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William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

There are a thousand nagging anxieties associated with travel, and experience is no balm . I don't usually use the check-in kiosk when I fly JetBlue, but the counter was empty when I got to the airport this morning for the red-eye, so I slid my card into the slot. The screen returned an error message, so I got on line, my stomach fluttering, mentally rehearsing what my approach should be. Had I booked the flight for the wrong day? Was I on some sort of new, bad list? As I stressed, a call went over the PA asking if there was a Notary in the house. The folks behind the counter at the next airline over were looking for someone to execute a document. "I'm a Notary," I said, stepping forward, feeling as though that ought to be a line from an "Airplane!" movie. Turned out there was a fellow who was going somewhere in the Caribbean-- except that he didn't have a passport. He had a birth certificate, but it had been issued by the hospital he'd been born in, 45 years ago, instead of having been issued by the county clerk, or some such. Apparently this is something the airlines run into, and they had a form that would authenticate the document, but the hapless traveler's signature had to be notarized. I felt like a hero-- "I'm a Notary!" and we both made our flights.

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