A chance to escape the heat of Sacramento in July and August was on my mind as I carefully packed my one suitcase and backpack for a five week jaunt "over the pond" to Amsterdam, Norway, Iceland, Scotland, Hungary, Austria and Germany.
Off to join the elegant Prinsendam, Holland America's much beloved small ship for a 20-day cruise visiting the North Cape and beyond to the polar ice cap. Following this, I am to fly to Budapest in Hungary to join a two week riverboat cruise on Tauck's Esprit. A seasoned ocean cruiser, this will. E my first-ever river cruise. I'm a little nervous.
I had three very pleasant and uneventful flights - Sac to LAX, LAX to Copenhagen, and the. A short hop over to Amsterdam. Although pleasant enough, I didn't sleep, so I was quite tired after these cumulatively long flights. It was just after 6 PM, 24 hours after I had left home.
My small hotel in the museum area of Amsterdam had told me about a great public bus- the 197 - that cost 5 euro and went directly from the airport and would drop me off two blocks from the hotel. Sold!!
It worked out great. Easy to find at the airport, I was on the bus and paying my fare within 30 minutes of landing.
I walked the two short blocks, found my hotel, and was settled into my room not long after the 30 minute bus ride. While unpacking I saw the safe in my room's armoire and said to myself " I should put my passport and stuff in there while I'm here". My friends Bernd and Mieke were coming to meet me at the hotel in the morning as we were going to spend the next day visiting some villages outside of the city.
I went to grab my little black purse wallet that I wear around my neck as that's where I keep my passport, credit cards and money. Not around my neck. Not on the desk. Not on the bed. Not in my backpack. Not on the floor. Panic started to set in. "No no no no no no NO" I cried out. "This can't even be happening right now".
I tore everything apart - suitcase, backpack, under and behind the bed. No wallet. I ran down three flights of stairs to the small lobby. No black purse wallet. Tired, panicked, distressed, tears welling up, the night manager called the airport for me and filed a report. He called the bus company and he called the city lost and found. Nothing to do now but wait.
Of course I slept not a wink all night. Tossing and turning and realizing the implications of this. No passport meant no getting on the ship on Saturday. Or flying anywhere. No credit cards and no cash whatsoever meant I had no money to help me get anywhere or do anything. I was sick to my stomach. How could I have been so careless? What the hell was wrong with me? I don't do stuff like this! I'm responsible, I'm borderline OCD with this stuff. And yet, there I was. Up a creek without the proverbial paddle.
I thought back through carefully just what might have happened. I know I had it when I got on the bus because I pulled out a 10 euro note and handed it to the bus driver. He then gave me 5 euro in change along with the ticket. I walked down the aisle of the bus and sat alone with my suitcase on the floor beside me. I took off my backpack and set it on the seat beside me. I had my phone In my hands as I had pulled up the bus route with the stops so I could make sure I got off at the right one. I seem to remember thinking to take off the wallet and put it away in my backpack as I didn't need it out any longer. And that's where my recollection about it ended.
I must have taken it off and got distracted before I could out it away and it fell on the floor perhaps. Whatever. The end result was the same. I'm screwed.
The next morning Bernd and Mieke showed up. I told them what happened and they calmly went into help mode. They took me to the US Consulate which was just a few blocks away. I had read online and Sam had confirmed that I could get an emergency passport but it took one business day from application. That meant that since today was a Friday, I wouldn't get a new passport until Monday, which meant I couldn't get on the ship Saturday.
When the man at the consulate told me I could get the passport later that afternoon I burst into tears, completely flustering the consulate officer. They were happy tears. Then, Bernd had gone to the bank while Mieke and I had gone to get a passport photo taken and pulled out a tidy sum of cash for me to have until I got home. I'm not kidding.
I can't even tell you how much that meant to me. Those two are my guardian angels. They literally saved me from my despair. Losing passport and all of your money is one of the worst non-medical things that can happen, especially far from home. This could have gone so many other more painful ways. I am so very fortunate it went in such a positive direction. I had Sam at home telling me everything would be fine and not to worry. She's helped me too - gave the ship her credit card number to fuel my onboard expenses. Sat with our banker to cancel my cards and to wire Bernd and Mieke the funds they loaned me. She's even going to overnight new cards to my hotel in Scotland to be waiting for me when I arrive in a few weeks.
I have a new passport! It's skinny and only good for six months but it will get me where I need to go and bring me back home. I have money in my pocket and all is well with my world once again. But I am embarrassed that I allowed this to happen to me and humbled by the kindness that has been shown to me.
Even after spending a good chunk of our day at the consulate, photo shop, police station and back to the consulate, we still had time to visit two villages, a museum and have a fabulous dinner at a popular Indonesian restaurant. What a difference a day can make!!
I slept so well that night!!