Friday, March 16, 2007

Always An Idiot

So, as stated a few posts ago, things have been a little hectic 'round here as of late. Mostly in my head, but I'll give you the rundown of frenzy. It will probably bore you, but that's tough shit.

A few months ago a friend of mine mentioned going on his annual trip to Whistler, British Columbia. The previous year I had been invited, but couldn't go for whatever reason. This year I didn't plan on going either as I was soon to be unemployed and I was also taking a class at NYU. On Saturday, February 24th, in anticipation of some good stories I text my friend to ask if he had been yet.
He texts back: Next week. Getting there on 03/03.
I say: Shit. I should have invited myself. I could use a break from work before it is all over.
He says: Do it.
I think, hmmm, that would be nice, but I'm not convinced I should do it.

I think. I discuss with the wife. I think some more.

I can't get there on Saturday, as they are, because I have already committed to the Vertical Challenge upstate, but I decide I could, at least in theory go up after that if I want to torture myself -- trip upstate, 24 hours straight of snowboarding, back to NYC, sleep, wake up get on plane. Skip work, skip class, run myself ragged ... walking that fine line between brilliance and insanity. Yes!

I then speak with my friend the following day. He confirms that it is cool with the rest of the crew going and even though it is last minute I should check out flights.

That night I get online. I find a flight for a little over $400. I likes.

I do a little more thinking overnight. I sleep on it as they say.

I wake up Monday with a decision to do this thing. I get to work and go to book it. The price of the flight has gone up. A lot. I won't be deterred as I now have vacation on the mind. I find another flight. This one's not direct, but whatever. I'm on a fucking mission. I book my flight -- Monday morning, NYC to Dallas to Vancouver and then the return is Vancouver to Seattle to NYC. Easy fo sheezy. So, I'm thinking all is cool, feeling that happy, "I'm goin' away" feeling.

That night I figure I should dig out some of my shit that is mandatory for this trip. My snowboarding shit, my camera, my passport, my flight information, etc. After some searching I eventually find my passport. I throw it on the table. Then I happen to browse through it, checking out my various stamps from here and there for a little reminiscing and then, the horror! My passport expires on Tuesday -- one day after my arrival in Canada. That's not good. I panic.

I get online. A passport is definitely needed. Fuck.

I start trying to figure out how to get me a passport. Fast. Use someone else's? Alter mine? Walk across the border somewhere in Montana? I've seen Fahrenheit 9/11. I know there is only like one guy that patrols the whole middle of nowhere section of the border. Fuck.

After about a million calls to the passport people. Well, the automated passport people anyway. I get nowhere. I give up that night and decide to call in the morning. (That phone system sucks balls. I'm not even going to get into it, but believe me. It's the worst.)

Early Tuesday morning I finally reach a human. There is an office in NYC that can make a passport on the spot. When's the next time I can get in? March 14. Four days after I return. That's not going to work. There's no talking my way in, no walkup-squeeze-you-in service, no nothin'. I decide I should try the local post office to see if they can do anything.

I get myself a photo, fill out all the paperwork and go to the post office right when the passport window opens on Wednesday on a break from work to see if they knew of any way out of my predicament. The woman at the Jersey City USPS was surprisingly nice. And helpful, or at least understanding. She couldn't really do anything for me, but suggested I try the office in Philly. Good thinking, lady! I tried to get an appointment at the Philly office that does the on the spot passport renewals, figuring if I could get in I would bus down, get my passport and be golden. No luck there either. The earliest day I could get there was March 12. Damn all these last second A-holes!

At this point I decide this passport thing is a loss. Even though I have my photos and my application filled out, I'm not getting myself a new passport in time for this trip.

I do a little more research and find that getting into Canada shouldn't be a problem, but getting back will be (thanks U.S.A.!). I actually called USAirlines to see what they had to say. It went like this:
USAir lady: [Answering formalities]
Me: "Hi. I'm going to be flying with you on Monday to Canada and then I'll be returning the following Sunday. My passport expires on Tuesday. You think that will be an issue?"
USAir lady: "Well you do need a valid passport to return to the U.S."
Me: "Right, but you don't getting into Canada will be a problem?"
USAir lady: "I don't think so."
Me: "And coming back? What happens without a passport? I'm not going to get thrown in prison am I?"
USAir lady: "No ... I don't think you'll wind up in jail. I just think you'll be delayed."
Me: "Well, if there is no jail involved what's to worry about really? I think I should be fine. Thanks."
Although being delayed doesn't sound horrible, I'm not that interested in sitting in the Vancouver airport with nothing to entertain me so I do a little more research. I find that the passport rule only applies to flying. For some reason you can still get across the border with a birth certificate and photo ID if you drive, walk or boat. I guess terrorists only travel by plane?

I get on the horn again and call Orbitz (just for the record it was a very pleasant experience). After some minor financial adjustments I alter my trip. Now it's NYC to Phoenix to Vancouver and on the return it's just Seattle to NYC. And to get to Seattle I find me a bus. Right from the Vancouver airport to the Seattle airport. Thank you, loophole.

I know that was long. And boring. And unnecessary, but you could have skimmed or skipped it or whatever. This is my shit and I'll babble however I like.

So, the trip up was easy (and might I remind you that a previous trip to Canada did not go smoothly at all). The gal at the Canadian border just asked me some basic questions and I was in. Suckers!

Then it was bus up to Whistler. The bus was pleasant. Great scenery outside, a movie inside, and a free Arson sticker which I put on my board. Whistler itself was fucking awesome. Great snow, breathtaking (really, it made me slightly weak feeling) views, Beirut, some stinky BC weed, cold beer (served in "jugs" not pitchers), bacon, jacuzzi, grilling, many laughs and lots of curling on TV. Almost heaven. There are some photos floating around if you care (check out the Flickr thing in the right column).

On the way home, it was pretty smooth sailing too. Big, dumb stretch SUV (or Stretchcalade as we like to call it) down to Vancouver, bus to Seattle and then on home. Once again, no hassle at the border. The border guy didn't say shit about my expired passport. I had my birth certificate at the ready but didn't even need it. Figures. I'm sure if I flew I would have gotten the pinch. But whatever. Mission accomplished.

So, take a deep breath. You made it through the longest post I have ever done or probably will ever do. And all for a really shitty story. If I happen to go again next year I'll be prepared and eliminate the drama and only share meaningful events. Promise.


- Stacey - said...


Thanks for the heads up on your impending arrival. *flips the bird*

One run on sentence about your adventure in Canada? That's it? You suck. Take me up on my offer to be your local guide next time you're here. I don't recall what I was doing when you were here (I'm too lazy to scroll up and see when you were here) but I'm sure it was more memorable than one really long sentence.

We do have some nice stinky chronic, eh?

WJR said...

Local guide, eh? Perhaps I'll take you up on that if some curling is involved.