It’s fun to interview people, catch up on their lives and hear their stories. Last week, I was anxious to talk to John and Gwen Borgmann of Washington, meet their host daughter from Marbach, Germany, and learn about the Borgmann’s August trip to our sister city.

John and Gwen greeted me in their kitchen, and we exchanged pleasantries that ended up not being very pleasant. The conundrum began when I asked, “So how was your trip to Germany?”

Once they got to Marbach everything was great, the Borgmanns said, but the journey was stressful. Their Delta flight departed from St. Louis, with a layover in Atlanta; then on to Stuttgart, which is near Marbach.

At Lambert Field, John and Gwen found out they wouldn’t be going anywhere because their passports expired in two months. They learned the hard way that if you want to travel to a different country you have to renew your passport six months before expiration.

What a Pickle

Delta helped the Borgmanns rebook their flight to Germany and provided information about getting new passports in Atlanta. The Borgmanns booked a downtown hotel near the passport agency and by a CVS Pharmacy to get their passport photos retaken. Once they got to the agency, Gwen said the officials were efficient, speedily providing them with a passport and moving the flight they’d booked to Stuttgart forward one day.

As they told their story, my heart sank. My passport was at home with a January expiration date. That wouldn’t have been an issue, but we had tickets booked to Sicily, England and Scotland, departing in two weeks.

We’d been planning the trip with my British cousin and her husband for a year. They’d visited Sicily before and asked us to join them there and fly back to England together.

After I left the Borgmanns, I made a beeline for AAA, to get advice and have my passport photo taken, if needed. The staff confirmed what Gwen and John had said, so I made plans to go to Chicago, the closest passport agency location.

I made an online appointment for Sept. 1, the earliest I could get in, and Spark found a downtown hotel within walking distance of the office. We could have gotten a new passport using an expedited service, but I didn’t want to spend the fee or take a chance of it not getting here on time.

More Problems

I should have read the application before I left home on Friday, but I didn’t — if I had, I’d have realized I needed to print my completed application. The hotel in Chicago had an office center, but their printer didn’t speak the same lingo as my laptop.

We had no idea what to do. My passport appointment was at 8:30 the next morning, and it was pushing 6 p.m. Luckily, for us there was a FedEx office across the street.

Laptop in hand we hurried over and asked the clerk if she could help us. Talk about the kindness of strangers.

She printed out more than 12 pages and wouldn’t take a cent for her trouble. When I told her about our dilemma, and said I had no idea about the six-month requirement on passports, she said lots of people turned up at the office to get their forms printed, panic-stricken just like us.

I’d like to tell you I came home with passport in hand, but I didn’t. You see it was Labor Day weekend, and a lot of people were traveling, so I was told. Plus our trip was more than a week away and “we can mail your passport and get it there on time.”

Fingers crossed, is all I have to say — that and thank the Good Lord. If it hadn’t been for that interview I’d have been none the wiser, and Spark and I would have been grounded. This happenstance continues to boggle my mind.

It turns out our Chicago road trip wasn’t a total loss. We found a nice new hotel to book for our next trip to the Windy City. It’s the largest Residence Inn in the world. And you don’t need a passport to take a road trip to Chicago.