20 November 2009
On a whole, I’m pretty good at not losing/misplacing/destroying things. When I do, however, I don’t fool around with worthless objects like a pair of socks or sandwich (though I did lose a sandwich once, but that’s another story). Instead, I go big. You know, like the only expensive pair of sunglasses I’ve ever had or my car for a few hours in an enormous parking lot. I can now safely say those are all small beans compared to my little oopsy-daisies in Ukraine.
We deplaned and I was standing in the immigration line waiting to be “inspected,” form filled out. I get to the front, say hello and the guy says to me, “you do it wrong. You must fill out departure side the same as arrival side (which makes no sense because I am arriving and not departing, but anyway). Go to back of line and do it again. While waiting the second time around I flipped through my passport looking at all the really neat stamps I have. “I should really make a copy of the whole thing, just to have it in case anything ever happens to this one.” Cue tragic foreshadowing.
Having been bumped to the back of the line, Matt was ready to roll by the time I got through which left me near running to grab my bag, meet the taxi driver and head into the city. I had my passport, a city map and a few other odds and ends in my hand. Normally I would immediately put the passport back in my money belt, but it slipped my mind in all the chaos. Also, it was nearly midnight and we were EXHAUSTED.
I take the front seat and begin to flip through the map trying to figure out where we’re staying while Matt chats about I don’t know what with the girl who is sharing the taxi into town with us. We get to thee hostel, grab our bags and head inside. As we’re registering to stay the woman asks us for our passports. I grab my money belt. Nothing. I dig through my pockets. Nothing. I flip through my pile of maps. Nothing. My passport is gone. Immediately I begin to rifle through every one of my possessions and run through what’s going to happen now that I have LOST MY PASSPORT IN UKRAINE. Definitely no Chernobyl tour, definitely not leaving on time in three days, possibly going to jail and maybe never surfacing again. I will have disappeared.
The hostel woman starts dialing numbers and talking to people on the phone. I have no idea who she is talking to. The police? The Consulate? Her mother? “I called my boss. He is coming.” I start wondering if he’s on his way to help or to kick me out. We sit in silence and wait. I re-check every pocket of everything I have ever owned. Still nothing. Just as he arrives I remember the whole “pile of stuff in my hands, flipping through maps while sitting in the car incident and inform the hostel woman that my passport is, in fact, in the taxi.
Just then the boss bursts through the door looking very concerned. He is accompanied by a broad-shouldered Ukrainian woman wearing a down vest, leather heeled boots and leggings. That is all. She heads straight for the kitchen and starts peeling apples for everyone while the owner decides to play a game of twenty questions with me. “So, where did you last see it? Can you empty your bag again? I have a car so we can search the streets all night if we have to.” The whole time I’m trying to get him to simply call the taxi company. . “Lets be absolutely sure first,” he tells me. Dude, I am totally absolutely sure.
He has me go downstairs with him and - by the light of his cell phone screen - we retrace my steps from the taxi to the hostel. Nothing. Why nothing? Because it is in the taxi and I am - at this point - certain of that. Finally, nearly an hour later, he coalesces and calls the taxi driver. They chat for several minutes before he surfaces to tell me that “he says it’s not there.” I am now getting agitated because I know it’s there and am questioning if this is some kind of deal where they say they don’t have it, I randomly produce a $100 bill and poof, it is found. “Tell the driver to come back here now and I will pay for his gas. Otherwise, you and I are driving to him and if it’s not there, then we’re driving to the airport and if it’s not there, we’re going directly to my Embassy.” He laughs at first and then sees that I am 100% serious.
Thirty minutes later the driver pulls up to the hostel shrugging his shoulders. I swing open the passenger door, reach down between the seat and the gearshift and produce - you guessed it - my passport. Relief. Everyone looks totally shocked and I finally realize that they think I have been acting insane the past two hours insisting that I do, in fact, know where it is. We head back into the hostel. I am completely exhausted but slightly overjoyed that I don’t have to spend the next several days proving my identity at the US Embassy in Ukraine. Hey, at least I would have been able to stare at a photo of HIllary Clinton, right?