I always keep my passport in the same place. It’s on my bookshelf in an empty vase, with my boyfriend’s passport and my (very cool) US National Parks passport. Without fail, I always put it there. Until one day I did fail to put it there…
Everything had lined up so perfectly. I had a work trip planned to NYC, so I booked a few days in California first to visit my family. Not exactly a close stopover, but since I hadn’t been in California for nearly a year, I figured a 5 hour flight to see my family would be nothing compared to how great it would be to be home for a few days.
I travel pretty frequently. Not every week, but usually once a month between work or personal trips, so I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with packing the night before and never prepping much for my trip. I was meant to travel on a Friday morning, so the Thursday before when I woke up to go to work, I decided to get a few things ready before work so I wouldn’t have so much to organize in the evening. And I’m so thankful I thought to organize things Thursday morning…
As usual, I walked over to the bookshelf to check for my passport. That’s funny… no passport. I looked in a few cabinets where I might have placed it, but I knew it was unlikely since the bookshelf was the place. Nowhere. I had last used my passport a few weeks before when I came back from a photo shoot in Barcelona… when I flew back from Barcelona, I had to put all my carry-on items into one back (shoe samples, apparel samples, my phone, laptop). And that carry-on bag I used was a sample bag (a sample used to sell product to clients) I borrowed from work. The day I got home from that week long trip, I didn’t unpack my bag like I usually do. I hadn’t slept much, so I told myself to relax, and unpack later. It seems I didn’t unpack everything, though…
Ok, not to panic, I thought, I’m sure my passport is in the side zipper of that bag, and if I just go to the office, I’ll find the bag and that’ll be that…
Lucky for me, my office is only 25 minutes from my house. Sitting on the train on the way to work I couldn’t help but think, what if my passport isn’t in that bag? what if I need an emergency passport? No… it’s got to be there. Even so I started Google searching “emergency US passport Amsterdam” just in case – the consulate website said you could visit the American Consulate in Amsterdam between 8:30-11:30 every morning to request one – good to know.
When I arrived to my office I headed straight for the department that lent me the bag. Nope, haven’t seen it, they said. I managed to call my colleague who I physically handed the bag back to just one week before.
Hey, you know that bag you lent me for the photo shoot? Do you know where it is now? Is it at your desk?
No, darling! I sent that bag to the Dubai office last week!
F**K!! Ok, ok, don’t panic. You still have 2.5 hours to get to the US Consulate and get an emergency passport.
I walked (very briskly) back to the train station and hopped on a train toward Amsterdam. I figured it would be best to take a taxi from Schiphol Airport so I could get to the American Consulate as soon as possible without having to stop for my bike. Which seemed like a good idea at the time…
With the clock ticking, and after the taxi driver tried telling me stories about his children to calm me down, I finally arrived at the American Consulate at 9:45. I ran up to the heavily secured door just as they were calling for 9:45 appointments, pushing past the people in line.
YOU’RE CUTTING THE LINE, they screamed.
IT’S AN EMERGENCY! I yelled back.
I got in the door and tried to keep calm while I waited for the guards at the desk to process me.
Hi, I lost my passport and I urgently need an emergency passport… I fly to the US tomorrow… can you please help me?
Hi miss. Do you live here?
Yes, I do, here is my residence permit.
Ok well, in that case we can’t guarantee we’ll help you. You see, you technically aren’t an emergency. You aren’t stranded here. You don’t really need to go to the US tomorrow.
But… but.. I’m going to see my family… (that’s when the tears started), I haven’t seen them for a year (sobbing), please can you help me?
Ok miss, please wait outside. You need to first send an email to this address and state that you are missing your passport.
Ok ok… thanks… so once I email this address then you can help me?
So I stepped out through the heavy door of the American Consulate, and (hands shaking) typed an email to the address they gave me.
What happened to your emergency?, one snarky SOB standing in line asked me.
(Crying) I lost my passport and I don’t think I can see my family… it’s been a year (sobbing).
Needless to say he shut up after that and stopped giving me a hard time.
I stood next to the window staring in at the guards who had spoken to me, with teary eyes. After a few moments they opened the door and let me in.
Ok, so they responded to your email? The guard asked me?
Yes… and they said I need a police report?
Oh right.. yeah you’re gonna need to go to the police station and get a report.
My jaw must have dropped. They couldn’t be serious. It was already 10 and I only had until 11:30 to get an emergency passport. Online it didn’t say you needed a police report for an emergency passport. It just said to show up at the consulate and you could get one without an appointment.
So here’s the police station (he pointed to a map)… you know the Ferdinand Bolstraat?
Thankfully, I had noticed the police station there multiple times. Thankfully, I know Amsterdam pretty well. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have my bike with me since I took a cab to the consulate. I felt for a moment like I would surely have to reschedule my trip. And then I thought… well, let’s just try… and I started sprinting (with my backpack on… with my morning smoothie shaking around inside) in the direction of the police station.
I felt like a child chasing a school bus. My backpack shaking up and down with every step. I was starting to sweat, running with my jacket in one hand and my wallet in the other. I felt like a mess. How could I have let this happen? I was usually so organized.
As I was sprinting a tram was coming in my direction. A tram I knew would stop at Ferdinand Bolstraat. I jumped on and rode it a few stops then jumped off and kept sprinting to the police station. The sidewalk I was sprinting down was under construction. Somehow it seemed that there were old people in my way – people I couldn’t really just push past… so I tried to manoeuver through the narrow crowded sidewalk as fast as I could until I reached the station.
Panting and sweating, I buzzed the door of the police station repeatedly.
I (panting and struggling for breath) lost (panting) my (more panting) passport and I (panting) need a (panting) police report
BZZZZ, the door opened.
Are you OK?
Yes, I lost my passport and I have to file a police report to get a new one
Thankfully, the police officer completely understood my problem and filed a report pretty quickly (to me it felt like an eternity).
Police report in hand, I sprinted back to the tram, waiting a few minutes, hopped on, and hopped off again to sprint back to the consulate.
I ran up to the window showing the police report folder through the window. The heavy door opened again and a guard gestured me inside. I went through security and the guard who had helped me told me to go through and go to window #5. He walked with me… probably for moral support at that point.
Hi, I need to request an emergency passport. Here is my police report.
Ma’am can you calm down? Calm down.
(I thought I was being calm given that I might miss an entire personal and work trip over a lost passport)
Do you have a passport picture?
Yes… (my hands were shaking as I pulled out a passport picture I just happened to keep in my wallet)
Miss. This is the picture from your previous passport. When was that issued?
Um… I think last year…
Honestly, I can’t keep track of time. I work for a company where all the work I do is 18 months in the future. I still think its 2016 cause I’m always working in the “future”.
No, miss. Your passport is 2 years old. You need a passport picture from the past 6 months
You have got to be kidding me. I felt like the consulate was throwing up any roadblock possible to keep from helping me. But at that point, I was determined to get that damn emergency passport.
Luckily the guard was still next to me, and he took out a map and showed me where I could get a passport photo taken – just hurry, he said, and you’ll be fine.
The passport photo shop he showed me was actually where I had my previous passport picture taken, so I knew exactly where I had to go. Again, I sprinted away from the consulate, my backpack shaking on my back and went as fast as I could to the photo shop 1km away.
At that point I started feeling like I was on an episode of the Amazing Race. I felt like the consulate kept giving me challenges to test how badly I wanted this emergency passport.
I burst through the door of the photo shop (burst is probably an under-exaggeration) and asked for a passport photo. Luckily no other customers were there so I sat down immediately (dripping with sweat – it was one of the first 20C days of the year) on the seat to have my picture taken.
Um, you can look in the mirror if you want, the photographer offered, in case I wanted to check myself before the photo
No, it’s OK, I really don’t care, just need this picture.
Ok then… um maybe try looking a little less angry
Ok ok, I took a breath and relaxed. He printed the pictures for me immediately and €10 later I ran out the door sprinting back to the consulate.
I made it. I waved to the same guard through the window. He waved me in. I went back to window #5, where the lady who told me to calm down looked disappointed to see me back.
I’d made it. HA! I’d made it! I felt truly victorious. And sweaty. And exhausted.
Miss, why didn’t you report your passport was missing earlier?
Because… I didn’t know I had lost it.
If I had known I was missing my passport, would I be stupid enough to wait until the day before my flight to the US to get a new one? No, I don’t think so. Typically, you never know you are missing something until you look for it and don’t find it.
The consulate processed my paperwork, and some of the friendlier people working there were actually really helpful.
I could return at 14:30 that afternoon to pick it up. I would make it to California to see my family. I was so relieved. I can’t remember another time I felt so panicked.
So, lesson learned. I will always check for my passport days in advance. And the other lesson – never get too comfortable with traveling 😉
If you lose your passport in another country:
File a police report as soon as possible and keep the paperwork with you
Report it missing to the nearest consulate
Get a new passport photo ASAP!
If you are an American visiting the Netherlands the American Consulate is located at Museumplein (near Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum)
And always keep a photo of your passport on your phone in case of emergency.