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One of my greatest fears and worst nightmares as a professional came true last month.

I woke up at 5 a.m. on a Wednesday for an early flight to San Diego, Calif. and realized my passport was missing. I didn’t know it at the time, but lost travel documents would soon be the least of my problems.

I always pack the night before traveling and nothing was unusual about this morning in that regard, but something compelled me to check the front pocket of my suitcase. Minutes melted as I tore through my tidy bedroom, leaving piles of strewn clothes, paper and bed covers on the parquet floor in my wake.

Flying without a passport is stupid.

Feeling defeated, my air travel triage instincts kicked in and I decided to make a beeline for the airport sans passport. It seemed like a long shot, but I hoped they might let me travel without it.

The ticketing agent I spoke with smiled, chuckled a little and said he didn’t have a problem giving me a boarding pass, but that I would never clear customs. He probably never should have given me that piece of paper, but I explained myself to the border guard and by some sick miracle, he gave me a stamp of approval.

After that, I was off to San Diego to drive the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R under the naïve assumption that the same “smile, wink and say please” routine would work twice. Only 36 hours later, I stood in the San Diego Airport staring at an unsympathetic United Airlines supervisor who clearly didn’t think my story was funny and sure as **** wasn’t about to print me a boarding pass for an international flight. It didn’t matter that my Canadian Permanent Resident Card (similar to a green card) is enough to cross back into Canada. I was finally in a situation I couldn’t chat my way out of.

Arguing with ticket agents is stupid

On the other hand, he said someone at LAX might be more willing to let me through if I could find a way to Los Angeles before my next flight left. One of VW’s shuttle drivers agreed to take me there.

As a last resort, I asked VW PR guru Mark Gillies if he would be willing to lend me a car that I could drive to Detroit. From there, I figured crossing the border to take a flight home would be a cinch. I didn’t give it much thought because I never really believed it would happen.

I would have already missed my flight by the time we arrived were it not for the fact that it was significantly delayed; the crew didn’t show up. Unfortunately I faced the same response from the Air Canada ticketing agent, but the person I dealt with told me I should walk to the United desk across the airport because there was a chance they would see things differently.

I reached the United desk and tried one more time to explain the situation, but it was all for nothing. By then it was well past midnight and I finally gave up in favor of sleeping at a Best Western in Inglewood. The next morning I got a call from Volkswagen. They couldn’t lend me a press car from the L.A. fleet, but they had booked a car through Avis and would reimburse me for a rental car if I were willing to front the cost. At this point I was well beyond my comfort zone in accepting automaker hospitality, but the reality is that I’m also poor.

I took off from the hotel in a taxi, signed some paperwork and found myself standing in front of a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta a few minutes later ...
For the complete story, I Drove Across the Country by Mistake please head on over to
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