It happened most innocently enough. I was lying nearly flat on the wonderful business class seat. The contents of my trouser pockets were pressing into me and I emptied my wallet, credit card case, the Crystal Symphony key case and photo case into the little blue drawstring bag that ANA supplies to hold their toothbrush and toothpaste, eye cover and sleep promoting tea, or aroma… Lin’s and my passport were safe in my left breast pocket with my glasses and pen. I had slept for at least three hours and I was feeling a bit restless. I turned to my left from the horizontal position of this seat and I felt something begin to slide. Before I could arrest the slippage, I heard a two part thunk, as something left the pocket and slipped out into some space between the window seat and the fuselage’s internal plastic covering. I reached into the pocket and Lin’s passport was still there. Mine was gone.
The potential destination of the passport had to be between the fuselage and the chair, or between the various components of the chair’s left arm, the left side of the seat cushion, or the mechanical and electrical devices that permit the chair to go from vertica to horizontal. The spaces within that arm rest and the seat were just wide enough to permit the fairly dense passport to slip through, and its weight to carry the little book down into the recesses of the mechanism. Fingers could not slip into the space, and the penlights of the two lovely ANA flight attendants could not adequately illuminate the tiny space.
The attendants tore out seat cushions exposing the horizontal surface of my seat, but the vertical surfaces could not be moved. The passport had disappeared into thin air, its path marked only by the thump of its coming to rest against the bottom of the seat or the cabin floor.
There is a gentleman sleeping in Seat 16C, and no one in 16A, the window seat directly behind mine. When he wakes up, or we land, we still have the possibility of reaching under 15A from behind and retrieving the passport. If that fails, I am about to learn what happens to someone who takes off with a passport and lands without one. I have visions of “The Man Without A Country,” destined to travel forever aboard a ship and never to be permitted ashore, or taken into custody by Immigration, particularly since I have a Santa Ana address and connections at Clinica La Amistad, as well as a funky Castilian accent. Even my attempts at Hebrew reveal a sinister Ashkenazic accent, linking me to an Eastern European shtetl ancestral origin. The beard, the subscription to The Nation, an NPR supporter…. A believer in the Single Payer Health Care dream of Liberals…. A history of odd bumper stickers…. The charges are piling up.
What will immigration say when I say, “I don’t have my passport.” They will say, “You lost your passport?!!!” I will say, “No, I know where my passport is. It’s just not accessible until the plane is scrapped, or the seat is removed.” Then, I will be taken away and grilled. They can’t waterboard me… Can they? I have nothing to confess to except not safeguarding my passport, but who would suspect a business class seat of being the agent of my undoing. I can’t say it with a smirk, or even a smile, although I can see the humor before the consequences arrive.
It’s 3:15 PM, PDT, less than 3 hours.
It’s 4:33 PM, PDT, on Friday, April 12th. 8:33 AM, on Saturday, April 13th in Japan. We’ve just had a filet mignon, sake, miso, and a cheese plate. The gentleman in 16C enjoyed his dinner and our lovely flight attendant, Kimiko Ozaki, found my passport, apparently quite easily just under my seat, toward the back-left side. The passport is safely back in the left breast pocket and I will be ever vigilant. We’ve just passed over the Golden Gate Bridge, so Becky, we’re right over your house. Cheney, Woolfowitz, the FBI and the CIA have totally lost interest in this tubby, old nephrologist who is just bringing home some tee shirts, and purses, and tea cups, and a lot of wonderful memories. No extraordinary rendition, no visit to the security apparatus of a police state. The ANA staff and flight was a pleasure. Just don’t take one left turn, too many!