Living on this rock, it’s very rare that I’m able to point to something and say, This here thing is definitely easier than it would be if we were living in the States. On the contrary, lots of everyday life things here are generally harder. Hot showers are harder; finding specific foods is harder; staying in swimsuit shape all year long is harder. But on the occasion that I do find something to be easier, it is damn near celebrate-able. The SDQ Airport and its employees are one of those occasions. While the cautionary tale that follows is only one of our many experiences at SDQ, it should be noted that most experiences with them have made up for, if not, expunged some of the atrocities we’ve undergone when flying out of the U.S. Ding! Point for the Dominican Republic. Score 1-0.
If the airport experience was an Olympic event, I’d have an excess of gold hanging around my neck like Mr. T. I’d pity the fool that stood in my way. I’ve traveled with then-Boyfriend/now-Husband which was a stinking breeze. I’ve traveled with a newborn who peed on me. (In full disclosure, I let her pee on me. It was that or wake her. You see where my priorities lie.) I’ve travelled with two
kids babies: a year-and-a-half year old and a 3-month infant. I’ve traveled with two babies and two dogs, aka the Decathlon event, where you have be ready for everything – all at once – ready to jump far and jump high, and prepared to make a mad dash and hurdle some shit at a moment’s notice. Everything and anything is possible. But if you can handle the pressure, you will taste the sweet wine of victory. If Airport Olympics was indeed a “thing”, I’d have some serious bling, alright.
But, if I’m being completely forthright, I will admit that there was that one time I may have been a little off my game…
My backstory is solid. My grandmother had been having some health issues and we weren’t sure how long we had left with her. If I waited for Christmas break, I knew I might not make it back in time, so I decided to leave a few weeks earlier – with both kids and without Husband – to get home. My mind was not in its typical, organized place. Waiting in the check-in line at the airport, I handed Husband our three passports to hold: Daughter’s, Son’s, and mine. I started to look through my purse for the other papers I needed.
“Where’s your passport?” Husband asked.
“There,” I responded.
“No, your passport? It’s not here.”
I looked up, annoyed. I thought this was one of Husband’s I-looked-but-can’t-find-this-thing-that-is-seriously-sitting-right-in-front-of-my-face moments (since he has those often), so I took the passports from him. “Seriously, babe. I just gave them to you.” But as I began thumbing through them, the realization slammed my chest like a prize fighter. I couldn’t breathe. Total Knock Out.
There was no passport.
My mind flashed back to the week before when Husband needed our children’s passports for some governmental paperwork. He took out Son’s U.S. passport and, because Son was born in the Dominican Republic, he also took out his Dominican passport too. He didn’t need the Dominican passport but Husband brought it anyway.
This is an easy mistake to make. Here’s what the passports look like when stacked on each other:
The week before was also Thanksgiving weekend. We had gone away on Wednesday, came back on Sunday, and here I was flying out on Tuesday. I had packed up a family for two trips: one long weekend road trip and our 6 week trip back to the States. I share this to remind you: my mind was not in its rightful place.
I should have checked. I know this. I always check. And then I check again, and re-check some more. And then check again one last time for good measure. I inherited this neurotic behavior from my mother. But this time, I didn’t do all the checks. I didn’t check at all. Insert slap forehead. This time, I simply saw three passports on the table, counted three passengers, and packed three passports.
It wasn’t until that moment when Husband questioned me that it flooded back and I realized the three passports I packed were Daughter’s passport and both of Son’s passports. Mine was still in the closet. In our bedroom. At home. In Zona Mirador Sur. At least 40 minutes away… if traffic wasn’t brutal.
Traffic in Santo Domingo is always brutal. Except on Sundays. And it wasn’t Sunday.
Husband was quick. It was like he heard the gun go off before the trigger was pulled. He left the check-in line in a mad dash and drove home as fast as the wheels on our Spacewagon would allow.
In the meantime, I prayed in my corner that the attendant would let me check-in without my passport. My prayers were answered in the form of Manuel, the most helpful airline representative an unprepared flyer could ask for. He calmed my nerves, and told me everything would be ok. He was the Mickey to my Rocky. He even gave me a free bag. He asked if I knew my passport number and then shrugged it off almost immediately, thinking what a silly question that was. Who knows their passport number?
Me. I do. Yes, I know my passport number by heart. I have my license number memorized. I tell you this so you can further understand that this is the kind of person I am. The kind of person who doesn’t leave their passport at home.
Now, after Coach Manuel had prepped me, all I could do was wait for Husband to return… or wait for my flight to take off. Wait…
Keep calm. Don’t lose it. Breathe. You have been training for this. You are ready. Focus on the ‘right now’ not the finish line. Be ready. Feed the kids. Take the kids’ shoes off in preparation for Security. Take off any jewelry that might beep through Security. Security?! Oh God. What a shit show that always is… Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t think about Security. Stay focused. Stay calm. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Coach Manuel said as long as I am going through Security by 2:30, I should be ok.
It was 2:30. Husband was close, but still 10 minutes away. Santo Domingo traffic proved to be a fierce competitor that day, and I was not where Coach said I needed to be. I felt the tears rising. How much longer would I be able to keep myself together? Was I losing this?
I met Husband at the curb, rushed through our goodbyes and made a run for it like H. Bolt himself. I started to crumble. I hadn’t given Husband a proper goodbye. It would be 6 WEEKS until I saw him again and the last thing he saw was the rumpside of a crazed airport athlete running off in the distance, an Olympic Sprinter with two kids in tow.
The story gets hazy here, like Alice falling through the rabbit hole. Take two kids out of stroller; carry the one that can’t walk/stand. Fold stroller. Put everything on the conveyor belt. Walk through. Take everything off conveyor belt. Put baby in stroller. Chase toddler. Put shoes on. Throw toddler in stroller. Arrive at Customs agent person who reminds me that since I am not a resident and have been here passed the allotted time, I have to pay the tax. Get out credit card. You don’t take credit cards?!?! Only cash? Take out pesos. Only AMERICAN cash? What American cash? I don’t live in AMERICA! Go to money exchange. Exchange pesos for dollars. Run back. Pay tax.
But here was my big break, the break every athlete wishes for when they are behind: I had home field advantage. I was on my rock. The Dominican Republic. A place where people like Coach Manuel are willing to do anything it takes to help you. A place where airport staff sees you frustrated with two kids, wanting to cry and give up, and asks you if you need help, rather than asking you if you’re crazy and if you could just follow me to that room for a few questions. My rock team was on my side. Run. Sprint. Faster. Harder. Hurdle. Arrive at gate.
The gate – a place where the flight was delayed 30 minutes.