Monday, October 4, 2010

Unintentionally illegally here

In a world of tightened security and intense scrutiny of travel documents, a little mishap can happen.

In this case, an expired passport unintentionally picked up instead of the valid passport leads to my being denied entry back into Canada.

Picture me at the Air Canada ticket check in looking for entry.

Your passport please the attendant asks and I confidently hand it over.

She opens it and begins to peruse the pages.

I wait.

She keeps looking.

I wonder... what is she looking for?

An extension, she says. I'm looking for an extension.

It's all my own hair, I want to reply but don't.

Is my passport too short?

No it's expired.

How can that be I ask. It expires in 2012.

Nope. it expired in 2003.

Impossible, I say. It's the same passport I used to enter the country.

Impossible, she says. It's expired.

I take it back. Open it and show her the US Immigration stamp of approval. Sep 29 2010.

She takes it back. Looks at it. Passes it to co-workers on both sides.

Look at this.

Impossible, everyone cries.

I take my invalid passport back. I peer at the expiry date wondering if it has magically changed.

No such luck.

I can't let you check into the flight she says.

But you want me to leave the country, I say. I'm not supposed to be here.

True, but I can't let you through on an expired passport.

But they let me in on that passport. Why can't you let me out?

Because I can't.

What do I have to do?

You have to go to the Canadian Consulate tomorrow and ask them to grant you an extension.

And extension -- not of the long haired kind.

Yup. An extension.

I want to cry.

I want to go home.

I want to check again to see if the expiry date has changed.

I take my passport back. Lug my suitcase off the scale and turn around and grab a cab back into the city.

I am not happy. I am confused. I'm feeling kind of lost. I mean really. I'm here on an invalid passport that their immigration official let me enter with -- can't they let me go the same way I arrived?

I arrive at the Consulate this morning. Confident there will be no issue with my extension.

Except... the consulate does not grant extensions. Nope. we don't do that he says. We can issue you a new passport if it's lost.

But it's not last I tell him. It's in Calgary.

And I show him the scanned copy of my passport that my daughter emailed me.

Interesting, he says. They we can't issue you a new passport.

I show him the stamp from the Immigrations official.

Hmmmm.... Interesting. But there's nothing we can do. You need someone to courier your passport to you.

And so, C.C. loads it into an envelope and it is on it's way to New York -- without me.

And I wait.

Odd feeling, this being without a real identify here. I'm an unwanted alien and yet they don't want me to go.

Go figure.

Now I know how our clients at the shelter feel when they wander the streets, no official status, no fixed address, no way to be counted -- or legal -- in many instances. And, hearing where ever they turn -- no way. You can't have that without a fixed address. I can't help you without ID...

Yup. Definitely an unsettling feeling.

Definitely an unusual turn of events.

And then, I phone Air Canada and am reassured again as to the goodness of mankind. In this case -- womankind.

A wonderful ticket agent helps me through the process of re-booking my flights -- again -- without charging me. She is caring and kind and nice and she too cannot believe they let me in illegally and now they won't let me go.

And tomorrow morning, my passport and I will be reunited and I shall be able to return to my land of birth.

It is a comforting thought.


Maureen said...

What a story, Louise!

Sending lots of hugs.

katdish said...

Sorry this happened, but thank you for sharing what you learned from the experience. There's no place like home, huh?

Anonymous said...

Gotta love this security system...
What story...