Don’t throw away your immigration card

I have a vacation to Ireland coming up next month, and if there’s one thing I learned on my last trip – besides how to make up for my terrible Spanish by pantomiming every conceivable toiletry that I found myself in need of – it’s that you should never throw away a piece of paper that an immigration officer hands you at the customs counter. Even if it doesn’t appear to be important. Even if you’ve received movie ticket stubs that look way more official – just keep it. Keep it all. Do not decide to “clean out all the junk” in your passport as I did one night in a hotel in Lima.

I didn’t think anything of it until several days later when I checked into a second hotel and the receptionist explained to me that this missing card was a “problema grande.” I got a little upset at that point, but then the woman next to me helpfully pointed out, “I’m sure it will be fine. I didn’t think I needed to keep that either, but I saved mine for my scrapbook.” Which, I’ll be honest, even in that moment of pure panic, I still found it in me to judge her for being totally lame.

Turns out “losing” the card wasn’t quite as big an issue as I expected it to be. It was pretty easy to find the bank where I could get a duplicate, and since I had spent the previous month working all the kinks out of my charades routine, it was surprisingly easy to convey to the teller that I pitched that shit in the trash a week ago.

But rest assured. When I hit Dublin, I’m keeping it all – boarding passes, receipts, napkins, matchbooks. You name it. For the scrapbook, of course.

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