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CHRIS KATTERJOHN The case of the missing passport Commentary:

February 6, 2006

Friday, 7:30 a.m.: I arrive at Indianapolis International Airport for a 9:01 a.m. flight to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where I'll be attending a conference, and realize I have left my passport at home. I ask myself, "How could I be so stupid?"

Friday, 7:35 a.m.: I check in at the American Airlines ticket desk, then call my brother, who is already at work. I ask him for a "huge favor," whereupon he leaves work, goes to my house to retrieve my passport, and drives to the airport.

Friday, 8:31 a.m.: I meet my brother outside the terminal and collect my passport. I thank him profusely.

The story

Friday, 4:15 p.m.: I'm halfway to the hotel in Puerto Vallarta and realize ... for the second time today .. that I don't have my passport with me. I also can't find the stub to the tourist card I filled out upon arrival. I'm thinking, "This might be a problem here in Mexico," but I'm not concerned enough to turn around and go back to the airport.

Friday, 4:30 p.m.: I check into the hotel. I relay my story to Des Moines Publisher Connie Weimer and her husband, Frank, who speaks fluent Spanish. They look concerned, and Frank immediately volunteers to help me. He calls the airport and reports my situation. Frank and I make plans to go there the next day at 4 p.m.

Friday, 10:30 p.m.: Having gone to a reception and dinner and spoken to a few more people about the lost passport, I realize I might have a bigger problem than I anticipated.

Saturday, 5 a.m.: I wake up in my hotel and can't fall back to sleep. I worry about my passport and mentally retrace my steps over and over to visualize what might have happened to it.

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.: After sitting through morning meetings, I'm on the beach with friends catching up, talking shop and trying to relax. I order a lemonade, and give my room number. The waiter says the folks at the front desk are looking for me. I think, "It's the airport calling. They've found my passport."

Saturday, 2:32 p.m.: Instead, it's a real estate agent from Puerto Vallarta. (Frank and Connie have been looking for a vacation place in Puerto Vallarta all afternoon.) He's done some research on my behalf. He tells me I must cancel my Monday flight home because I will need to show up at the American Consulate's office when it opens first thing Monday morning.

He tells me I'll need to present a detailed letter explaining how I lost my passport and tourist card. With any luck, I'll be able to fly home Tuesday. He also tells me I need to go to my hotel room because a consulate employee will be calling me.

Before I can hang up, the real estate agent also tells me that because I've lost my passport, my name will be added to a State Department list and I will have trouble traveling abroad in the future. He adds that, since 9/11, a major black market has emerged for passports of white American males. I begin to dislike Mexico.

Saturday, 3:30 p.m.: I'm still in my room and the phone rings. It's Frank, who tells me he's 10 minutes from the airport and I should get in a cab and meet him at the American Airlines ticket desk as soon as I can get there.

Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: I get to the airport and decide to visit the Yellow Cab kiosk, where I had paid for my cab the day before. Amid the chaos-two flights had just arrived-I ask the woman attendant, the same one who was there the day before, if she has any lost passports.

Between dealing with customers, she opens a drawer and pulls out two passports, but neither is mine. She begins to tell me about a man who was just there, but she gets interrupted and I leave.

I walk across the terminal, turn the corner and there's Frank, all smiles. He hands me both my passport and my tourist card, which he had retrieved from the Yellow Cab woman moments before I talked to her. We return to the kiosk; I give the lady $20 and a big "Gracias."

Epilogue

Saturday, 6 p.m.: I go to dinner at Daiquiri Dick's with my fellow publishers. I order a big drink and tell my friends the good news. For the first time in 24 hours, I can really relax. Meanwhile, I tell myself never to lose my passport again. And I realize Mexico isn't so bad after all.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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