Sunday, June 17, 2012

Airport ordeal

Well I just wanna start by saying it was entirely my fault.

This time, I can't blame it on the universe or rant that I'm jinxed or go on a pity party of how my life is always a series of unfortunate events. This time, I was just stupid.

Days leading up to my flight to London, my mom called me constantly for an important reminder: Don't forget your old passport with your visa on it. And that I didn't. The night of my flight, I packed that old passport and my new passport into my purse knowing I couldn't, in hell, afford to forget it.

Before I left the house, though, I told myself: there's no harm in bringing my other passport, the one that had just expired. But the cab was already waiting downstairs, and the passport was not in sight nor in any drawers that were easy to access. I didn't have time to rummage through a very unorganized room. And so I left.

While at the cab, I looked at my purse and found very little cash. I had spent almost all of it buying pasalubongs. I was already along Roxas Boulevard and my ATM was wiped out when I remembered the expensive travel tax and immigration fee to pay. I had money sent over to me via cash transfer but my friend Monica, whom I texted to ask whether my 1,000 cash was enough for all the airport fees (it's not) - told me there are no cash transfer kiosks inside the airport. I had just enough time to get there and check in - there was no time for me to make a roundabout to cash transfer stalls.

Monica offered to lend me instead as she's just in front of Mall of Asia and MOA was on the way. I thought that was the end of it. It hasn't even started.

My e-Ticket had the header: Philippine Airlines. So when the NAIA terminal 1 guard asked to see it upon entry, she quickly noted that PAL has its own terminal over at Terminal 2. I explained that I was going on board an international flight and that it's where I've always gone. She said that all PAL flights, int'l or domestic, are over at terminal 2. It was 4pm. My flight was 7pm.

I quickly took another cab to terminal 2. Upon getting there, I noticed that my flight number was nowhere to be found in the electronic boards. I approached the desk and asked about it but was told to wait for the information officer -- who, very conveniently, had just left her/his post. I was told to wait. I said I didn't have time to wait. I asked another person in uniform who noted that my PAL flight is indeed PAL but is endorsed and is actually on board an Etihad Airway flight. And that my flight was actually really over at Terminal 1.

Agitated, I took another cab to Terminal 1 and explained to the guard that I'm on an Etihad Airway flight and not PAL. I was told I made the check in cutoff by a hairline. Upon check-in, the counter officer noted my visa and asked when I last flew to the UK. I said, 2010.

Even the Immigration officers asked the same question, before letting me through. On the plane while I was packing up my passports into my purse, I thought: Wouldn't the London Immigrations ask me the same thing? I have a visa allowing me to stay in the UK for an indefinite period, provided that I'm only outside of UK not exceeding 2 years at a time. Meaning, I have to go to the UK every 2 years to preserve it.

How will I be able to prove that I went to the UK in 2010 when my 2nd passport - the one that just expired, with all the stamps from the last 6 years - was back at home, sitting God knows where. I dismissed the thought, went to sleep, got off the plane at Abu Dhabi, settled comfortably in front of the boarding gate and turned on my laptop. My Globe Wifi was working! Amazed, I connected to the internet where I spent 25% of the 50% battery power remaining skyping with Apple and uploading photos.

The calm before the storm at Abu Dhabi.

When the boarding gate opened, we were all ordered to line up for a proper checking. And here is when it started. They did ask the same thing. I said my last entry to the UK was in October/November of 2010 and that I've been outside the UK for just less than 2 years. They wanted to see the stamps. I said I didn't have it. They were irked, how could I not bring with me the passport that has stamps on it?? I said I didn't think it was needed. He said, "I cannot believe you got through Manila without it." I was just thankful I did because if I didn't, that would have been the end of it, I would have been writing this blog from Quezon City.

Scared, I asked Apple, who was still online, to text my Mom about my situation. She didn't have regular load and it was almost 1 am in Manila. Nobody else was online. A few minutes after, I saw the green circle beside my cousin's name, who's in Canada. I asked her if she could ring my mom and tell her about my situation. We communicated through my cousin - her telling my mom over the phone and relaying the message to me via Facebook chat. (My mom doesn't know how to use the internet, this was the only way we could communicate)

But she doesn't have any proof of documentation too. Nothing that she could scan and email me. I searched my email for anything. My "ticket" search in  my gmail gave me an electronic ticket that I reserved in July of 2010. My supposed flight was going to be in August. I thought to pass that off as my actual ticket but I already told him I was last in the UK in October 2010. I explained it was not my actual ticket, but that it just goes to show that I was really going to fly to the UK in 2010. That I just canceled that ticket and flew in October and went back to the PHL in November. He said he's gonna need to see the actual ticket. I didn't have it as it wasn't an e-ticket.

As a last ditch effort, I looked for my Facebook photo album from when I was last in London. Fumbled for a photo that is evident it was taken in London (it was a photo of me standing in front of an underground train sign of Oxford Circus station) and showed it to him. "Sir this is a photo of me in London, the date stamp is November 2, 2010 --  I can't possibly fake a Facebook date stamp." He looked at me and dialed a number in his phone. I don't know what they talked about but he did give my details, my name, my birthday, my passport number, they talked for a little over 10 minutes and during that time, all the passengers had gone inside the plane and there was nobody else left but me and 3 other people who had problems with their documents. After what seemed like forever, he said over the phone, "she seems quite honest," put it down, handed me my passport and told me, "get your clearance at London, go, run, you're gonna miss your flight!"

By then my laptop had died. I didn't have time to worry about calling my mom to tell her I was gonna make my flight for fear I might consume time and actually miss it. I was the last one on.

We landed in Heathrow after 7 hours. I was very worried I might not get through the Immigration there. I greeted the officer with a lengthy explanation of what happened, the ordeal in Abu Dhabi, and that I'm very sorry I didn't have the passport. After I was done talking, he said, "Don't worry, I believe you, you don't have to explain. Go!"

I ran. For my life. I found my mom after 30 minutes. It turns out my sister checked the flight tracker online and saw that I was able to board the plane. We laughed it off, made it home, ate, slept for 14 hours, woke up, laughed some more, bought an adapter for my charger, and just when I was about to settle to write this blog..............

BOOM. my charger is not in my bag.

It's sitting in my bed in Manila right at this very moment.
I would have to wait until we get to Scotland where I can borrow my sister's friends' charger and live off that while we're there. And I would just have to preserve my battery life for when we get back here in Stevenage, where I'll be spending 5 more days until I have to go home.

So yes, kids, learn from this. Do not be stupid. Don't be like that smiling idiot above, who remembered to pack 5 books and an Esquire magazine but not her frakkin laptop charger. LE SIGH.