We missed our Friday morning flight from Paris but managed to get seats on a flight a few hours later. Then we were bumped from our standby connection in Newark…meaning that’s where we spent Friday night. Travel worn and weary, we arrived back in Panama late Saturday after nearly 48 hours on the road…
Only to turn around and head back to Tocumen International airport this morning, this time to put 10-year-old Jackson on a flight bound for Baltimore. Young Jack is going to spend two weeks with his grandmother. But they nearly didn’t let him on the plane.
Jack is traveling as an Unaccompanied Minor. Lief and I didn’t realize that parents in Panama, both citizens and residents (like us), who wish to send a child on an international flight without a chaperone are required to produce a letter, duly stamped and notarized, stating that intent for immigration.
“Where’s your letter?” asked the lady behind the Continental check-in counter this morning.
“Letter?” we replied weakly, still dopey from the jet lag.
“You need a stamped, notarized letter giving your permission for your son to travel outside Panama without you.”
“Oh. We didn’t realize that…”
“Well, let me see what we can work out,” the lady from Continental offered as she disappeared into the back office
“Here’s what I suggest,” she began when she returned 10 minutes later. “We’ll take your son through immigration and security and on to the gate…and we’ll see what happens. If someone asks for the travel letter, you’ll have to go away and organize one. In that event, we’ll rebook him for tomorrow’s flight.
“But maybe it will be ok, and he’ll get through. You know, it’s hard to say about these kinds of things…”
We followed Jack and his Continental “nanny” over to immigration, where he was waved through. Then security. Again, no problem. Jack put his backpack through the scanner, his nanny presented his passport and boarding pass, and the pair was waved on.
From there, Jack and his nanny proceeded to the gate out of our sight. Lief and I sat down in the lounge to wait. We weren’t sure what for. How would they find us if Jack were turned away at the plane? How long should we wait before leaving the airport?
“Is your cell phone turned on?” I finally thought to ask Lief. “That’s the only way anyone would know to contact us,” I said.
The cell phone was turned on. We had no missed calls. We waited 10 more minutes and then looked at each other.
“Do you want to go?” I asked.
“Well, yes, I guess so,” Lief offered reluctantly.
We made our way slowly through the terminal and out to the airport parking lot. We checked the cell phone one more time. Still no missed calls.
We presume, therefore, that Jackson is at 30,000 feet right now, on his way to Baltimore. His grandmother promises to call the minute she and Jack are united in the arrivals hall at BWI…