My dad loves the Beach Boys, so I grew up listening to “Sloop John B.” In the song, Brian Wilson sings, “This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on.”
That was how I felt at approximately 8:15am on Tuesday, November 17, 2009.
Let me give you a short prologue.
Back in August, my friend Elizabeth had asked me to take a look at the website of a luxury resort in Turks & Caicos where she and her husband, along with several of their friends, owned a condo. I made some recommendations, and over the following months, what began as a favor for a friend grew into a six-page proposal for online marketing.
Elizabeth called me on Thursday the week before to tell me that my proposal had been approved. The Tuscany was my biggest client to date, and represented a major turning point in my career as a freelance marketer and copywriter.
I was very excited.
The next day, Elizabeth booked plane tickets for herself, Paul Hassell, and me. Paul is a talented outdoor photographer who would be taking the pictures and shooting the videos that would bring the spice to all The Tuscany’s marketing initiatives for the next eight months.
Synchronizing the schedules of four busy people had taken hours of phone calls and emails, but by the grace of God, we had managed to carve out three full days to work between two days of travel.
I was working out the final details with Elizabeth on the phone—everything from international cell phone coverage to sunscreen—when she reminded me to bring my passport.
Still incredulous that so many variables had worked to our favor, I hung up the phone and bounded up the steps to my room. I keep my passport in my humidor whose humidifier I never remember to fill. At least my passport smelled like a pipe-smoking old man.
I opened it up to reassure myself that everything was in order, and that’s when my stomach did a back flip: as of May 20, 2009, my passport was expired.
On Monday at about 4:55pm, I gave Elizabeth, my friend Ben’s mother-in-law, the worst possible news, given our unique circumstances. Her response was two words: “Oh —!”
Use your imagination.
We agreed that the first order of business was to drive to the Post Office before it closed and see if they could offer any advice. I pulled in the parking lot four minutes later and slipped through the door before the woman locked it.
“Oh, you’re a sneaky one,” she said.
I waited in line for the woman on the far left to finish up with an elderly woman.
While I was waiting, I noticed that the post office worker had a cross taped to her plastic name plate. Cards with scriptures printed on them were also taped in several places.
This was encouraging. As a Christian, she might be more willing to help me.
“What can I do for you?” she asked in a voice thick and sweet with molasses. This was the voice of a woman who was happy because I was the last customer of the day.
“Well, I’ve got a big problem,” I said.
“Don’t tell me that!” she said. “It’s the end of the day.”
I went on to explain that my flight for Turks & Caicos left at 9:30 the next morning and my passport was expired.
The smile on her face sank into a frown.
I finished with the backstory. “Is there anything I can do?” I asked.
“Oh, you’re screwed” was her answer.
Thank you for your help, ma’am. And for the encouragement.
I’ll see you at church on Sunday.