TRAVELOG by Loreta Kovacic
PASSPORT RULE, leaving Houston
It was the last day of May and we are embarking on a family vacation to Europe, one of those passionately planned meaningful and rare trips. We are Houstonians, our two teenage kids were both born and raised in Houston, husband is a New Jersey native, sporting both Texan and Jersey mafia accents at times. I am a Croatian immigrant, living in Houston since 1990, but cannot shake my Croatian accent no matter how hard I tried. Needless to say, I have been traveling back and forth to Croatia gazillion times, visiting my family there since 1990. One can say that I am a veteran traveler, right? Guess what?! On this trip, at the very start, I learned that all those years in travel time are worth nothing because I made a rooky mistake. I did not inform myself about the passport expiration date rule, I did not consult my good old boyfriend, Mr Google on this.
So I did check the expiration date on all of our passports. I did see that my husband’s passport is expiring one month after our return flight back to Houston and I thought, this is totally legit. Weeeeelllllll. It is not. I learned that one month is not enough. It has to be SIX MONTHS. How did I not come across this earlier?! I don’t know, maybe it’s bad luck momentarily catching up?!
We took Uber to the airport. It was ominous already because we were stuck in the middle of huge reck on the Beltway, we were not moving for a long time. Our Uber driver was driving like James Bond to try to make up time at the end. I remember he sang “I’m so excited” in unison with me. He also played Houston’s rapper Scarface’s song “God”. I recognized John Legend’s beautiful voice in the song. Our driver did a great job in distracting us with music. In my mind he represented people of Houston: great at their job, individualists and entertainers. I had to give him a tip.
We arrived at Singapore Airlines on time. We were smiling and excited. But not for long. Passport check was next. We were told that my beloved husband Joe cannot travel. His passport’s expiration date is only one month beyond our return date. We tried to argue…. We did not know this rule…But then the young handsome manager came, the face that I will not forget for the rest of my life. He waved his hand like a dance move and engaged his robotically calm and resolute mode: Expiration date has to be a minimum of 6 months after the return date. He did his job, how can I blame him?! My family was broken instantly. Bush Intercontinental turned black. I was crying, thinking about giving it all up, having a flashback of “give up” graffiti from Houston roadways….My husband reacted fast, he wished us happy trails and told us that we will meet in Milano soon. Off we go, a family of three instead of four and I am still crying…
At the gate I ran into one of my Houston friends, a Montenegro immigrant, Pedja. I usually see him at our West Side Balkan parties, when we are happier then happy… He immediately noticed my distress. I explained what happened, dramatically, of course. He said that he knew about the 6 months rule. I guess that made me feel a little better, because I knew that it is true. The rule is real! How did he know about this rule, and I did not?! Well, he travels a lot on his job, and his secretary does the travel plans for him. He learned this from her. We should all have his secretary!
We are off to Milano where we have planned to stay for two days. The way this is going, we will probably have to wait for Joe in Milano a day or two longer. Also Joe’s ticket is flushed down the toilet. It is void. He is going to have to buy a whole other ticket. Consolation: it’s only money. Worse than a loss of money is that Joe cannot even come back with us. But, let’s look on the bright side: soon we will all be reunited! Let the adventure begin!
It looks like my Travelog just gained a whole other insight: important information to share with fellow travelers. Educational. As you are reading this, tell me honestly did you know about the six months rule?!
to be continued….. next: MILANO