Things I Wish I`d Said (1)
Russell Degnan

Did you report this as lost?

While travelling, like in real-life there are dozens of things you would, in retrospect, have said, given your chance to make amends: "No Salt", "How much?", "Hi", "Do you take bookings?", "Yes, I will be here tonight". But the winner for me, hands down, was the one above.

It all started when I lost my passport. That in itself is not suprising, I lose many things: keys, addresses, mobile phones, my sense of where a sentence is going. But to lose a passport is a pretty bad feeling. Even apart from the sheer stupidity, there is the sense of lost identity, the small matter of having to get it re-issued, the fact that you are effectively unable to leave the country you are in, and are probably now there illegally to boot. It isn't a "No worries" moment like say, falling out of train; people with the ability to do bad things to you take these things seriously.

I lost mine in Kings Cross Station, three days after arriving in London, and one day after I'd learnt that someone had bilked my credit card for $2000AUS. It wasn't exactly turning into a good week. I knew where I'd lost it because that was the only time I'd taken it from my bag (and the reason it later attached itself to my neck instead). But I didn't find out till that evening.

Needless to say I slept like a baby. In that I didn't and I was up at 6am to go down to the lost property office. The guy there was very helpful.

Me: Excuse me, Did you find a brown leather satchel? It has my passport in it.

Him: You need to pay two pounds to get it back.

Me: I need to go to the bank first. But you have it right?

Him: Yes, we have it. But you can't have it back till you pay two pounds.

Sweet relief then. Well, five minutes later anyway. And all's well that ends well, as they say, except I didn't ask him one thing:

Did you report this as lost?

Let me explain. I crossed into Belgium on the sea-cat (rough trip) on September 4th 2001. These were happier times, when you could joke with American customs officials about their silly questions, and they'd tell you how they harass old ladies who say, "Oh, no, my husband packed my bags".

But I got the third degree from the Belgians. He took my passport, ran it up on the computer, then flicked through it a few times. There isn't much to look at. Then he asked me about the Dutch work permit that wasn't valid till October,

You are going to work there?

Yes, but not till October. I am on holiday now

Grumbles, then a chit chat with his fellow official. More grumbles, then, an abrupt shake of the shoulders, and a stamp.

Well, wasn't that fun. Touchy, these Europeans.

Because of the wonders of the Schengen system the next time I used my passport was going back into England, which was a breeze (as far as I remember, it was 4am); followed that evening by a flight out of Heathrow. Needless to say, security had been increased since I'd come in. But even so, the official was a little odd. Like the Belgians, he ran it through, then flicked through it. Then went and talked to his friend, more muttering and grumbling and checking of my photo, before he comes back.

Me: Is there a problem?

Him: No, no problem.


Yeah, no problem at all. Thanks for your help. After two days of flying and no sleep for closer to four, I stumbled into the Tullamarine customs desk, gave the customs official my passport and was told.

Could you go sit over there please?

Well, this is a little... unusual.

While I sat on a hard, clean, plastic seat next to a very irritated Arab-American, a couple of officials perused my passport. They flick, they look at me. More flicking, more looking. And a fairly earnest discussion as well. After about five minutes then came over to talk to me.

Russell, did you lose your passport while you were overseas?

Ah, no.

Well, the computer says your passport is lost.

Oh wait, yes, in London, at Kings Cross. But I got it back the next day.

It is flagged as lost. You need to go to the Dept. of Immigration and get it changed.

And that was that. No anal probes. But a bit too close to one for my liking. So, just so you all know. Having a passport flagged as lost tends to make you less trustworthy. And that isn't a good thing.

Days Spent Away 18th March, 2006 13:06:52   [#]