So the sweet woman whose face I did not lick gets the rundown. I’m talking so fast she’s just staring.
“I was on the platform. People were rushing around me. I thought I had the passport in my hand with my ticket and suddenly all I’m holding is my ticket and the train has come and gone and I do believe someone grabbed the passport from my hand.”
My passport is going to Paris without me. Clearly.
… blah, blah, blah.
And it turns out these people who I’m telling my story to are not police at all but instead some sort of border patrol, and they are there to help people like me, who want to cross one country border into another and have issues or need some sort of security clearance. Mostly the men are sitting around watching a television while this young lady helps me. She hears my story, speaks to the half-listening, mostly disinterested men in amazingly quick and beautiful sing-songy French, and turns to me and says I need to fill out a police report. She then gets on her handheld radio and calls the police. Yes. I am on my way to a Swiss police station and all I wish is that I were on a train listening to my Summer playlist on my phone while watching the beautiful French countryside pass by my window. Hell. I’ve never done anything to land in a police station, good or bad. And my first time is going to be with some cop who I can’t understand. I finally am part of something to land in a police station and it’s in Switzerland. Grrrreat.
She radios. Tells me to wait. So I step aside.
Then he walks in. Like maybe the sexiest Swiss man I’ve seen and
I’ze in love.
I follow hottie Swiss policeman down the hall, through a locked door (he has a key! he’s powerful and gets in closed doors!) up stairs, through another door that leads outside on what at this point feels like the damn roof and then into another locked door. This one is the actual police station. Clearly I would never had found this had I needed to. At least I feel safe. This dude is huge and totally understands me.
So we sit down and he offers me water. I take it and drink it down quickly. I’m sweating bullets here, people. Not only is it hot as hell in Geneva, but I’m freaking the hell out and I just really don’t know what is going to happen. I text my friend, Scott, who is in the city somewhere with his wife. He says they’ll come find me. I feel a weight lift. Familiar faces will be nice right about now. I feel like a little girl in the principal’s office.
As I run through the entire story …
“I got to the station earlier than anyone else for this train and kinda hung around and then went up to the platform and was approached by the American couple and then the crowd rushed in … and … and …
He looks at me. He has said to slow down a couple times (his English isn’t THAT good) and he’s switching between writing and typing.
“Wait. Back up for a minute. You saw who stole your passport?”
“No. But wow. I think I know who has it.”
For some reason it never dawned on me until I slowed down. Maybe it was the water. Maybe it was the hottie cop who made me feel at ease. Or maybe it was the fact that I knew some of my friends were still in the city and I wasn’t totally alone. Whatever. I knew. I KNEW what happened. How could I be so stupid?
“The Americans took my passport.”
He was confused. All of a sudden I was, too, but at the same time everything was so clear. So obvious.
“You know the people who stole your passport, ma’am?”
No, no, no, I explain. I think it was a terrible mistake but I totally believe the woman who asked for help with her ticket has my passport. I think she accidentally took it from my hand as she took back her own tickets. DUH. And she’s now on the train.
Now I’m telling him what to do. I ask him to radio to the train. Make an announcement. I’ll just get on the next train and get my passport when I arrive in France. Sounds like a plan. Right?
“I can’t let you get on a train and go into France knowing you don’t have your passport. And I can’t radio the train. It’s a French train. Swiss trains don’t communicate with the French trains. I’m sorry.”
So he continues filling out the forms and makes a couple calls and confirms what he’s said. He has no way to radio the train. But he has talked to his counterparts in France (other cops) and they have left a message at the station. They will do what they can to talk to the crew in France when the train gets to the station. Our best hope is that I’m right and the couple will turn in my passport before departing the train. If I’m wrong, someone else has it and I will never see it again.
And then he drops the last bit of crap news.
He has little faith that even if the couple has my passport that they’ll turn it in at the station. He assumes they’ll hold onto it until back on American soil.
“But that makes no sense.”
He shrugs his shoulders. Says, “most people don’t do the right thing.”
He then makes a call and hands me the phone. It’s the United States military.
A very sweet but firm male voice on the other end explains to me what I’ll need to do. He’s practically barking the instructions at me as if this happens all the time. I have to get on a train and travel to the United States Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, where I need to appear in person to apply for a replacement passport. Problem is this is the weekend, and they are open (get this) Monday-Friday, 9-11:30 a.m. So I have a two-hour-or-so window. And I have to get my picture taken in Geneva somewhere they do official passport photos BEFORE heading to Bern. And I may not find a place for the photo that’s even open on the weekend. Oh, and I have to have cash on hand. About $135. And the train ride there isn’t free. I’ll need another train ticket.
That’s when I inhale. Drop my head on the desk. Exhale.
I look up and Scott and Lynn are on the television monitor. They are outside knocking at the door. I tell him my friends are here. I go out to get them and explain what’s going on. That my gut says the Americans have my passport. I tell them how it’s bothering me now, the more I think of it. These Americans seem so familiar to me. I wonder if they are someone I’ve met through work. (We’re all in Geneva for a work convention with a couple thousand other people and I just know I met this guy before … and now that I’ve had time to think about it I’m convinced of it.)
I thank my friends and send them off to explore.
Don’t worry about me. I’ll be OK. I got a cop and the US military with me. Ha. I’m just fine. Things are looking up.
Cute policeman sends me off with a French police report in hand, and a ton of notes and phone numbers of who to call, where I’m going to get the passport, blah blah blah. I smile and thank him, genuinely, for all his help. I really mean it. Thank god he spoke English, even slowly. He saved the day. He says one last time he doubts the passport will be found, but that they have my cell phone number and if they find something, I should hear in a couple hours when the train hits Paris. If I don’t get a call, it’s likely I won’t and I should head to Bern. He wishes me luck.
I head back to my hotel to see my coworkers and beg for a room for another night. Looks like I’m going nowhere until at least Monday.
Back in the hotel bar an hour or so later, I’m relaying the entire nightmare to my boss and another coworker, and we are coming up with plans, searching the Internet for exact rates and departure times for Bern. I’ve alerted home that I’m going to figure this out and get out of Europe sometime. Things are moving along. I feel OK. I’m actually able to stop sweating a bit.
Then my cell phone rings. I look up at Jo Lynn, my boss, my eyes the size of saucers for sure.
Oh my god. It’s them.
“Hello, this is Kasey Jackson.”
And what happens next … oh my god …
The man on the other end introduces himself as the man from the train in Paris.
“We found your passport.”
The man on the other end of the phone is talking to me and I’m beaming.
“We found your passport.”
Best words I’ve heard in so long.
But then I realize something funny. He clearly is a French-speaking man speaking English to me very carefully. He’s talking very slowly. And … he sounds Asian.
Now that I can breathe again and feel like everything’s going to be OK, I listen to his instructions and I’m trying not to lose it. It really is just so funny.
“Your passport is on the train and it will be coming back to Geneva at 9:35 tonight. Can you be there to meet me?”
YES! Yes, of course I can be there, I tell him.
“Tonight. Not too late, right?”
“Of course not, I’ll meet you anytime. 9:35 is fine. Where should I meet you?”
“We meet at border. Meet me at border. I give you your passport there.”
I look at Jo Lynn with a furrowed brow.
“At the border?”
“Yes, yes. At the border. I give you your passport there.”
This entire time he still sounds Asian. I can’t get over this. This strange Asian-sounding French man expects some sort of clandestine meeting with me at the border tonight at 9:35 so I can get my passport back. I’m thinking, really? The border? I know the border of France is around here somewhere, but what in the hell is this man talking about?!
“OK. Where am I meeting you exactly??”
“Where you were earlier. Number 9 border. I see you at border. You get your passport then. 9:35. OK?”
“Where I was earlier?”
“So you want me to go to the platform at 9:30 and you’ll be there? At 9:35? Where I lost the passport?”
“Yes. Passport is on way back now and be there in a few hours. See you at the border. 9:35.”
And he hung up.
And I’m both stunned and amazed. I was right. The couple obviously had my passport and now some Asian man wants to meet me at the border to give it back to me. I joke with Jo Lynn. Is he going to kill me? What’s he want in return for my passport and what does he mean by border? I was never at the border. Then he said the spot where I was earlier. Where I lost it. What the hell is he talking about?
I sit there with all this running through my mind.
And then I start laughing … and it seems I can’t stop. Maybe all the nervous energy is exploding at once but this, my friends, this is freaking funny.
He wants to meet me at the place where you board the train. Where I lost my passport. What I call the Number 9 platform. To him, a boarder. Or at least his best attempt at translation for that area of the station. I don’t know. Don’t care. I’m not gonna die tonight and I’m getting my passport back.
I look at Jo Lynn.
“He means B-O-A-R-D-E-R. Duh.”
We all have a good belly laugh over this one. Simple English translation mistake.
I would never call it a boarder.
But I will every time now, of course.
After a couple hours of final sightseeing around Lake Geneva, I head back to the train station. I stop at the border (not boarder) patrol station and the same folks from earlier are in there. One of the men who doesn’t speak English looks up and says “Passport?” and smiles. I shake my head and point to the ramp. He nods. I head up.
At about 9:25 a train light comes around the bend. I feel like I’m holding my breath I’m so anxious. Everyone gets off and I realize, WHO THE HELL AM I LOOKING FOR? I should have one of those signs like people greet you with at the airport.
KASEY JACKSON. DUMB AMERICAN. LOST PASSPORT. HELP ME.
Any of the above would work.
I got nothing.
It’s dark. Everyone laughing and hustling by. Nobody stops. Nobody pays a bit of attention.
The train leaves.
I almost cry. I sit down on the bench. I don’t know what the hell to do. Then I realize trains are on a serious schedule here. Maybe that wasn’t it.
I hold my ground.
At 9:34 on the dot, I see a light.
Train pulls up. Everyone de-boards. (ha).
Once again, nobody pays attention to me.
I see a group getting off that looks almost like a group of flight attendants, only for a train. I walk up to them and I’m feeling shaky. Frantic. I ask if they speak English and they gesture with their hands. So-so.
I ask about the lost passport. A woman answers that she has heard nothing about any passport. She apologizes.
They all walk away and leave me alone on the platform.
Whatever the hell it’s called.
At this point it feels just like that. Hell.
Defeated and confused and scared all over again, I walk back down the ramp and back to the border patrol window. Same man looks up.
“Passport?” he asks, smiling.
This time, I just shake my head. I’m feeling the tears again. Shit.
“No passport?” he asks.
Then, again like something out of a damn movie, the doors burst open to this section of the station and here comes that same group of flight attendant people. The same woman looks up and says “She.”
And she’s pointing to me.
The man she’s talking to has on a little fanny pack around his waist. I swear to you that we locked eyes. As I’m staring at him, we’re about 20 feet or so away from each other. He unzipped the pack and slowly, ON PURPOSE, pulls out …
I point to my own chest and say “MINE?”
He opens it and holds it up toward me and says “KASEY JACKSON?”
And I smile. And he smiles. And I swear to you I skipped to him.
I should’ve curtsied.
But I did skip to him and I got on my tip-toes (dude was tall and SOOOOO NOT Asian) and kissed each of his cheeks and said
“THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. Oh, I mean, MERCI! MERCI! MERCI!”
Then I looked at him and … hee hee … I said “Oh my god, I think I love you,” as I took my passport and held it up to my face, pointing at the photo and to myself.
We all laughed.
I walked past that border patrol one last time, held up my passport as I did and said,
I left for Paris from that same damn doorway the next morning not long after the sun came up. As the train pulled out, I put my earbuds in and put on my Summer playlist.
I was off to Paris.