Hang On Banditos—Your Drug Mule's On Her Way
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Today, I have another vacation tale to tell. Ding. Dong.

And this one's a doozy. A really, super colossal doozy. 

After we wined and dined our way across Napa, we made our way to San Francisco.

Because I love San Francisco and all the splendor that is that remarkable, diverse place. 

We stayed in that City By The Bay for two lovely days and nights and on the third day, we grabbed a taxi and headed to the airport on a blue-skyed, fogless day. 

We were off to Mexico, the land of banditos and diarrhea. 

And yes, I'd managed to find a little bravery thanks to all of you beautiful peeps and your words of reassurance. I was no longer out of my mind with worry over being kidnapped and forced into a life of drug muling, but the thought still lingered, whispering, in the back of my brain,"Don't listen to those folks. They probably haven't seen 'Traffic.' It could very well happen."

But I was trying my best to ignore that pesky whisper. 

We got to the airport in plenty of time and made our way to check-in. 

Now, let me stop the story right here to tell you one thing:

My Hubby and I are seasoned travelers. We have wound our way up and down the highways and byways of this country and trekked across the globe to other lands and so we know things. And we are savvy. 

We're the people you want to be behind in the security line. We'll have our shoes whipped off, our laptops out of our briefcases, our belts and coats off our bodies before we even get to the plastic bins. And besides, it's always a good laugh for the person behind me. 

I get pulled out of line. Every. Single. Time. 

On my way to Chicago, they put me into the cattle pen and I was all, "Here we go!  Let's do this! Bring on the naked body scan." And as the security dude led me into the game show booth and started giving me instructions, I was like, "Trust me. I know what to do. Wave my hands in the air like I don't care. Which I don't, because you guys have seen me naked more than my gynecologist." 

Then I asked him if I could take pictures of myself getting my naked scan. And he was all, "NO."

Those National Security people have the worst sense of humor.

I really must look like one bad ass threat. It's gotta be my triceps. I've been working on them, you know. 

Anyway, at the San Francisco airport, they had these check-yourself-in kiosks, so we were all over that. Because, of course, we are savvy. And we pressed all the buttons correctly and then the screen said, "Swipe your passport."

And we swiped our passports. Savvily. 

And the screen then said, "Please see ticketing agent."

And we thought, "Okay! We're checked in. Now we'll just give the lady our luggage and we'll be all set for parasitic intestinal infections."

In the meantime, my sister who was traveling to Mexico with us was at another kiosk checking herself in. 

I said to my Hubby, "I sure hope my sister doesn't run into any trouble since she's flying one way down to Mexico and then flying another airline home to Chicago because you know her and that constant cloud of bad luck that follows her around."

And we shook our heads for my poor sister and then proceeded smugly to the attendant to finish our check-in. 

We gave her bright and sunny greetings and handed her our itinerary and our passports and we were just  chatting away when the ticketing agent said, "Uh-oh."

Now . . .  

Uh-oh is one of those phrases you never want to hear coming out of the mouths of certain people. 

You really don't want to hear Uh-oh from your hairdresser, a nurse drawing your blood, an air traffic controller, the scientist in charge of watching the sky for monster asteroids, your gynecologist, the bunjee jumping ride operator, the dude in charge of the President's red phone, a prison guard, your bikini waxer, the weatherman, a lifeguard or a nuclear power plant employee, just to name a few.   

And you certainly don't want to hear it from the ticketing agent checking you in for your fun-filled, possible-abduction vacation. 

We looked quizzically at her, like whatever in the hell could possibly be an Uh-oh for two such savvy travelers as ourselves. 

And that's when she said, "Your passports have expired."

Internet, Meet Mr. And Mrs. Moron of 2010. 

Our passports had expired the month before. 

Neither of us had even noticed. 

Because really, what's in a date?

And as we stood there, letting the news sink in that the Mexican kidnappers would be without one less potential drug mule, my sister ventured over and said, "You guys ready to go?"

She said later, she couldn't believe how calmly the words came out of my mouth when I said, "We're not going."

And she was all, "Come on! You're NOT going to get kidnapped. If we hurry we'll have time to pick up a Cinnabon."

And I guess it was the second calm, "We're not going." along with "because we are the dumbest kinds of asses known to man and we hadn't noticed until we were about to set foot out of our country into a land of lawlessness and forced cocaine condom smuggling that our passports had expired."

And my sister said, "But I'm checked in! My luggage is on its way to MEXICO!"

And my Hubby said, "Go ahead and go. We'll catch up when we get all of this straightened out."

And my sister said, "There is no way I am going to MEXICO without you guys!"

In hindsight, that was probably a very good call. 

Because this? Is not even my best vacation tale, not by a long shot. Stick around and you'll really hear the goods in the next few posts. 

So, the ticketing agent who was an ANGEL sent some big burly guys down to retrieve my sister's luggage and then she had to type up a two page explanation on why my sister checked in for her one- way ticket to Mexico, but never got on the plane, even though her luggage almost made the flight. She said my sister's situation had red flags written all over it and if she didn't document every single detail, chances are the next time my sister traveled on a plane, alarms would most likely go off and icky words like, body cavity search, might come into play. 

And knowing my sister's incredibly bad luck, a body cavity search is just a matter of time. 

I'm pretty sure the check-in agent started her two-page missive with, "This woman is traveling with idiots."

In the meantime, our Angel of Check-In had given my Hubby the phone number to the passport agency and informed us with a little bit of luck, we could square everything away and fly out the following day. 

My Hubby who was freaking out like, a lot, profusely apologized to the both of us. 

And I was all, "Dude, you know I have eyes, too. I could have checked the dates on the passports."

And even though we are dumbasses, we are dumbasses who quickly rebound. 

Within a few minutes, we had an appointment at the passport agency for 11:00 and we'd purchased new plane tickets for the next day.

The diarrhea would have to wait. 

We hopped in a cab and as we sped across town to the Federal building, my hubby was on the phone looking for places near the Feds that snapped passport photos. I was on my phone calling our hotel and booking us in for another night. My sister was sitting there, probably thinking, "Why did I agree to go on vacation with Dumb and Dumber?"

We got dropped off in front of the passport agency with a half hour to spare. We sent my sister back to the hotel and then we walked down the block to take our photos and print our travel documents, since proof of travel in the next 24 hours was required to get an instant passport. 
We made it through the metal detectors at 10:59. And I have to say, for a government run business, they were exceptionally efficient. 

Our only snafus were our fault. 

We sat down in the waiting room and immediately pulled out our phones to check emails and messages, as is our technological habit. Within seconds, a policeman was upon us, asking us very politely to put away our phones since phones are considered a security risk in federal buildings. How sad. 

Without our phones, we were kind of lost and so we just sat there watching, of all things, Jerry Springer, on the mounted wall TV. My Hubby pulled a bag of peanut M&M's out of his briefcase and since we hadn't eaten yet, we gleefully starting chowing down on the candy treats. 

Within seconds, the polite policeman was back, telling us very sweetly that perhaps we hadn't noticed the signs that were every two feet, the huge black-lettered signs prohibiting food and drink. 

We are such losers. 

Within the hour, we had filled out all the necessary paperwork. We'd been stamped and processed by the very nice passport lady. And we'd also discovered that, courtesy of Jerry Springer's complimentary DNA test, Rufus was, indeed, not only Jenna Lee's brother-in-law, but the real father of Jenna Lee's baby, Starlene. 

We didn't stay for the chair smashing, slug fest. 

We were instructed to come back between 3:00 and 3:30 to pick up our new passports. We were warned that the agency closed promptly at 4:00. No exceptions. Even for dumbasses. 

On the way out, we waved to the nice policeman and I yelled, "Bye! The troublemakers are leaving."

He smiled at us. I think he liked us, trouble and all. 

We congratulated ourselves on coming back strong. Here we were, stranded for a day, but stranded in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We taxied back to the hotel, dropped off our paperwork, grabbed my sister and left the hotel to enjoy the beautiful day, making sweetness from the sour beginnings of our day. 

We ambled back to the passport agency at 3:15 and were kind of shocked at how many other dumbasses were in the city. The line wound all the way around the building. And as we went to take our place in line, the police officer at the front of the line, yelled, "Don't bother getting in line unless you have your ticket voucher."

I looked expectantly at my Hubby who patted his pockets and then stared at me in horror and said, "I forgot the ticket voucher back at the hotel, the hotel on the other side of town!"

Yes, we are the Two Stooges. 

I immediately sent my Hubby over to the policeman to see if that ticket voucher thing was a hard and fast rule while I scurried to get a place in line. 

My sister, I'm pretty sure, wanted to kill herself. 

Thankfully, the policeman told my Hubby, "We make allowances for dumbasses" or something to that effect.

And within 15 efficient minutes we had our brand spankin' new passports and we were ready for the kidnapping to begin. 

Oh and one more thing. 

We went out that night to celebrate our new passports. 

Our first stop was the historic Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel right across the street from our place. 

Sadly, there is a great big chance, The Tonga will be torn down next year because of renovations the Fairmont is planning. There's an uproar in the San Francisco community over the possible loss of this landmark. 

And so we paid, most likely, our last visit to this hallowed place and acted like Romans or Tongoans and had frothy tropical drinks.

We followed that with dinner in North Beach, one of my favorite parts of San Francisco. It's just a couple of blocks full of incredible Italian foods. We ate at our favorite Italian place and enjoyed a well deserved bottle of wine . . . or two. 

After dinner, full of delicious Mediterranean delights and some hearty Ripasso wine, we hailed a taxi. 

A young Russian man picked us up and, let me tell you, this dude must have been a stunt car driver in his mother country because he was great at speeding and dodging and veering through the congested streets of San Francisco and he was REALLY great at hitting the steep hills at maximum speed and catching air. 

And because we'd enjoyed some fine wine and because, oftentimes we are 12-year-old boys, we were yelling things like,  "YEAH!!!" and "GO FOR IT, DUDE!"

And the Russian smiled and said, "You like? Okay, I give you more."

And more he did. We were reenacting The Fast & The Furious with our own Vin Diesel at the wheel. 

Now, let me stop for a moment to tell you, our hotel had a very tight front entrance. 

That little strip of brick is it. California street, with some of the steepest hills in the city, runs right in front of this entrance. 

It's got enough room for a few taxis to carefully ease up to the doorman to drop off their passengers. 

As we came careening up the big hills to our hotel with our Russian stunt car driver, my Hubby said, "Let's see what you got, man."

And Vin Diesel flew into the entrance and slammed on the brakes, creating a magnificent screech and an even cooler skid with the back end of the taxi fishtailing out, all dramatical and Vin Dieselesque. 

It was perfect in its insanity. 

As we opened the doors, hotel guests, bellmen and doormen alike all burst into applause. 

Of course, I had to commemorate the moment. 

And here's where I remind you about something. 

Remember, when I told you, for some mysterious reason, men like to pull me into their laps? 

Remember when I said in the course of two days, I got pulled into three random men's laps?

There was Rick from Frank's Family, one of my favorite vineyards.

Then our new friend Frank, which honestly, I would have expected no less from Ladies Man, Frank. 

This is not a picture of me in Frank's lap, but trust me when I say he's a lap guy. 

And then, there was:


Yes. I am sitting on my Russian stunt car taxi driver's lap. We were just standing there next to his taxi when he sat down and in typical Vin Diesel fashion, pulled me down into his lap. 

I'm telling you. It's an unfathomable mystery. Every man thinks I'm fair lap game. 

If I only I could find Bono. *Sigh*

Just so you know, these are not my legs. My legs are albino toothpicks. And also for the record, my head is not a crescent. 

This is Bono's wife's body, with my face attached because my friend Mary loves me enough to make these pictures for me.

Stay tuned for more insanity. I won't let you down. 

One more little note: When I was writing my query, I had a tough time of things. It's difficult to stand back and look at your work and define it in a few short sentences. I struggled mightily with it and then, out of the blue, a hand reached out to me. A.B. Keuser took a look at my query and tweaked it and molded it and said, "What do you think of this?" And it was just perfect, utterly perfect. 

She has a real knack for the query process. Not only did she help me immensely, she is quite sought after at Query Tracker, a site where, among other things, writers can post queries for peer critiques. 

As most of you know, A.B. Keuser is now my invaluable critique partner. She is also a writing machine and Queen of Queries. And for all of you lucky writers out there, A.B. will be hosting query critiques on her blog every Friday. She will take your query and with her fierce skills, she will help you mold it into perfection, the type of query that will send agents racing to the phone to say, "I want this!"

I know, right? How lucky are you? So, if you've got a query, head on over to A.B.'s site. She's posting the details this Friday. 

Today's Definite Download: I was going to say Vampire Weekend's, "Taxi Cab", but to be honest, I don't really like that song. I like Vampire Weekend. I just don't like this song. And right underneath this song on my playlist was Van Halen which led me to Sammy Hagar's, "I Can't Drive 55" which is MUCH more like it. 

For my Russian Vin Diesel.

Go on and write me up for 125
Post my face, wanted dead or alive
Take my license, all that jive
I can't drive--55
Ohhhh, yeahhhhh!


Dawn in D.C. said...

I definately want to go on vacation with you next time!

My snafus are never as exciting as yours.

Lora said...

oh my gosh! i'm pretty sure if i traveled with you, things would explode in the universe. which might be all sorts of awesome...

Anita @ GoingALittleCoastal said...

I would have been a panicky mess if I heard uh oh! You handled it all so calmly. Shocking really. How did you stay so calm? Traveling with you sounds like a blast. Especially the taxi ride. Look at the smile on that guys face.

Bossy Betty said...

Don't toy with our fragile emotions after a post like that and say you are going to be back soon. We need you now. Can't that novel just revise itself?

I am coming with you next time you travel. I don't care where you go. It just looks like so much fun/danger!

Lisa said...

When my children were in 2nd and 4th grade, we decided they were old enough to take to Europe. We had waited, because we wanted to be sure they could handle all the walking, etc. We decided to take them to London first. I took care of all the details - hotel reservations, tickets to see Les Mis, passports for the kids. A week before we were supposed to leave, I asked my hubby to get OUR passports out of the safe deposit at the bank. His was there. Mine wasn't. I panicked. I looked everywhere. I ripped the house apart. It was just gone.

Thank heavens for TraVisa - a passport and visa expediting service. I scrambled to get all of my information together, with a letter of explanation as to why I wasn't turning in my old passport (this was after 9/11 and they were really looking for stuff like that!!), FedExed the stuff to them and they walked it through and then FedExed my passport back to me. It arrived the day before we were supposed to leave.

Believe me, I understand about being a dumbass.

Great story!!

One Photo said...

I think your next novel should be about your own adventures and misadventures - thank you for making me laugh this morning reading this, hilarious!

Alexandra said...

Came to tell you that I loved your post at Gigi's Thanksgiving Table. Especially the WalMart shopping cart warden.

Now leaving to say I can't believe you pulled it together.

twelvedaysold said...

I want to get pulled into men's laps! However my husband whould probably try to punch them in the face to defend my honor or something, so maybe it's for the best that you get pulled into other men's laps instead. It just looks so glamorous.

Noelle said...

I have no doubt that you charm yourself right into their laps.

Unknown said...

That was a fun post! You make everything hilarious! Love the photo with the cab driver! lol

Noelle said...

PS. I just read your piano tuner story on chicken's blog. HOW do you find these people?????

TesoriTrovati said...

I just adore you, Miss Joann! It is only when I find your delight in my reader that I truly realize that humor has been missing from my life. Go on and tap away at your novel. 'Cause you know that I will be first in line for a SIGNED copy. None of this Amazon drivel for me!
I was in San Fran for the first and only time in Sept 2008 to celebrate my 40th birthday. I didn't see anything as wonderful (or comically seedy) as what you describe. I must have had the wrong travel brochure. We did have a (I think Russian!) cabby who looked JUST LIKE Bobby DeNiro! We ate at a splendid little restaurant hanging off a cliff into the sea. Best sunset ever.

Thanks for sharing the story!
Now...get back to work!
Enjoy the day!

JoAnna said...

First, I don't know how you are so lucky that you got someone at the airport who was both civil and helpful. Especially since you had dumbass written all over you.

Second, I am again stumped as to how you actually got new passports so quickly and efficiently. It must be the no food/drink/phone policy in CA. Maybe they can make that required everywhere.

Third, I can't wait for the next installment!!

Unknown said...

Way to rebound - you should be so proud of yourself!

I used to travel on business and I got a little cocky. I was finally packing for my 2 week trip to four different countries in Asia an hour before I was supposed to leave. And I realized I couldn't find my passport anywhere! I had to cancel about 48 business meetings and reschedule the trip. The passport ended up being in the company shared laptop (yes, I'm dating myself - we didn't each have our own in that era).

So I hear ya!

Diane LeBleu said...

Wow - I didn't realize you could get an expedited passport! You can't do that for a drivers license. Reading your story, I though you were SOL. And I loved seeing the Tonga room - memories of Microserfs and overpriced, overwatered drinks. Great fun. Glad it all worked out!

W.C.Camp said...

Wow a passport that fast is truly amazing. Whose lap did you sit in to get that deal. Our agents here could never keep a sched like that! The Russian seemed nice and great for a story but I hope he and any random pedestrians that happen by while he is 'jumping humps' will survive the inevitable impact! Great post! W.C.C.

Kimberly said...

There must have been some serious drinkage going on after going through all of that. Its a crazy tale but you make it sound hilarious! I'm sure you'll be laughing about it someday...

PS. Bono? HAWT. Love him.

Liz said...

It is a worthwhile investment to figure out this lap obsession you've got going for you! There must be something about you that you just don't see!

I hope you have a great Turkey Day, Joann! And I'm decided that I'd love to go out with you, though never travel with you. Just saying. :)

The Furry Godmother said...

I love the way the camera slurred y'all in the bar. Heee.

randine said...

Seriously? Starlene?
Only on Jerry Springer.
And I know that my own name is Randine and I have little right to make fun of a name that rhymes with my own, but still. It smacks of trailer park.

I love your vacation stories, which says a lot because usually I hate vacation stories.

And lastly- you look so cute in all your pictures.

Meg at the Members Lounge said...

Are you sure you aren't Lucy Ricardo reincarnated? You are hilarious!

Cheeseboy said...

Let me get this straight - they wouldn't let you take a picture of them taking a naked picture of you? That sound just a little bit like a double standard to me.

And I don't know, you do have kinda a dark, Russian spy look about you.

jayayceeblog said...

You kind of go on vacation without even going on vacation ... amazing! Those blue frothy drinks look fabulous dahlink and dontcha jist lurve the name Starlene??? Thanks, as usual, for the entertainment!

Judie said...

Hmmmm--this all sounds vaguely familiar. Was I traveling with you?

Rebecca Grace said...

This just goes to show that spirited, fun-loving people make their own adventures, while whiney, boring people sit around complaining that nothing interesting ever happens to them. It would be a blast if you organized some kind of tour group; I'd definitely sign up for that.

Anonymous said...

You guys need a Reality Show! You are so funny!

I would have eaten the M&M's too because are M&Ms really food? It is debateable.

I remember driving around in taxis in France - what a nightmare!!! They are crazy people over there!

Hope the writing is going well.

Pamela said...

Wow. That was quite a vacation story! I was initially intrigued by the photo of Benicio Del Toro in Traffic, but was quickly drawn in by your crazy adventure!! Glad it all worked out in the end:)

Ruth Cox aka abitosunshine said...

I have a feeling that a week with you would give one a lifetime of memories--and chuckles! Love your posts!

Sandra said...

You may be the two stuges, but you got your passports, you did go to Mexico, you didn't end up getting abducted and sold on the black market, AND you can cut your head and put it into a pic next to Bono. You're a freaking genius!

chickensconsigliere said...

I could listen to your stories all day. This was a great one. I can't wait to hear the rest of the Mexico adventure.

Ca88andra said...

I laughed so much I nearly cried and my youngest son thought something awful had happened to me! Your story was made doubly funny cos I just got my new passport after frantically checking expiry dates.

MrsBlogAlot said...

You really know how to make a person smile you know that?

I've missed you Joann! You are destined for huge success. That novel... anything you touch really will be golden!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!! xoxoxo!

Baby Sister said...

Haha. Thanks for this. :) It made me laugh at all the right times.

(don't ask what that means, I don't know...I'm too tired to really pay attention to what I'm saying...)

Ashleigh Burroughs said...

You may be dumbasses but you admit you're dumbasses and don't make the employees feel that they are responsible because you screwed up. I've found that as long as I'm smiling, a competent employee will be willing to help me.

Of course, the likelihood of my running into as many competent employees as you seem to have done is somewhere between zero and none....

Lula Lola said...

You are a good time Miss Lap Girl! I can't wait to hear about your trip!

Anonymous said...

I usually don’t post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful …

Anonymous said...

thanks amigo! great post!

Anonymous said...

Just want to say what a great blog you got here!I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work! Thumbs up, and keep it going!

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