Travelling Can Be A Terror-ble Experience

, , , , , | Friendly | September 3, 2018

(One of my best friends growing up had never been on a plane or been out of the country. He grew up on a large Midwestern farm, and was always too busy helping his family to travel more than a few hours away. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but I knew he wished he could visit new places one day. After college I moved away to another state, but we still talked often on the phone and online. He called earlier this year to tell me he was going out of the country for the first time; his family had been invited to a destination wedding in the Caribbean. He was really excited, and had already submitted his application for his first ever passport. I told him to have fun and take plenty of pictures. The date of the wedding comes and goes, and about a week later I get another call.)

Friend: “Hey, [My Name]. It’s [Friend].”

Me: “Hey! How was the wedding? Did you have a great time?”

Friend: “Yeah, well, the wedding was fun, and it was cool seeing the beaches. But you won’t believe what happened on the way back.”

Me: “Oh, no… Did something happen with your flight?”

Friend: “Not exactly. I found out when we were trying to reenter the US that my brand-new passport number is exactly one digit different from the passport of a guy who is wanted in more than one country.”

Me: “What?!”

Friend: “Yeah. I got to spend six hours in TSA holding while they figured out if I was this guy or not.”

Me: “Did you kind of look like this guy, too, or something? Is that why it took so long?”

Friend: “Not even a little.”

(For some additional perspective, my friend is a 25-year-old, blond-haired, blue-eyed farmer, and he was eventually told that the wanted man with the similar passport number was in his 40s, with dark hair and brown eyes, and was wanted in some kind of “white collar” criminal case.)

Me: “I’m so sorry that happened! Can you get a new passport number?”

Friend: “I haven’t checked yet, but I don’t think I’m going to be going anywhere else for a while.”

(I thought about it later. What are the odds that this could happen to someone on their first trip to another country, with a brand new passport? I don’t know yet if he’s allowed to apply for a new passport number, but I would think this would be a case where the Department of State could make an exception.)

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