Day One Disaster

I had my bag packed and was positive that I had packed everything from a swimsuit to my tooth brush. I was staying the night with Maddie, another girl on the trip who lives in Chicago, so we could make it to O’Hare by 5 o’clock in the morning. We went and got dinner and came back to her house to finish getting ready for the trip. We were all settled in. ll was well. I went to bed believing I was fully prepared for the day of travel that loomed ahead. When we woke up, it all seemed normal I ate a pop tart and brushed my teeth, I laced up my shoes excited for the adventure ahead and gathered my bags and Maddie and I were out the door. For me, the forty-five-minute trip to O’Hare seemed to take forever. When we finally arrived, one of the other students Myles was also just getting out of his car. This only made us more excited about the opportunities for us ahead. Out of the car, we dragged our bags into the airport and stood with some of the other student on the trip talking excitedly about getting out of the frigid Illinois winter and to warm, sunny Puerto Rico. We then decided it would be a great idea to print out our boarding passes while we waited for the rest of our group to arrive.
That is when crisis struck. I was walking up to the kiosk for United and reaching for my wallet to grab my ID to print out my boarding pass when a sense of panic washed over me. Where was my wallet? I need my ID to get on the plane and it was nowhere to be found. I pulled everything out of my backpack frantically looking for it. It was not there. I opened my carry-on bag thinking maybe when I was putting clothes back this morning I threw it on top, but sadly no. By this time, everyone (minus one that missed the plane, but that’s another story) was there and ready to go through security. I was in a little bit of a panic, so what did I do? I, of course, called my mom. She was on her way to exercise class all the way back in Effingham, and honestly could not have helped me too much other than calming me down. After explaining the situation to her we got to work on locating my wallet. I once again checked my backpack and carry on to no avail as Maddie called her parents to look for the wallet back at her house. After Maddie got off the phone we were almost positive that I had lost it getting into or out of the car because her parents could not find the wallet where I had slept in the house. After hearing this, we walked outside and looked to see if I had dropped it there. Once again, nothing. At this point I was convinced that there was no way I was getting to Puerto Rico, and to make matters worse I had lost my wallet and would have to replace all the IDs and cards inside. But then, Maddie’s phone started ringing again. Her parents had found my wallet! I was elated to hear that I had not lost my wallet forever, but was still worried about how I was going to get to Puerto Rico because it was too late to get my wallet to O’Hare as Maddie’s parents were leaving for California from a different airport.
At this point, I had called my dad to get a picture of my passport, and was waiting with Professor Rodriguez in line for security with only my luggage and boarding pass. No ID. As we approached the front of the line I could only feel dread as I waited to hear that TSA agent to tell me “Sorry I cannot let you go.” When we finally go to that point, we explained the situation and they called out a code and another agent came forward and asked me if I had anything in my bag or backpack that would identify me like a piece of mail or a prescription medication, but of course I had none of those items. The officer from the TSA then told me that he would have to ask me some questions regarding myself to identify myself. As I filled out a form with some of my information, he dialed a number. We stood there for a few minutes making small talk about where I was trying to get to. As it turns out, he was heading to San Juan in the upcoming week and was telling me all about what he likes about Puerto Rico and asking me where we were heading. Then someone on the other end of the phone must have picked up, and I instantly got more nervous. I had done nothing wrong, but there was something about that situation that made me incredibly nervous. The officer started asking me questions about traveling and my residence and all kinds of things until he suddenly stopped. I was worried I said something wrong, but that weight was lifted as I learned that they had verified my identity and I would be allowed to pass through security and eventually board my plane. One last tiny snag hit when we thought about the return trip. I would need to have my ID in Puerto Rico to get on a plane back home. Luckily, one of Maddie’s friends that was taking her parents to the airport was able to mail my wallet to me and now we are just exploring, and waiting for my wallet.
Overall, I cannot be more thankful for being able to get on that plane. So far, we have had an absolutely amazing time here, but I would have never made it without the help of other people like Maddie, Professor Rodriguez, and the extremely nice TSA officer to get me here. I am so excited to have this opportunity, but if there are any lessons to learn from this, remember that politely saying “sir, ma’am, please, and thank you” go a long way, and if you forget your form of identification to the airport you will absolutely feel stupid.
(Pictured below is me, incredibly happy about making it to Puerto Rico.)