Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stolen Passports

Stolen passports have been in the news for the last week or so due to the horrific news about the Malaysian flight.  IF I had not had a "stolen passport episode", I would wonder how someone could have their passport stolen.
Let me share with you the true story of the escapade in the late 80's or early 90's.  Whenever the Iraq War began.

Air France had a special ticket price of $250USD round trip fare from Houston to Paris!  Who would not just absolutely jump at the chance to go to Paris?  For me, it was my second trip.  But, literally I left less then a week after I saw the fare.

A friend who I had known through the culinary world had lived in Paris for many years previously and she wanted to go as well.  Yippee!  Off we went.

We landed at Charles De Gaulle Airport.  I always reconfirm my flight home upon arrival at my first destination.  Since we were flying home out of Brussels, I really wanted to reconfirm.  So, Janelle and I got in the elevator to go to the ticket counter.  I always stand right in the front of the elevator cab so as not to get jostled.  Janelle however had gone to the back between two men.  I kept checking on her in the back of the elevator.  When we got downstairs to get off the elevator, it took quite a while for Janelle to get out of where she was and get off the elevator.  The men were kind of in her way.

So we get to the ticket counter and guess what...........she had no ticket and no passport!  I knew IMMEDIATELY what had happened.  I left Janelle there with out luggage and said, "Wait here".  I jumped back on the elevator, went up to the floor, saw some gendarmes, and in English told them I had been robbed and that the men were probably still on the elevator.  (Of course I didn't know that).  They came with me!

When the elevator doors opened, THE MEN WERE ON THE ELEVATOR!  I think I remember yelling something like "Get em", being from Texas and all.  Gendarmes do NOT wear guns.

I did have the presence of mind to ask the gendarmes to wait for me while I got my friend and our luggage.
We really hurried because I did not want them to let those men loose.  I just wanted Janelle's ticket and passport.

When we got up there, the police vaguely searched the men and their fanny packs.  One of the guy's packs was full of passports.  The other one was full of tickets and money.  Oy vey.

Off we all marched through the airport.  Quite a long way.  I looked calm but was totally freaked out, I must admit.  What I didn't know at the time, was that the men spoke perfect French and were telling the gendarmes that we were racist Americans.

When we got to the police office, one of the men there spoke English and he told me what the men from, it turned out Senegal, were saying.  Yikes!  Were they going to hold us too?

No, they discovered the two men were in France illegally.  They saw all the stuff they had, including Janelle's passport and ticket!  They returned them to us.  Held the men and we scurried out of there as fast as a cat in a room full of rockers.  I remember saying to Janelle, "Let's get out of here before they let those guys loose"

Whew, it was an episode.  Of course, afterwards, I thought of several other scenarios.  None of them pleasant!

What that lesson taught me was to ALWAYS carry a copy of my passport in a different place and to carry my ticket in my bra.  Hey, a girl has to do what a girl has to do!

I have never lost either my ticket or passport, thankfully.   


Todd said...

You KICK A$$!!
Greats story Babs, thanks for sharing!


Babs said...

Ha, thanks Todd. I've had zillions of adventures! It just takes something to remind me of them. Now this one is hilarious. At the time it was dicey!

Retired Teacher said...

Wow, what a story, and you really saved the day! Good for you!
I've never had my passport stolen, but I lost mine once. A couple years ago I went to Mexico City in November. I know for a fact that I had it when I returned home. I was planning on taking one of my former colleague to Mérida the following January. In early December I noticed that the passport wasn't in the drawer where I always keep it. I panicked. I spent hours tearing the house apart, searching every logical spot, and every illogical spot. I couldn't find it. The next day I went to the post office to apply for a replacement and paid extra for expedited processing. I received my new one in plenty of time for the January trip. To this day I have not found the old one anywhere in the house. Needless to say, I am now paranoid, and every few days I will check to make sure it is in the drawer where it belongs!

loulou bateau said...

You got the ticket and passport back - amazing story!

I found that same $250 fare to Paris in the late 80's (an ad in the morning paper) and couldn't believe my eyes. I booked the tickets the same day and left a week or so later. It was one of my favorite trips.

Babs said...

Bill, in the olden days, can't remember when it changed, you could go to Mexico with just a voters ID or notarized birth certificate! So I traveled back and forth for at least 12 - 15 years without the need of a passport.
THEN I got the desire to see Europe, Venezuela and a few other places. Luckily I have ALL my old passports and the current one. I keep it in a special place in a brightly colored holder......
IF you have a copy of your passport and lose it in Mexico,and if you're leaving with a purchased ticket,you can go to the American consulate in DF and get one either while you wait, or within 24 hours!
I hope I NEVER have to try that out though.
I can imagine that you DO check on a regular make sure it is still there!

Babs said...

Lou Lou, we were probably THERE, in Paris, at the same time! How interesting. We couldn't get a return flight ticket for the next week out of Paris so we booked ourselves out of Brussels. THAT was another escapade on the train to Brussels. Geez, I had forgotten about that.

Sharon said...

I'm ready for another adventure in France, Barbara. I've always wanted to take a barge trip down the Grand Canal. I guess that one would take a lot of "frequent flyer" miles!

Another way to keep a copy of a passport and other important documents is to scan them into a computer and then save them to a tiny thumb drive, which fits in a pocket or a wallet.

I'd love to hear more about your adventures.

Boston (and yes, it snowed again yesterday)

Babs said...

Sharon, it sounds like you are more computer savvy then I. I'm still into paper, ha.
Funny that you should mention a barge trip in France! This morning Fodor's (which sends me weekly messages) has a contest to register for a boat trip on the canals. The cost of the boat for one week for 4 people is $2,750 per week! Or $350 per person, double occupancy...very reasonable. I would travel all the time if I had the money......
I'm so so sorry you have snow again. Geez.

Anonymous said...

Great story! I'm impressed with your presence of mind. And I'm sure you saved a lot of people's passports, not just your friend's. And of course, that was back in the days when you could travel on anyone's ticket, so those stolen tickets had a lot of value.

I just sent you an email of a somewhat urgent nature. Please look at it now, if you haven't already seen it.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we are busy not doing what we should be doing.

Babs said...

The photo and passport have been removed.......thanks.

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