Honey and I have been visiting the Caribbean for the last 12 years on a mostly annual basis. It has become our reprieve from winter’s frozen breath. It began because I won a contest that awarded me a $2000 travel voucher from Air Canada. The certificate arrived along with a travel brochure from Air Canada travel and we pored over it for weeks before we finally chose the Bahia Principe Rio San Juan on the north shore of the Dominican Republic. Unknown to us the resort was just a few miles away from Los Gringos where we would end up seven years later.
We chose the Dominican Republic for our first trip because it was the only country that did not require a passport to enter. This was due to change in April 2012 but it was February 2012 and you could still enter with just a birth certificate and a driver’s license (photo ID). We have passports now but at the time neither I nor my wife had one. Ergo… the Dominican Republic.
Even though my wife had repeatedly asked me if I had my birth certificate, I did not look for it until 3 days before departure. And you guessed it… I could not find it. This was a major problem, since proof of citizenship is a requirement that has no grey area. I had my driver’s license and numerous identity cards but on none of them did it state where I was born.
When you have lost a piece of identification, in most cases, you can simply go to the government records department and for a premium, get it replaced within 48 hours or less. Problem was, I was born in a different province from the one I reside in. It seems that birth records and replacement documents are only available from the province in which you were born. That’s when the panic set in. There was no way I could get from one province to another and back again in time!
Honey, at this point was no longer speaking to me except to ask what I was going to do about it? What I did was gather all the identification I had, including my marriage certificate which at least listed my city of birth, and drove the hour and a half to the airport the day before our scheduled departure. I went to the Air Canada counter, spread my documentation out and asked whether it would be sufficient. “No.” I was told, it would not be enough to get me on the plane.
It seems that the airlines are held responsible for allowing anyone to land on foreign soil without the appropriate ID. This will result in the person not being permitted into the country. Which means the airline would have to bear the expense of flying this person back to their country of origin on an already filled aircraft, that plus a hefty fine. Being the always money conscious airline they are, the Air Canada counter person said it was unlikely that I would be permitted on the plane because of the high risk of border rejection.
Even after I told him my pathetic story, “First vacation…blah, blah…Never had a real honeymoon…blah,blah…Wife’s never been out of the country…blah,blah… all I got was a weak,”They might let you on, depends whose working”, reply.
Okay, I get the fact that I am responsible for the predicament I found myself in, but a little compassionate help would have been nice. What happened to the “we care” motto that every company subscribes to nowadays? I could tell by the look in this person’s eye that he would not risk his job because I can’t find my birth certificate. Then a ray of hope…
“Would you like to speak to the supervisor?” I was asked.
Absolutely!!! What did I have to lose? Going home and telling Honey that it “depends whose working” was not an option. That was when someone finally stepped up and exhibited some human kindness. If I remembered her name I would use it but she was the supervisor that Friday evening and it just so happened that she was also the supervisor the next morning. And after listening patiently to my pathetic hard luck story, she told me that although the counter clerk had informed me correctly, that since I was travelling with my wife and I had the marriage license, she would make sure that I would be allowed to board and be permitted to plead my case for entry to the customs officials in the DR.
So home I drove with nothing more than “it depends whose working… but I know who that is.” to give my wife. The drive to the airport the next day was not the most pleasant ninety minutes of my life. Honey did not speak; she was dealing with her own situation. Would she get on the plane without me and go anyway or not?
We stood quietly in line at the airport and sure enough, at the ticket counter I was told the my ID was not sufficient and I could not board the flight. I had them call the supervisor and true to her word she had them issue me a boarding pass and allow me to board the plane. Honey gave me a frosty smile. I was half way there.
Upon arrival at any foreign country you must pick up your luggage before passing through customs. It was at this point I started to sweat; the fact that the airport security carried automatic weapons did nothing to ease my discomfort. I stood in line and prepared myself for the coming attempt to get into their country.
“Ola, tourist card and photo ID, por favor” I gave them my license and tourist visa.
“How long will you be staying?”
“Have a nice time.”
With that I was in the door!! There was no rubber glove treatment. I wasn’t thrown in a dark cell to await extradition. They were happy to see me. They actually wanted me to come visit their island. Who knew?!! My wife looked at me as we made our way to the shuttle bus.
“You’re so lucky. Do you know how pissed I would have been with you if I had done this alone?” I guess I knew what she had decided and the Dominicans weren’t the only ones that were glad I was there.
I have a passport now as stated before; I keep it in a safe place where it will never be misplaced…
My wife has it.