The plane leveled off and we were free to move about the cabin. I found my make-up bag and hairbrush and went to the bathroom.
God help me, I love make-up. I’ve never been accused of wearing too much make-up but I don’t leave the house without at least some base under my eyes, eyeliner and something on my lips. I looked at myself in the mirror. I brushed my hair and smoothed it out as best I could, wishing I could wash it. I put some base on my face, maybe a bit too much. “Easy girl,” I thought. “You don’t want to walk out looking like a geisha.” I put some eyeliner on, blush and found my lipstick case. Ahhhh, lipstick. Sweet, lovely lipstick. I love you so. I felt a bit more like myself and went back to my seat.
On this flight, I didn’t mind sitting in the middle seat. When we landed I asked the man next to me what the time was. We were landing at exactly the boarding time of my next flight. Shit. He alerted the flight attendant and they got me on the bus. What’s with the buses in Munich? No one walks to their terminals? No trains? It’s all buses.
On the bus I turned on my phone. A plethora of texts lit up the screen.
“Did you find a solution?”
“Download this app and call me ASAP.”
“Are you alive?”
I used the rest of my battery to text Lisa.
“On my way to Houston. I’m ok. More later.”
I saw an e-mail from from her. I scanned through the message. Calls to the embassy, state department, airline…. “Aw Shit,” I said to myself and laughed. I guess I alerted the right person.
I got off the bus and ran through the airport, asking for help along the way. Found the gate. Security again. I told them I was very late. Camera. Liquids. Wand. Shoes. Hurry!
Then another, “May I see your passport.” Shit.
“I don’t have my passport.”
“Step aside, m’am.”
Not again. A tinge of panic started welling in my stomach. A phone call was made and I was given the all clear. I ran through the loading passage and onto the plane, panting and out of breath. I sat down for a minute.
“Are you ok?” the flight attendant asked.
“Yeah, I was just running.”
Then I pulled the first of what I’m sure will be many, “I just spent two nights in an Israeli dentition center,” excuses.
“Would you like some chocolate?” she asked.
“No.” I said, “but maybe a drink.”
I found my aisle seat, next to a lovely older woman. The flight back was as easy as any 10-hour flight can be. Though I didn’t sleep. I cannot sleep on planes. I find myself watching everyone else’s movies. It’s like channel surfing with no sound.
We landed in Houston. Getting off the plane we were corralled into yet another border control area. Everyone was using kiosks to scan their passports. Here we go again.
“I don’t have my passport.”
“Get in this line.”
When the couple in front of me got to the booth, they started complaining. The tall, African American man listened and replied, “You think you’re better than all these people? You’re no different than anyone here.” I instantly liked him.
It was my turn. “I don’t have my passport,” etc. etc…
“Step aside m’am.”
Son of a Bitch. “But I’m in the U.S. now,” I thought. “It’s going to be ok.”
I had a moment when I thought that maybe being in the U.S. didn’t necessarily guarantee an easy process. Would my own government necessarily treat me any better? Being a citizen is not necessarily a guarantee for justice. Maybe I was just being paranoid. I was pretty loopy.
A man came to get me and took me and about 5 others to a separate room.
Here we go again.
I walked into a room full of very tired and sad-looking people.
“I might be here a while,” I thought and went to the restroom. In the single stall, I heard my name being called. I tried not to lose my dignity by yelling from the bathroom, “I’m here. I’m here. I’m Nicole LaCour!” By the third time I heard my name, I did just that. I stumbled out of the bathroom, still trailing my backpack, purse and camera
He asked to see my driver’s license. He barely looked at it and said, “Ok. You can go.”
“I can go? Go where? Where to now?”
“No. You can go. You’re released.”
“What do you mean released? Where do I go now?”
It took me a few minutes to realize I was actually free to go. Even when I left that room and found my luggage, I saw another line of people showing documents and thought, “Wait. He didn’t give me anything. I don’t have a piece of paper like these other people do.” I asked someone for help. They looked at my customs form.
“Yeah. See. He stamped it right there. You’re good.”
Then, there I was in the Houston airport. Free to do as I like.
My phone was dead. I muddled back and forth not knowing whether to get a flight to Lafayette, try to exchange my unused Lufthansa tickets, take the bus…. Finally, exhausted, I walked out of the airport, went up to a cab driver and said, “Take me to a hotel or motel near the airport. Red Roof Inn. Perfect.”
“I need a room for the night. Yeah. That’s fine. Whatever.”
I got to my room, which seemed like the most luxurious accommodation I’d ever seen. I plugged in my phone and took the longest, hottest Silkwood-ey-est shower of my life. I think I washed my hair three times. I got dressed, finally ditching the amazing New York & Company pants for my cool, new travel skirt and walked to a Chinese restaurant down the street. Over hot tea and the worst Pad Thai I’ve ever had, I called Enterprise and reserved a car.
My phone back to life, I had my first debrief with Zubair. Mohammad Zubair, that is. I told him about his name coming up in my phone at border control. We laughed about it. For the rest of my life, I will never forget his reaction to the story of my carelessness and subsequent detainment.
“I wish I had been there with you and I had lost my passport too.”
At that moment I thought, “I guess I’d rather have good friends than make it to Jerusalem.”
“Though it may have been a little harder for me,” he added.
My son’s reaction was my favorite. Upon hearing that I was detained for losing my passport, he called me saying, “No, no, no. You have to come up with a better excuse than that. You can not tell people you lost your passport. You have to say you protested or spray painted a wall or something. You can’t say you were actually detained by the Israeli government because you dropped something.
“Yeah. Too soon, son. We’ll joke about this later,” I said and hung up on him before he had a chance to hang up on me. (As per our custom.)
I slept like a baby and in the morning took the airport shuttle to get my rental. Approaching the Bush International Airport, I felt a little trepidation. “No, not the airport,” I thought.
The Enterprise people were so nice.
“How was your flight?” Parker asked as he stood there with a bottle of water and a smile.
“I’m not coming from a flight.” I answered. And yes, I pulled the second of what will be many, “I just spent two nights in an Israeli detention center”s.
I told Siri to take me home and happily drove back to Lafayette, in control once again. The windows down. My music in my ears. And the stupidity of my mistake and the loss of my dream trip still smoldering under the surface.
I was going to see the Hagia Sofia. My soul mate was going to meet me there.
A few long phone calls, telling the story a second and third time and I made it back to No. 5. I looked out my front door and remembered saying to myself, “I want to change my view.” Well, I tried.
I acted out my little misadventure to Cornell, Lisa and Roux over a bottle of Cabernet in my own version of Drunk History. How did I end up singing the national anthem?
I woke up in the morning and thought, “Well, I guess I better write about it so I can get over it.”