My worst air travel was in December, 1990. My wife and I were to vacation on privately owned Mosquito Island in the British Virgin Islands. The identification requirements were clearly stated – original birth certificate or passport. I had my original birth certificate with my baby footprint and shiny gold seal. Eastern Airline employees repeatedly verified that my “original” birth certificate was acceptable for travel to the British Virgin Islands and “or” meant “or.”
When we arrived at Eastern Airlines, the ticketing agent said my original birth certificate was unacceptable. We discussed my half dozen conversations with other Airline employees who said it was acceptable, but he said he would not accept it.
He suggested that my wife go. I could stay, get an official birth certificate and rebook my trip. We mentioned that it was Saturday, I could not get an official birth certificate until at least Monday, and our vacation would be half over. He smiled knowingly.
We decided to fly to Puerto Rico and sort things out there. Thwarted, he prepared our tickets to Puerto Rico AND Virgin Gorda. My wife and I looked at each other. He appeared to be reversing himself. Our momentary optimism was soon quashed. He scrawled, in half inch high, felt tip, block letters: “PASSENGER DOES NOT HAVE PROPER IDENTIFICATION.”
Hopes dashed, we flew to Puerto Rico, a most unpleasant flight, filled with anxieties about what would happen when I was refused boarding to Virgin Gorda. Nobody could miss those bold block letters. After hours of interminable and unbearable anxiety, we got to the ticket counter of the small airline to Virgin Gorda. The clerk took our tickets, peering past the big bold letters that screamed out “PASSENGER DOES NOT HAVE PROPER IDENTIFICATION” just to read the ticket information.
The agent shook her head knowingly. Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant comes to mind. Despite the Eastern agent’s best efforts, she gave us our boarding passes for Virgin Gorda. A typical case of blind justice. The Eastern agent’s bold letters meant nothing. She had seen it before and didn’t care.
We got to paradise, enjoyed vacation, and nobody questioned my original birth certificate. A few weeks later, January 19, 1991, Eastern Airlines shut down, thousands of Eastern Airlines employees lost their jobs, and an icon of modern aviation disappeared from the skies.
My wife and I laughed ourselves silly.