Photo Finish Friday

The passport that nearly doomed the Panama trip right out of the gate:

Years ago, one of Julia’s bad dogs (Hoss, RIP) got ahold of her passport and gnawed on the corner of it, as you can see in the picture. Nothing important is obscured when you open it — not the picture, any of the numbers or seals, etc. Since that happened she’s been to Thailand, Panama once before, and Spain — and all of these trips have happened since 9/11. Maybe other places too, I don’t know. But she’s never had a problem, so we didn’t think much about it.

When we checked in with Copa Airlines in LA for the flight to Panama City, the attendants there were taken aback. At first they said it wouldn’t be allowed, so they summoned a manager, and she disappeared into the back offices. Apparently she called someone in customs in Panama City and got the go-ahead to let us check in and get on the plane. Luckily, she gave us the name of who she received approval from. After about 15 tense minutes we were through check-in and on our way to security.

Eight hours later or so we arrive in Panama City and start going through customs, where they freak out about it all over again. The customs guy summons a supervisor who disappears. Ten minutes or so later a woman comes and asks Julia to go with her. Minutes pass. Julia’s dad and I are starting to get a little anxious. Finally I decide to go see what the holdup is; I find Julia sitting on a little couch outside some offices looking a little glum. We aren’t sure what to do at this point, so we share the name of the person we were given in LA to streamline the process, wondering if slipping someone a $20 or a $50 is what is expected in this situation. I was leaning more toward unleashing mayhem, armed as I was with my Smith & Wesson Tactical Pen, and fighting our way into the country.

Finally, after probably at least thirty or forty minutes Julia is cleared and we are allowed into Panama. It was a huge relief, as obviously it would have sucked if she had not been allowed into the country, all because of a slightly damaged passport.

It should be noted that on the way back we had no trace of any of these difficulties. Suffice to say, before we do any more international travel she’s going to get a new passport!


Photo Finish Friday is the brainchild of writer/blogger Leah J. Utas.

8 thoughts on “Photo Finish Friday”

  1. >Great story behind the photo, Chris. I used to work at Manchester Airport and there are some stories from there I could tell you. I was a fireman there and we were called to a first aid at immigration. Two of us turned out and as we're there I was earwigging a conversation at the next desk. A foreign gent, dressed like Ghandi had actually got a flight from India to Manchester without having a passport. Have a great weekend!

  2. >Great story, David. Wasn't that long ago we could go in and out of Canada and Mexico at will — like a year or two ago — with no passports. Not anymore!I rode a steam ship from Seattle to Victoria Island in Canada years ago, and learned when I arrived my license was expired. They hassled me a little bit about that, but wasn't a big deal. The best part though is that while I was waiting to be dealt with, they were getting serious with this couple who had been on the boat together. Apparently they found some cocaine in the woman's purse. The guy was claiming he'd never seen her before in his life. Which was kind of funny, because like I said — they were together for the entire 6-hour ride up!

  3. >Cross a few international borders, and you get stories to tell like this. I sometimes worry when I've been passed through Immigration with a perfunctory check of my passport and a wave of the hand. It shouldn't be that easy.

  4. >That is a good story. While on a train heading into East Germany in 1976, the passport checker, who wandered around for the duration in his slightly altered SS uniform making sure none of his countrymen tried to jump on, wouldn't stamp my passport with the colorful East German stamp. That made me quite irritated. I had planned to show off the stamp a lot when I got home. After much entreaty in high school German, he finally opened my passport, placed it in the palm of his hand, and stamped it as hard as he could, making a nice drinking bowl out of the thing. Then there were all the guys taken away at the Moroccan border to have their long hair cut off. Travel is no fun anymore.

  5. >It was at Manchester Airport where we were pulled out of line (in the nineties) as possible terrorist. Megan has a red pepper spray in her pocket (she was new to NY then) and they had never seen one before. It took a while to settle that one. This was at the height of IRA troubles, of course.It's always a bit dicey, isn't it?

Leave a Reply