On our last full day in Madrid, my husband and I spent the entire day at the Prado Museum, finally making our way back to pick up our bags at our accommodations late in the afternoon. We were exhausted and the metro cars were jam-packed,
but we looked forward to collecting our belongings, catching an Uber to our airport-area hotel and getting a good night’s sleep before our early morning flight home. It wasn’t until we had retrieved our luggage and were stepping outside to flag down our car that my husband realized his wallet was missing.
There were a few moments of stunned incomprehension: “Did you put it down on a table in the lobby, in a different pocket, in your suitcase?” before the realization that Harry had been pickpocketed sunk in. He had (foolishly, he now berated himself) had it in a double-buttoned pocket of cargo shorts which, he realized, was now unbuttoned. Worse yet, his passport had been tucked into the wallet as well. Through the shock and panic of all that fact wrought, I decided that the best thing for us to do was to take the Uber to our hotel and use it as our base for working out our next steps.
Counterbalancing the things we shouldn’t have done (taken the passport with us instead of leaving it locked up with the apartment manager and having the wallet in a vulnerable position) were, thankfully, several things we’d done right. Before we left home, we photocopied our passports’ main pages and the fronts and backs of each of the credit cards we carried and left them with our daughter. We each carried different credit cards from the other, so that we could freeze the stolen cards’ accounts and still have my cards to use. We also had purchased travel insurance — good, comprehensive insurance that provided 24-hour assistance for situations just such as ours.
In the 30-minute car ride out to our hotel, we contacted our daughter, who immediately called the credit card companies, reported the theft and had the cards frozen. She gave us Harry’s passport number and its issue and expiration dates. She went online to get information about the U.S. Embassy in Madrid and spoke directly with a State Department representative about what would be required to get a replacement passport. All that within about 90 minutes from when the theft had occurred.
Once at the NH Barajas Airport Hotel, we got more assistance and advice from the front desk staff. My passport and credit card secured our room, and they were willing to accept the one piece of ID Harry had — an international driving permit from AAA, which had a passport-like photo of him — for him. They were very sympathetic when they learned of our plight, and the manager said we should file a police report, as that would help in both replacing the passport and filing insurance claims. They confirmed the time the embassy would open in the morning and its location, assuring us it would be only a 20-minute-or-so ride from the hotel. After we got our bags to our room, they told us how to find the police station at the airport and sent us off on the hotel’s shuttle to file our claim.
We found it shockingly easy to talk our way through security at the airport to get to the police station — easier, certainly, than getting someone there to fill out the report (they first put us on a phone line that never connected). Once that was done and with copy in hand, we grabbed some dinner there before taking the shuttle back to the hotel to start dealing with the next stage of our ordeal: cancelling our flights for the next day (because no passport, no flying). We quickly learned that the AAA coverage we had would be of absolutely no help at all, but we had purchased a comprehensive plan through AIG Travel Guard whose agents were soothing, thorough and endlessly patient. Harry spent literally hours working with them as they contacted airlines and worked to waive cancellation fees and guide him through the process.
Meanwhile, I waded through the State Department website, reading up on requirements for replacing stolen passports and trying to fill out forms in advance on line. That proved time-consuming and ultimately fruitless (and, as it turned out, unnecessary), so I gave up sometime after midnight. We finally fell into bed (if not asleep!), feeling as though we had made progress and ready as we could be to visit the embassy in the morning and then book flights home.
To be continued . . .
— Patty Vanikiotis, associate editor/copy editor
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