers who only call in distress. I'm glad I don't have to memorize a speech that ends with, "and I will need to run my hand up the inside of your leg to the point of resistance." There is always something to rejoice about.