It had been almost two hours and we hadn’t even made it 10 miles. With the 405 and the back streets jammed, and the residential streets filled with minivans and school buses, I hung my head. My appointment time had long since come and gone and my flight was scheduled to leave in 14 hours. This delicately-timed and expensive plan was falling apart. What was I doing in Los Angeles in the first place?
While preparing to leave Mexico it came to my attention the my passport would only be valid for another 5 months. Most coutries require a passport to be valid for at least 6 months or they will deny you entry. To complicate matters and compound my problems we were about to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec- an area that if not timed correctly can push you 200 miles out to sea with winds that can reach hurricane force. These winds can heave up massive seas over 30ft tall and are real boat breakers. If you miss your weather window it can be a week or more till the next. We had 3-4 days before the winds would allow us to pass. To get a new passport in Mexico I would have to go to Mexico City and it would take at least 3 weeks as all passports must be printed in the US. So it seemed to me that the best option would be to fly to the states, get a passport the same day and then fly back that night.
I went ahead and booked my tickets, said goodbye to my wife and headed to the airport. Getting to Los Angeles was simple, I carried nothing more than a backpack and everything went smoothly. I landed about midnight and my mother was just pulling up as I cleared customs. She had brought along our German shepherd,Daisy, who we had to leave behind. It was wonderful to see them as I missed them both terribly.
I was fast asleep shortly after we got to the hotel and the morning came quickly. My appointment was at 8 o’clock in the morning and the website stated clearly (twice) that you can not be more than 15 min early or 15 min late or you will not be let into the building. The Federal building was only 10 miles away from our hotel and when we left we had the better part of an hour to get there.
Things were looking alright till we entered the freeway; there were far more miles of cars than there were miles of road. We spent the next 20min just getting back off the free way to see if the surface streets were any better. Ah, what luck! We began making up time, that is for the first mile or so before we were back into gridlock, this time with the addition of traffic lights. It was nearly 8 o’clock and we still had only gone about 3 miles. We still had 7 to go and it was clear that I was not going to make it by 8, 8:15 or maybe even 9 if this kept up.
I directed my mom to head down some residential streets and even with school traffic and stop signs every block we were actually moving. It was a huge improvement, but I had already missed my appointment and wouldn’t be able to get another one till the next day. Worse yet my flight was leaving that night and outside the time allotted for changing my ticket. Nothing to do but just show up, fudge the clock on my phone and play dumb.
When we finally did arrive at the federal building it was quarter to nine. I ran to the entrance where I waited in line to pass through security. By the time I got to the passport agency door where the guard checked my reservation it was well past nine. He asked for my reservation number, I gave it to him. He then asked when my appointment was and I told him fully expecting rejection and immediate expulsion from the building. To my surprise he just told me to go to the first window without a word about my excessive tardiness.
If there is one moral to this part of the story it is always to show up late. What I mean by that is once inside I was bumped immediately to the front of the line, bypassing those who not only came before but also on time. All said I couldn’t have been in there for more than 10 min before all my paperwork was processed and I was given a time later that afternoon for the will call window.
With half the day to burn my mom and I set out to find a few items that I wanted to bring back with me. After hitting the asian market, Bed Bath and Beyond and a few other stores we headed back to the federal building to pick up my passport. It was ready right 52 glorious pages of international travel. It was now only 3 and my flight wasn’t until midnight so we took Daisy for a walk and just hung out near the Passport Agency because they have free parking. With the moon high in the starless Los Angeles sky we were getting hungry and decided to find a restaurant near the airport. Click click click. Dead battery, something was left on or open this whole time. No problem my mom has AAA, a short phone call later someone is on their way. An hour goes by with no sign of anyone. We call back, “Oh, 11000 Wilshire not 1100, we’re not coming”.
The parking lot nearly abandoned I dig through the back of my mom’s car and find some jumper cables, I head over to the only car in the lot that has someone in it to see if we can get a jump and she happily agrees. A few minutes later we are back on the road but it is now getting late and our dinner options are Denny’s and Taco Bell. After a quick dinner we head to the airport and say goodbye to my mom.
Check-in and security were as good as I have ever had it at LAX. I had plenty of time at the gate but as our departure time came and went (yet the board still said on time) I knew something was up. After a short time there was an announcement that our flight had been canceled “due to technical difficulties caused by customs and immigration”. This news was both disheartening and slightly amusing. Later I would come to find that what had happened was the flight had been delayed and by the time it had landed all customs and immigration officials had gone home so the plane was sent back to Mexico City.
After waiting four hours in a mob I found that there is only one flight to Huatulco per day through Mexicana and I could either wait 3 more hours and leave at 7am so I could wait in Mexico City for 20hrs or they would put me up in a hotel, furnish meals and I could take the flight the following midnight. I chose the latter because there was no way I would be able to make it back to the Marina, take care of all the official paperwork, clear out and make our weather window.
I spent the next day resting and hanging out with a couple of surfers from England I had met who were headed to Puerto Escondido and since I no longer had any “need” to get back by any specific time everything from there on went smoothly. We ended up leaving about a week later than planned because of this one day delay.
Sitting here now on this boat seeing a thousand beautiful things a day and meeting incredible people wherever I stop it is obvious that I could never go back to a life without a sky full of stars or where I can not see where the sea meets the sky. This world is vast and holds treasures that you could never imagine and not a single one can be bought or sold. This is a hard concept for a city dweller to understand because they live in a world of concrete and steel; even the natural is artificial, landscaped and planned. Every square inch is money. This is why I can never go back.