That Time I Lost My Driver’s License in San Francisco

I’m a responsible guy. Organized, too. My papers are always in order. I try to clean off my desktop (physical and otherwise) once a week or so. I dot my lowercase Js. I plan ahead for everything. I have PC backups from five years ago, tax papers from ten, pack extra underwear, triple-check the door to make sure it’s locked, and check my pockets to make sure I have everything I need not five minutes after leaving the house, even though I know I have all of it because I already checked my pockets before leaving.

Naturally, I lost my driver’s license about as far from home as possible (without crossing any international borders or waters) in a situation where not having it could make getting back home quite complicated.

My colleagues and I flew to Silicon Valley to attend the global conference for Startup Grind, an entrepreneurship community. We listened to fireside chats with people who own, started, or otherwise have some stake in some of the biggest, most prominent tech startups going today. The experience was about as motivational and inspirational as you can get.

But then I lost my stupid driver’s license, and no amount of inspiration or motivation could undo the knot this little misplacement tied in my stomach.

After taking a hedonistic afternoon drive down the coast, we were almost back to the place we were staying when I began absent-mindedly flipping through my wallet. I noticed that something was missing. Something important.

Yep. Driver’s license wasn’t there. I’d like to believe I played it cool, but I’m sure the panic was evident as I flailed about, checking my pockets a hundred times each and checking behind every other item in my wallet to see if I had stuck it in the wrong place. No luck.

I sent emails and texts to Startup Grind to see if maybe it had turned up at the conference somewhere. I left a message with the Redwood City Police Department to see if it had been turned in there. I called Southwest Airlines to see if I could even get home without it. They said I could, but to get to the airport early because it would take a while to pass through security. I worried about blowhard TSA officials lecturing me on responsibility and not losing my papers. Would they perform extra searches? Oh, crap—cavity searches. Was I going to be cavity-searched?! Come on. I just lost my ID. These things happen! Even the guy with a bomb isn’t dumb enough to try to board a plane without a (professional, painstakingly crafted fake) ID.

If there was any remotely good news I could fall back on, it was that I had a pretty good idea of how and where I lost it. We had to present our IDs when we checked in at the conference. My hands were full of crap and I was trying to get out of everybody’s way, so I hastily stashed my license in my pocket, rather than try to put it back in my wallet and risk dropping and losing a bunch of stuff. As we took our seats in the Fox Theatre, I forgot about it and proceeded to take my phone out of my pocket ten thousand times over the next few hours to take notes or look up websites. I had a good feeling that one of those times, I accidentally pulled my license out with it and it fell on the floor beneath my seat. So, there was a chance. I didn’t remember it being in my pocket later in the day, so it seemed most likely it was lost at the conference.

Or, I might have lost it in the street, and somebody was well on their way to identity fraud at my expense. Or, it fell out of my pocket on the California coast and lodged itself in some poor whale’s blowhole.

The next morning, I rushed to the registration table. Startup Grind’s lost-and-found featured a very full wallet, and the ID of some guy who definitely wasn’t me, so no luck there. But all was not lost! The guy who showed me the lost-and-found said that the Fox Theatre had their own lost-and-found I could also check. And man, lemme tell you, when it got around in the theatre lobby that I was looking for my lost ID, I couldn’t have had more help getting it back. Two security people, two Fox Theatre staff members, and one Startup Grind staff member all swarmed. And sure enough, one guy checked in the back and returned with a Missouri driver’s license, complete with unflattering photo of yours truly. Somebody out there was kind enough to rectify my boneheaded mistake, and I am grateful.

Anyway, the trip was good.