When Life Hands You Lemons

On Saturday, April 22, Matt and I were planning to go to Italy for our honeymoon before the wedding.

Our first trip to Europe together, we’d been planning it for months, and were literally over the moon about our travel plans. Milan, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Turin! We watched loads of Italian movies, started drinking negronis and prosecco, and in the weeks leading up to the trip we would practice “speaking Italian” which was basically saying all of the Italian words we knew (mostly food words) loudly with super exaggerated Italian accents! It started with a booming “Buongiorno principessa!” (from Life is Beautiful, of course) and would evolve into Espresso! Americano! Pizza! Ricotta! Ravioli! Rigatonni! Arrivaderci! Prego! Grazie! We had been working our tails off getting ready for the trip, we had pre-packed using these amazing travel bags that Matt found for us, and were feeling pretty prepared and ready to go! With a negroni to share on the walk to the train, we were on cloud nine (and a little buzzed!) as we made our way to the airport at 11am for our 1:55pm flight. Totally early, totally gonna make it. We kept looking at each other with stupid, giddy smiles, saying – “Wahoo! We’re on vacation!!”

We had checked in on line and breezed through security, had some delightful salads and white wine for lunch – because “Why not?! We’re on vacation!!” We arrived at the gate and started chatting with some ladies from Cupertino, when I suddenly heard my name called. I was feeling lucky and imagining we were going to be upgraded to first class and get one of those seats that fully reclines and allows you to really sleep… And it took me a full 30 seconds to absorb the words: “I’m sorry, Miss Faulkner, but we can’t allow you to get on this flight because your passport expires on June 7th.” I stared at the KLM agent – my mouth half open, eyes squinting and going slightly cross-eyed… “Yes, and we return from Italy on May 4th – what is the problem?” Right??? So it was at that moment, and in those circumstances, as our flight was beginning to board, that I learned that Italy has some funky rules and your passport has to be good for 6 months past your travel dates in order to enter the country. Now if you are reading this, thinking that’s so stupid, or why didn’t they tell you that when you bought the ticket, or what’s the purpose of an expiration date if it actually expires 6 months before, then you are like I was, and it’s kind of hard to wrap your head around at first. But it’s for real. And please consider this a mini-PSA: remember to check your passport dates and the country you are traveling to, to learn about their specific rules. And if you are sitting there, thinking smugly, “duh, I knew that”, then you are not a very good friend because you neglected to make that a widely known fact. So this is my call to action to everyone: tell all of your friends and colleagues about this stupid rule and remind them to tell others!

Anyway, back to the gate… as I started crying at the counter, they called Matt up to the counter, and took the wind right out of his sails, too. Though they were firm, they clearly felt bad, and they were kind and helpful as they quickly re-booked us on a flight for Monday without any penalty fees, saying that we could try to get an expedited passport, and if we weren’t able to do it by Monday at 12pm, then they would get us on the next days flight… until we were able to leave. It seemed all we could do was to say OK, and then it was super awkward because there was nothing else to be done so we walked away, and stood at the gate, and watched our plane take off.

It was a sad and solemn BART ride back to Lafayette on Saturday afternoon, and we were both beyond disappointed. We were searching like mad on our phones to try and figure out how to get an expedited passport and realizing that it wasn’t as easy as they made it sound at the gate. Especially since it was the weekend and all government agencies were closed. Matt repeatedly tried calling the San Francisco Passport Agency to schedule an appointment there and after making it through the phone tree and all of the options at least 4 times, getting super close before losing reception going through a tunnel. He finally got through and the earliest appointment we could schedule was for Wednesday of that week. Essentially losing 5 days of our trip at that point… The other option was to go to the agency first thing on Monday morning and try to be seen as a “Walk-In”. We had read on yelp reviews of the San Francisco Passport Office that if they had time around the scheduled appointments, that they would see “Walk-ins” in the order that they had arrived at the office, and if you had proof of the urgency of your situation, that they could do it same day, but typically they had you come back after 4pm to pick up your new passport. A couple of reviews indicated that they had extremely extenuating circumstances and had gotten their passport faster, but there were no guarantees. So… by the time we made it back to our station, we had a plan. Stay at our friend Sarah’s place in the city on Sunday night, show up at the passport agency at 5am on Monday morning, hope for the best and be ready to go!

Trying to be cheerful and acknowledge that we were still on vacation, as we approached the Bevmo Liquor store between the train station and our house, I turned to Matt and said, “When life hands you lemons…” and he replied, “make perfect Manhattans.” And so we did, and we called our parents, and we felt lucky to have them. They felt our pain and cracked some good jokes, and when you’ve had a really shitty day, a stiff drink and a good laugh feel pretty amazing… and though we were super disappointed about the sudden turn of events, we were already adjusting, feeling grateful for all we have, and coming up with some solid option B plans.

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