As a man I think it's safe to say that (like most other men) my penis has gotten me into trouble on a few occasions. It's a tale as old as time - man has penis, man makes poor decisions because of penis. Rinse, wash, repeat. I woke up on an overcast day in Lisbon knowing all of this but with the naive assumption that my penis' ability to wreak havoc was limited to the realms of love and sex. It would only take a few hours for my lesson to be learned.
I'd note that the day didn't start badly. A leisurely morning at the beautiful H10 Duque de Loule hotel just off the fashionable Avendia da Liberdade, I didn't feel rushed to get to the airport for my 10:40AM flight. The airport was only a short taxi ride and traffic was promised to be extremely light. I spent my morning performing the 16th stop of my lip-syncing world tour in the spacious shower and scouring the internet for any news that Chris Evans had come out of the closet (he had not). Freshly showered and freshly disappointed, I caught a cab to the airport where I'd hop on a short flight to London Heathrow before continuing on to Chicago.
So far, so good, and not a penis causing problems in sight.
Check in for my flight at the Lisbon airport was less than friendly but I was still feeling good - I'd just successfully finished a three country jaunt from Senegal to Egypt to Portugal and was wearing a brand new full-length coat I'd picked up at a store in Lisbon as a memento of the trip. Few things in the world make me feel as confident as wearing a cute coat. I sauntered off to security while my new coat (I assume) fluttered elegantly around me like Cate Blanchett's gown when she temporariliy lost her shit in Lord of the Rings.
I passed through security and I was free to wander the terminal until departure time. Still good, but the problematic penis was starting to rear its head. As I slowly walked down the airport's non-descript tiled hallway toward my departure gate, the slightest little pangs of pressure started to bang against my bladder wall. I pushed the call of nature aside - it didn't seem that urgent and I always made sure to hit the restroom right before boarding started on all of my flights. For now, the call of a snack was much more alluring. I'm a Priority Pass holder so quickly took a look at what lounges were available to me and immediately headed to the ANA Lounge up a set of escalators near a central shopping and dining atrium. The place was packed with Portuguese businessmen intently watching a soccer (I was going to type football but I wanted to annoy you with my Yankee imperialism) match on the television. Seating was scarce and I spent too long looking for a place to put down my bag.
"Hi, it's David. Sorry I couldn't take you call right now but I have a long history of poor decisionmaking and now seems like a bad time to try something new. Go ahead and leave me a message but I'm definitely not in the market for your clearly very sound warning. There's cured meats and and squares of cake to be eaten and I just can't be bothered to be honest. Thanks and go with God."
"Hey girl it's me, the Call of Nature. You're really gonna want to deal with me sooner rather than later. I don't mean to seem menacing but you know a bitch likes to cause a scene and if you keep ignoring me like this I might not have a choice but to metaphorically flip the table. You can't just ignore me like this. I'm not a jury duty summons. How about you pick up your penis and take it for a walk in the men's room?"
As I sat in an uncomfortable chair munching on mediocre meat and stale cake I probably should have been evaluating why I was so prone to making poor choices in life. Instead I was contemplating which one of the Portuguese business men shouting at the nearby television would be the most fun to join me and Chris Evans in a hot tub. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as I continued to ignore my bladder's cries for help. How inconsiderate - couldn't it just calm the fuck down until I decided to make my way toward the boarding gate? That would be most conveninent for me. Maybe more cake would shut it up?
Fast forward an hour and it's time for me to start heading toward my gate as boarding will begin in about 30 minutes. I still needed to clear immigration control and walk to the end of the terminal for my flight. I have to confess to full-on power walking through immigration control at that point as I tried as hard as I could not to piss myself while a lovely officer named Joao made small talk about my trip to Portugal. He finally said goodbye as I flashed him the most torturous of smiles and as I hustled down the terminal, eyes darting from side to side desperately seeking a restroom, a scene from "Bridesmaids" began to play in my head ....
But it didn't happen.
Off to the right was salvation. An alcove of relief. The glittering sign with the internationally recognized stick figure telling me I had made it to the promised land - the men's room. By this point the situation had surpassed being a bladder issue and had become a penis issue. I'm talking when you've held it so long beyond when you should have that you can actually feel the throbbing pain in your junk as you flex muscles you didn't even know you had down there to held back the torrent coursing through your manhood.
I went into that bathroom fully ready to chest-kick a child out of the way to gain access to a urinal, but luckily there were plenty available.
Like a lion after the kill I threw my head back in elation, allowing myself one of the rare moments in my life where I turned into a complete dude-bro and I let slip a moan of gutteral satisfaction. It seemed to last forever but eventually the torrent became a trickle and it was time for me to close up shop and move along. Despite the near catastrophy and seering pain in my penis just moments before, I distinctly recall smirking in the mirror as I washed my hands and chastising my junk and bladder for being such drama queens.
With little time left before boarding I hustled out of the restroom and made my way down to my gate. It was only when the gate agent made an announcement reminding people to check their boarding pass to confirm their boarding group assignment that I realized I didn't have my boarding pass with me any longer. And more importantly ..... I didn't have my passport.
Trying not to panic, I calmly reminded myself that I probably just put it in bag or slipped it into my (fabulous) coat pocket. Nope. And nope. It was gone. My most prized possession in the world. The key to every adventure I've had and the one thing guaranteeing I'd be able to head home to see everyone and everything I loved in life. GONE.
Okay, I'm sure this is going to be just fine.
Being the seasoned traveler that I am I immediately took a deep calming breath and begin to methodically retrace my steps over the past 10 minutes to determine where I could have misplaced my passport.
That's a complete and total lie. I legitimately almost burst into tears because I was so besides myself with terror. I'm talking John Boehner at the State of the Union teary eyed. My breaths were shallow and erratic. My mind was a hampster on meth. My heart felt like it had put up a "For Sale" sign and was attempting to march right out of my ass. For a good minute I felt like Alice falling into Wonderland as scenes from "Locked Up Abroad" danced in my head.
Finally I came to my senses and realized that if I was going to find my passport in time to board this flight I needed to locate it and fast. Jimmy John's "subs so fast you'll freak" fast. I saw that the boarding gate next to ours was empty but the desk had three TAP Portugal agents behind it. I quickly ran over and in what I assume was a very clear and calm voice (it wasn't) explained that I had lost my passport and needed to find out if anyone had turned one in.
I repeated myself.
More blank stares. Maybe they don't speak English?
I start to walk away when the man finally says "I can call to see if someone has turned one in to the lost and found but you're not even our customer so you're lucky."
Normally I'm the type of person that would let the sassy dig slide right off my back but I was feeling quite distressed. I felt the anger welling up inside of me but somehow managed to swallow it down like a bitter, bitter pill and said "Thank you so much!" A quick call to the lost and found and .... nothing. No passport. I'd reached the extend of the TAP Portugal staff's graciousness and was ushered away from the desk with a few dismissive hand motions.
My Plan B at that point consisted of collapsing onto the floor and sobbing for the next two hours. My Plan C was to leave the airport, get a job as a cod oil salesman, and live as monument to what happens when you ignore the sound advice of your penis . As enticing as both of those options sounded I knew neither was going to work for me long term and we're all about workable solutions here at ORD to Anywhere. So I tried that deep breath thing again and this time did what I should have done from the start - retrace my steps to the last place I remember holding my passport.
The bathroom. Lord Jesus it was the bathroom, where I switched my passport out of my hand for my penis in a mad scramble to avoided peeing my pants right before a two hour flight. I remember the ectasy of release but nothing about what I actually did with my passport. I took off like Usain Bolt for the men's room, looking much less like Cate Blanchett this time around.
I burst into that bathroom like the Kool Aid man and I'm sure I caused quite a bit of discomfort as I frantically marched around the urinals looking high and low for any sign of my precious little blue book. I didn't matter to me that there were men using them at the time. It didn't matter to me that it probably looked like I was a complete and total peeping Tom, mostly because I was too busy hyperventilating over being stranded in Portugal. In retrospect the fast, heavy breathing probably didn't help me seem less like a total creep.
I saw a lot of white tile, too many droplets of misplaced urine, a lot of startled faces, and one not-my-penis in my search of the restroom but did not find my passport. I was distraught. I had to have lost my passport in the restroom, otherwise I would have had it in my hand. I knew it had to be here but it clearly was not. Had someone picked it up and stolen it? After having my luggage confiscated in Israel and never returned my coworkers often made jokes about seeing my clothes on ISIS fighters on CNN. Was someone going to be using my passport soon as well?
I made a last ditch effort to find my passport by looking through the garbage can in the restroom. Nothing.
Feeling defeated, I finally decided it was gone and I needed to run back to my boarding gate and tell the staff I couldn't travel on the flight. As I jogged back to the gate I started making mental notes about looking up where the US Embassy was in Lisbon and to research how quickly I could get a replacement passport. I dreaded calling my boss to tell him I'd likely miss a few more days of work and then telling my husband (boyfriend at the time) that I'd have to spend a lot of money to reroute myself home. And then I'd have to take this blog off the internet. How can I give advice to people about how to travel the world if I can't even keep my passport from disappearing when my penis appears?
"Hey. Sir. HEYYYYYYY. SIRRRRRRRRR."
I was so busy running to my gate and feeling sorry for myself that I almost didn't realize someone was trying to get my attention. It was the TAP Portugal staff that had dismissed me earlier. One man and two women, and the man was holding something aloft with a handful of tissue paper.
It was my passport and boarding pass.
"Someone found it on the floor in the bathroom. They brought it here after we called the lost and found for you. They thought you still here. I don't want to touch it."
Oh, but I was going to touch it. I snatched that filthy little passport right out of his paws and if it hadn't been sitting for God knows how long on a filthy Portuguese men's room floor I'd have kissed it. Everything after that was a bit of a blur. I thanked him profusely even though he honestly seemed like he'd have been just as happy if I'd been forced to live in the airport for the next year begging for free lounge access and taking showers in the water fountains.
I pulled a sanitary wipe from my bag (something I always travel with - to clean my hands, my face, dirty airplane tray tables, and apparently passports that have sat on bathroom floors) and did my best to clean it while also running the rest of the way to my boarding gate. I expected to be the last person to board but they were still only halfway into boarding. It seemed like an eternity but it had all happened in the span of just a few minutes. Funny how your perception of time changes when you're having a panic attack, isn't it?
I handed by newly recovered, deeply appreciated, and perfectly sanitary (probably not) passport and boarding pass over the to the gate agent and was welcomed to board my flight to London Heathrow. It was only when I sat down at my seat, second to last row window seat, that I finally let the entire emotional wave roll over me. I threw my head back and closed my eyes for a few minutes and waited for boarding to complete to the soothing tones of British accents and the captain pronouncing the word schedule as "shedjewel".
Fully boarded and there's was an empty middle seat next to me. Seems God knew I'd been through enough that day.