Date sent: Fri, 5 Apr 1996
From: (Daniel Valler )
My wife and I were living in Italy. For our fifth anniversary we decided to take a 10 day trip to London and Paris. Because it was cheaper we bought round trip tickets from Venice to London and round trip from London to Paris.

We did all the London requirements in four days and were off to Paris. I was not traveling with a passport. I'm in the military and have never had a need for one. Military members can travel to any NATO country with a Military I.D. card and offical paperwork. At CDG my wife presents her passport at customs, pops through, and waits for me. I present my leave paperwork and the customs offical says very French like, "What is this?"

"It's my leave paperwork." I say.

"Why are you showing this to me?"

"Because I am on holiday and visiting Paris. I have no passport."

"If you have no passport there is no holiday."

"But I have this leave paperwork. It's just as good."

"When I visit your country I must have a passport. When you visit France you must have a passport."

"But I don't have one, what should I do?"

I was whisked down the hall by two armed guards. My wife tried to follow but the argumentative customs official would not let her back through. All I could think, "This is Midnight Express!"

I'm was led to a waiting room filled with Ugandans. Obviously they didn't have passports either. Their traditional costumes were very nice, however their personal hygiene was not. One woman had a chicken under her arm! Present, dinner, family pet? I don't know.

I signed in a log book and sat, and waited, and sat, and waited. Ugandan eyes on me the whole time. Even the chicken. Finally, the first of many came in to interrogate me.

"Why are you here? Where is your plane ticket? How much money do you have? Why are you traveling from Italy? Where are you staying? I gave them all the same answer, "I'm here on a holiday. My wife has my plane ticket. My wife has all the money. I live in Italy. We have reservations at the Hotel du Champs de Mars." Over and over I repeated my story.

A few hours later a small Asian woman came to get me. In her hand was a hand written visa, allowing me entry into France for 5 days, no more she told me. She also said, "This time we allow you to enter France, but next time you must have a passport."

In the waiting area, near the duty free shop, was my wife. She told me how she had tried to find out what was going on and no one would give her an answer. She claimed all of our luggage and brought it back to camp outside of the customs area. She still tells the story of trying to push the luggage cart up the moving sidewalk and how she eluded the customs folks by getting lost in a crowd of incoming Japanese tourists. I'm sure it looked something like Patsi and Edina in the airport at Morocco.

Paris was great. We had a wonderful time.

Sunday morning we needed to fly back to London to fly back to Venice. We had very little sleep. Our flight departed at 6:30 a.m. We checked in, bought some Queen of Denmark chocolates at the Duty Free shop, borded the plane, and sat .... until about noon. Some sort of mechanical problem. We left Paris the same time our flight was to leave London, our tin of chocolates empty!

We landed at Heathrow, and a stewardess announces they are holding the flight to Osaka. "All passengers continuing on to Osaka, please follow me." Suddenly, flocks of Japanses are running through the airport, cameras flapping in the breeze, Pomp and Circumstance playing on the airport muzak system, the stewardess waving her arms, "This way, this way!"

The British Airways reservation clerk informs me there are no more flights to Venice today, but she'd be happy to send us first to Frankfurt and then to Venice. "Fine." I say. "You must claim your luggage here," she says, "and transfer to Luftansa in terminal four. Check in and you are all set."

No problem, but I could only find two of our bags. There's only two. The other two, especially the one with our car keys and Italian money to pay for parking at the garage, were nowhere. I tell my wife I don't want to hear anything about hand carrying important stuff and valuables. Thank you. The lost luggage person tells me to file a claim at our final destination. Thank you.

In Frankfurt I checked to see if our lost luggage was there, we took a nap in those beautiful lounge chairs. My wife says she is exchanging no more money. I'm amused by all the different airlines. Aero Lloyd. Air Eithopia. Air Calcutta.

Alitalia is a beautiful airline. A familiar language. I want a cappucino. "Did you hear what she just said?" I asked my wife. "Are we landing in Milan first? Oh, for cryin' out loud! Are we ever going to get home? I've got to be back by midnight!"

Sure enough we landed in Milan first, Linate Airport I believe. It's very late. There's nothing open. Took one of those people movers from the plane to the teminal. Sat in the terminal for a few hours. Had my cappucino out of a paper cup. My wife called her family back in the States. Got back on the people mover, rode to the plane, and sat in the exact same seats we were in before. How Italian!

Our two lost bags had made it to Venice long before we did. They were secure in the locked lost and found section. I could reach in and almost touch them. "I need to get my bags out of lost and found," I said to one of the airport people.

"It's late. We are closed. You must come back tomorrow."

"No, you don't understand. I need that bag to get my car keys and money. I'm parked in the Marco Polo garage."

"Oh that's too bad, but you must come back tomorrow. It's nearly midnight."

"Yes I know it's nearly midnight. But you don't seem to understand. I need that suitcase."

"You don't seem to understand. It's very late. We are closed. You should always carry valuables and important stuff with you."

Maybe it was the uncontrollable sobbing, I'm not sure. We got our bags. I managed to sign back in on time. Whew! It was great to be home.

"Oh my God! Come here." I yelled to my wife. "Look at these ants! They're all over the place. This box of dried dates is open. I can't go to sleep with this going on. Get me the Pine Sol."

Daniel Valler

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