Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Person Of No Identity

A few weeks ago I lost my passport - just put it in the pocket of seat 12A on the midnight flight from Raleigh and forgot to retrieve it at the end of the flight. It hasn't resurfaced.

Then last week I fell asleep instantly on the flight from YYC to YVR, clutching my driver's licence in my hand. By the time I awoke it had fallen out of my hand; I didn't notice until I had driven out of the rental car facility that I didn't have it.

I went back into the airport and filled out a lost-and-found form. The agent was incredibly helpful, even noting on my profile that the office was to call me before shipping the licence back to Calgary (their standard operating procedure), as I had to catch a flight to YKA the very next morning. He also directed me to a supervisor's desk at the check-in counter where I was told to come back the next day to plead for an exception before my flight. A person needs two pieces of government-issued ID, one of which should have a picture on it, to get permission to board the plane without a passport or driver's licence. I had my Alberta Health card with me - no picture on that - and nothing else that would remotely qualify.

"Then you are a person of no identity," the agent said to me gently. "For our purposes you could be a terrorist, although a very sweet-looking terrorist ..."

In despair I went back to where my car was parked and also where my manager waited for me. My manager, who doesn't suffer fools gladly, took one look at my supremely foolish face and said, "It's okay - it'll all work out." She never once told me I was an idiot or should be more careful or aware of my situation, or gave me any of the lectures I was berating myself with. When I told her we would have to go early to the airport the following morning, she proposed leaving half an hour earlier even than had been suggested.

The next morning as I stood at the supervisor's desk for 45 minutes waiting for her manager to decide my fate, my manager also stood there, not far from me, quietly observing the entire airport check-in scene, smiling over at me encouragingly from time to time. The Air Canada manager herself called lost and found to see if the licence had been turned in; negative. But because I had filed a claim the day before she granted permission on my profile for the gate agent to board me for the flight to Kamloops. "You'll have to go through this again there for your return flight," she warned. "Good luck to you."

Then we discovered that our flight was delayed. We made our way to the departure gate and I called our client to advise that we would be late.

At 11:08 the preboarding call was made for the flight. And at 11:11 I got a call on my cell phone: "Ms Ironside? This is Air Canada baggage calling. We have found your driver's licence. We'll send it to the Calgary airport and you can pick it up from there."

"Don't do that!" I almost shrieked into my phone. I'm still in the Vancouver airport - my flight has been delayed."

"Where are you?" the man asked.

"Gate 35 in the domestic terminal," I told him. "I really need my licence to get back from Kamloops this evening." 

"Wow," he replied. "I'm in International. That's really far away. I'll really do my best to make it over."

"Please hurry!" I begged. They've started to board my flight ..." But he'd already hung up.

We updated the gate agent, who indeed had the instructions about letting me on the flight without ID. And then we waited, the last two to board the plane. Finally the agent said, "You're going to have to board; the plane's already late. I will do my paperwork, which will take a few more minutes, and if your licence arrives I'll bring it out to the plane for you."

And at that precise moment I saw an angel - not a feathery winged, statuesque majestic creature, but a fairly short, smiling man in an Air Canada baggage handler's uniform. "I've been waiting for you at the plane!" he exclaimed as he handed me my licence. It turned out he had figured that the fastest way from point A to point B was not through all the scores of corridors and hundreds of gates but straight across the tarmac. "Glad I could make it in time for you!" he beamed, brushing aside my thanks like it was just part of his routine.

On that short flight I was very conscious of two overwhelming certainties. The first one was that if my plane hadn't been late I wouldn't have received my driver's licence until I was back in Calgary - the flight delay, for which there was no reason given, had been providential.

The second certainty had bigger ramifications for a person who often feels invisible to a certain extent. The words You. Are. A. Person. Of. No. Identity. had run laps around my brain that previous afternoon and evening and had continued into my sleepless night.

In the morning as I had been preparing for the day, no closer to a solution and not confident that I would even be able to board the plane, I finally turned the whole predicament over to God. And immediately this is what He impressed upon my exhausted mind and anxious heart: "Remember the prophet Isaiah's words? I have engraved you upon the palms of my hand. You are not a person with no identity. I know you, with or without your driver's licence or your passport. Your ID might fall out of your hands, but you'll never fall out of Mine because, Karyn Christeen Ironside, not merely your name but your very self is permanently embedded on these hands that are also going to carry you through this situation."

At the precise mystical moment of 11:11 - a time significant to some of us in our family - I heard the words "Ms Ironside ..."

My earthly identity had been reestablished. And my eternal identity had been reconfirmed.

As I walked down the aisle to my seat, I heard the door of the plane being locked securely behind me.


  1. This is yet another amazing story of God working a miracle:). So thankful they found it and got it to you in time.

  2. a great reminder that no matter how things seems to be... everything is as it is meant to be ... and everything will always be all right ... in perfect time!


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