Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

Managing a Travel Calamity


Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling when you’re just about at the airport and you realize something is wrong but there’s no time to fix it?  Well, so have I.  Here’s what happened.

For the family Thanksgiving trip (to Charleston and Savannah), we allowed ample time to depart a very busy LAX on Sunday.  I typically use a small wallet for traveling rather than carry my larger (heavier) everyday version.  Somehow the small wallet was misplaced, so I simply took my regular wallet.

Because I had not gone through the contents until we were five minutes from the airport, I didn’t realize my driver’s license was missing.  Oh, my — panic starts to well up.  It is nowhere to be found.  I thought about the last time I used it.  It was earlier that week at a UCLA game where I had to show proof of vaccination along with photo ID.  I’m guessing I somehow dropped it at that point.

No worries; I have my Passport on my phone so I figure that will suffice.  Indeed, American issued our boarding passes.  But then the fun began at TSA.  “Ma’am, you’ll have to leave the pre-check line and go to the regular line.”  You know — the endless one.

At the front of that line I was told I needed to wait for a supervisor, who was summoned.  And then the minutes are passing by.  I still have plenty of time but my mind is doing sommersalts.  So I start to press:  “Can you please summon him again?”  “Please, can you reach out again??”  “I don’t see anyone coming — perhaps again?”  Most of which pleas were ignored so I resulted to “Don’t you want to get rid of me?!”  Finally, said supervisor arrived and took me aside.  I produced many forms of ID but none with photos.  A digital photo of a passport is a great idea in case it is lost, but it is not useable in this situation.  The one thing I did find in my wallet?  My Costco card, which is at least 20 years old, but had the necessary photo proving my identification.

It doesn’t end there.  One then gets a personal escort through security where everything is removed and scanned (not a requirement with pre-check).  Then one is not allowed to proceed until given the all-clear.  My family was very happy to see me at the gate.

We contemplated having our housesitter do a search at home.  Assuming she found the ID, she could overnight it to me.  However, since I was awaiting the arrival of my new Real ID card, we decided to pass and just allow extra time for the process at the end of the trip.

So what are the takeaways here?   First, double check that you have every essential item with you at all times. Like a valid photo ID. Second, panicking is of no value to anyone — especially your travel companion(s).  Third, sane and rational people have a better shot at convincing TSA of an honest mistake.  I firmly believe if they get even a whiff of someone’s dubious intentions, that person is not getting on the plane.  Lastly, never leave home without your Costco card.