Choose Your Words Carefully… You May Have to Eat Them.



There are times in life when we are confident.   And there are other times when we are absolutely certain.

Certainty can be an incredible powerful tool, especially for initiating change and sparking action.

But certainty can suck, too.

(dwoo…  dwoo… dwoooo…)

It all started a couple months ago.  Courtney had recently obtained a work permit which extended her eligible visa through December.

Milligan and I, however, needed to apply for an extension to our visitors visas.  This was a fairly straight forward process as we could piggy-back off Courtney’s new permit (meaning it was almost sure to be granted).

So we gather all of our documents and head down to the Immigration office in downtown Auckland.  We arrive only 20 minutes or so before it closed and it was bustling as ever with people.

Flustered, I encircle five chairs to create a make shift playpen for Milligan as I set about filling out the appropriate forms and sorting the documentation.  Courtney tried to fight her way to the front of a line and pick off the occasional staff member as they walk by to verify the form I’m filling out is our best option.

I finish the form just as they are closing and trying to herd people out the doors.  Courtney returns and helps sort the information and gather Milligan.  I check every space, verify the attached documents, and account for everything multiple times.

The application requires our original passports, which makes me nervous, but I know we are certified copies in the worst case scenario.  (Not actually back-up passports, just certified copies of the main pages).

I place the documentation and passports inside the application, walk 20 feet to the bin, and drop it in just as they are collecting and locking the doors.  Whew.

Upon arriving home, I sort the documentation we didn’t end up using back into our normal folder where we store it.  All is well.

One month later…  dwoo… dwoo… dwoo…

I’m at the counter at the AA (think BMV) waiting to apply to get a New Zealand license.  This process, of course, has it’s own hurdles as my U.S. license recently expired and Courtney left her on our first flight to Australia.  Sigh.

After looking at my certified copies for my passport pages, the attendant regretfully informs me that they will need my original passport.

Baker: “My original passport is currently with Immigration still.  These certified copies are notarized by a local justice of the peace here in Auckland.  They assured me these would work.”

Attendant: “I’m sorry sir, they will reject the application if we don’t include the original passport.  It clearly says here on the application that they require the original.”  (which it did)

Baker: “What about this original birth certificate?”

Attendant: “Were you born in Fiji?  If you were, we can accept a birth certificate…”

Baker: “Do I look like I was born in Fiji?”  (I managed to avoid saying this one aloud).

No problem, I thought.  I’ll be back.  I’ll just swing by Immigration and see if my paperwork is ready to be picked up.

After a 15 minutes wait, I get to the counter, explain the situation and wait as the officer looks up my information.

Officer: “Your documents are done being processed, but your passports weren’t included in the application.”

Baker: “Yes, they were.  The application specifically required the original passports and I dropped them off myself in that drop box (*points*).”

Officer: “Well, it lists all your other documentation as included, but it’s noted that the passport requirement was waived for this application.  Unfortunately, we processed this application at another branch, so you’ll have to call your specific account rep, Shashi Poo, at this number…”

[I’ll spare you from the next 15 minutes of conversation.  It involved me clarifying why they sent this to another branch, clarifying how to pronounce Shashi Poo, and what I could do if it was lost or misplaced.]

Shashi Poo: “No, I’m sorry it was not in your file when it arrived here.  Although, it went through “documentation” in another department first.  I’ll have to double check with them to ensure there wasn’t a mix up there.”

Baker: “Well, I know it was in the application when I dropped it off.  Where it’s at now, I have no idea.  Either way, it was required for this application and we’ve been approved.  So it must have been handled by somebody at some point.”

Disheartened, I returned home and double-checked the documents that I had sorted back into our folder after I came home.  Not there.  Frustrated I jumped online to find the nearest U.S. Embassy and vent on Twitter:


The funniest part of the entire story happens once Courtney arrives home from school.  I inform her of the whole situation, but at some point I say “And when I talked to Shashi Poo” without first qualifying who that was.

Having no knowledge of a Shashi Poo, Courtney hears “And when I talked to Joshy-poo,” which is the goofy nickname we sometimes call one of my best friends back home.

This causes a 5 minute confusion, which leads to a 5 minute fight (you know the type), before we realize the source of the confusion.

The next day, I anxiously await Shashi Poo’s follow up call.  To her credit, she *did* follow up with me, although she bore more bad news:

Shashi Poo: “I attempted to trace it back with no luck.  There’s no sign of the passports, nor were they found or turned in at any stage.”

Instead of taking it out on Shashi, I hung up and hit my normal outlet:


I look up the Embassy.  In Wellington, duh.  Won’t help.  Although a Google search for American Help Auckland reveals a local U.S. Consulate’s office.

I fill Courtney in again, we both vent our frustration and try to figure out whether we can get the new copies issued fast enough to apply for the license in time to rent the car in time for our South Island trip.

Let’s just say I wasn’t in the greatest mindset about this whole process.

Another couple days pass and Courtney and I are gathering the information to go to the Consultate’s office the next day.  We go through the important documents folder and pull out what we need, making sure to recount how we can’t believe the timing of Immigration losing the passports.

Everything sorted, I sit down to check my e-mail as Courtney gets Milligan’s backpack carrier packed up with diapers, the documents, and everything else we need.

Courtney [casual voice]: “Oh, look…  Here they are…  they were in the bottom of this Milligan’s carrier!”

Baker: *blank stare*

… awkward silence …

Baker: “You are joking, right?”

Courtney: *holds up passports* “No… I wonder how they got in there.”

Baker: *blank stare*

Courtney: *starts to laugh uncontrollably*

Baker: *blank stare*

(dwoo…  dwoo… dwoooo…)

To this day, I still don’t know how that happened.  I literally watched my hand put them into the application, then carry them to the box and drop them in.

I have three theories:

  1. When I stood up, they slide out and somehow landed in the open backpack carrier,
  2. When I stood up, they fell onto the floor and a little 19-month-old with a fondness of collecting things and putting them into bags played a small role, or
  3. Ridiculously stealthy government spies infiltrated our apartment at night to cover up an embarrassing mistake and prevent the inevitable tension on international relationships that would result once I broke the story on Man Vs. Debt.

Regardless of how it happened, it did. Never in my recent memory have I been more shocked.  It’s as if I just saw an amazing slight of hand street magician.  Not one of the corny ones… one of the old guys whose been hustling the streets for 40 years.

I caution to think what I would have bet on those passports having entered that box.  A lot…  a whole lot.

As it turns out, not only was Immigration not to blame, they actually approved the application despite it lacking the required original passports.  Meaning they actually made an exception in an attempt to do a favor.


There are two silver linings to the story.  First, having the passports enabled me to finalize getting the license without any further issues.  Second, though, I never lost my cool.  While one may say I was a bit on the arrogant side at least once or twice, I never raised my voice.

I thanked the people who tried to help, without going berserk.  Although, I will admit that part of this was from being in a foreign country.  Had this happened in the comfort zone of U.S. soil…  I don’t think I would have been that reserved.  Maybe somebody or something in the sky is teaching me a lesson in an controlled experiment.

When’s the last time this happened to you?

We all do this from time to time.  It’s not just a travel story.  It happens in our finances, our relationships, even our health.

We are certain our job is secure…  they would never let us go.  We are certain about giving one investment advisor control of all our assets, based on his track record.  We are certain we don’t spend more when using a credit card or that we aren’t affected by things like advertising and media.

We will never meet that special someone or are certain enough to neglect our health without realizing the consequences.

In the end, though, we pay a price for this confidence. In the cases above, it may be a very tangible price.  In my case, it was just the sour taste of eating my own words.

But even that sour taste, reminded me not to be too confident of anything.  To never be so certain that I can’t fathom a different opinion, perspective, or potential outcome.

It’s dangerous territory to wander in.  I escaped with just a scratch on my ego this time…  next time, I may not be as fortunate.

When was the last time you were ABSOLUTELY certain about something, that ended up proving untrue? What was the end damage?  Share your comments and story below for everyone else!

photo by sudhamshu

52 thoughts on “Choose Your Words Carefully… You May Have to Eat Them.”

  1. I’ve had similar situations a few times when I was ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN of something and it turned out to just not be so. The only thing you can do at that point is ease any tensions that were created (in your case it seems like there weren’t many, unless you count the Twitter-bullets fired at the NZ Immigration office) and move forward, a little more cautious.

    Great story! Really good reminder!
    .-= Colin Wright´s last blog ..I’m a Bit Slow =-.

  2. It happens to the best of us. My wife and I have had PLENTY of “he said, she said” fights and then it turns out that we were both wrong.

    By the way, I like the third theory the best. It just makes the trouble seem much more thrilling!

  3. I’ve had situations where I was absolutely sure that I had gotten my wallet stolen while out of the country. Of course you have that panic start to set in, imagining all the crazy things in your head that might have happened. Of course, usually I find that I had put my wallet in my jacket pocket instead of my back pants pocket, or that I left it at the hotel. It’s almost always something innocent. I always feel extremely silly after I realize what I’ve done.

    Funny story!
    .-= Peter´s last blog ..$8000 First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension: Take Advantage Of Incentives Through June 30th, 2010 =-.

    1. What does “generally a good dude” even mean? Haha.

      While I thought about turning off my cell phone, blocking her e-mail address, and forwarding my mail to prevent admitting the situation, instead I just called her.

  4. Can I just say that I had tears of laughter in my eyes when I read your relaying of that final conversation with Courtney! I have so been there – you feel so genuinely frustrated by a situation you are certain you didn’t create…and then the comprehension that, well, maybe you did. And big props to you for following up with Sashi Poo, that must have been an awkward call 🙂
    .-= Shannon OD´s last blog ..A Little Scenic…The Absolute Most Picturesque Drive in Ireland =-.

    1. Yeah, I just tend to stare without movement in awkward situations of realization. 🙂

      On a good note, it’s fairly hard to actually reach a specific agent in person, so after calling twice I just got to leave a message! Although, I probably would have just said. “We found it”! 😉

  5. Ouch – I felt your pain after reading this one. Let’s just say I had a similar situation back in July, but instead of dealing with immigration officers I was dealing with Citibank.

    I could of SWORN I had set up the autodraft from my online billpay through my credit union, so when I got the next statement with the late fee I sort of lost it. I ripped my filing cabinet apart (okay, maybe an exaggeration, but not far off) trying to find the PROOF that the payment had in fact cleared my bank in a timely manner. Needless to say, I didn’t find anything. Another discussion with my credit union only managed to rub more salt in my wound, no payment was issued. I dutifully paid my late fee.

    While I was ‘put in my place’ in this situation, I felt my anger was a bit justified as I had had previous issues with Citibank in which, on multiple occasions, they had made an error. Let’s just say, I paid them off 2 months ago and cancelled account, ending our 8-year long relationship. I have no regrets. Two weeks later, before I received a “cancellation letter”, I got a bill for finance charges… on a $0 balance, cancelled account. They have since removed the charges (*vengance is mine!*).

    1. Haha, that sounds like a typical day on the phone around our house. 🙂

      In this case, though, Immigration was generally very helpful. Their process was a little weird for how they handled it, but in the end they were not only in the right, but nice!

      Much different than my experience with banks and credit cards to date.

  6. Thanks for the smile at your pain. The last time I stuck foot in mouth I found this quote from James Himes “Every time you speak, you are auditioning for Leadership”. In your case “Tweet”. :)I concur with Shannon OD, great that you called Shasi Poo.

  7. There was a time a few months back during my suit wearing days that I was convinced the dry cleaner lost a pair of my pants. I made the biggest deal about it, because I was absolutely certain my pants were gone!

    The pants weren’t really gone, they were just hiding inside my jacket, and I didn’t see them. I haven’t been back to that dry cleaners since…
    .-= Sean´s last blog ..Two Days at Iguazu Falls =-.

  8. Ridiculously stealthy government spies infiltrated our apartment at night to cover up an embarrassing mistake and prevent the inevitable tension on international relationships that would result once I broke the story on Man Vs. Debt.
    That one made me LOL!

  9. LOL. I think it was the stealthy government spies that did it! Too funny. It’s happened to everyone I am sure once or twice.
    I remember feeling the guilt associated with me being wrong. But yet remember that it was purely accidental to blame the wrong party. 😉

    Glad the case was solved! Now on to the next task. All that paperwork would drive me bonkers!
    .-= Money Funk´s last blog ..Selling Everything Progress =-.

  10. Being wrong is a part of life. Having confidence and strong convictions when you’re right may be a benefit outweighing the detriment of seeming to be sure when you’re occasionally wrong.

    Imagine going through life constantly questioning yourself about everything. Is that better than occasionally being quite sure, yet wrong? You make a list of things we’re certain about, but maybe shouldn’t be. Add these items to the list and see if you still want to question everything:

    Are you *really* sure you married the right person?
    Are you *really* sure you picked the right profession?
    Are you *really* sure you want to move abroad?

    At some point, you just have to be able to answer “yes”, or I think it’ll make your life worse rather than better.

    You pay a price for lack of confidence, too. I can make a good sports analogy, but I’ll try to keep it brief: certain activities are more dependent on confidence than anything else. It is *impossible* to make a mountain bike jump without being quite sure you have the ability to land it. Sure, your confidence may have been misplaced — people crash trying this stuff all the time, but without it, the fear of injury would keep you from even making the attempt.

    1. Yeah, you bring up a great point!

      I think at the point we get to 100% certainty, the risk tends outweigh the benefit most of the time. However, as you pointed out being confident (not TOO confident) is actually very beneficial and even required to accomplish almost anything.

      There’s definitely a sweet spot. Although in this case I was SURE. It was absolute fact. That can be dangerous… especially since somehow I was wrong!

  11. Honestly, I’m never really certain about anything… I just tend to wing-it. Works more often than not to be honest. 😉

    There have been many times in my young two and a half year marriage that I have been convinced I was right and turned out to be absolutely wrong. Sadly, as someone born in the year of the Dragon, I’m anything but gracious in admitting my mistakes. (Pride, I’m afraid.) I suppose I’m working on it… But it hasn’t gotten any easier. Yet. I so wish it would too, ugh.

    I really like Tyler’s sports analogy, it’s what I do in racing all the time. I have to set aside the thoughts of crashing in an effort to go faster, improve and overall have a good time. The possibility is always there, but you can’t focus on it or you’ll never push hard enough to see where your limits are.
    .-= Foxie | CarsxGirl´s last blog ..I Can Hardly Wait…! =-.

  12. This is a slight tangent.

    I once found a CC bill that had fallen behind an end table, out of site. I found it a couple of days AFTER it was due, of course.

    I called the issuer, honestly explained the situation, and asked if there was any way they could waive the pending late fee. “Sure, we can do that.” Despite the fact that it was 100% my fault.

    This is in stark contrast to problems I have had with other CC issuers who won’t fix problems that THEY caused (HSBC and Bank of America).
    .-= kosmo @ The Casual Observer´s last blog ..Review of The Lost Symbol =-.

    1. I’ve noticed that “fault” has very little to do with it in most cases. Good customer service is good customer service. Or at times, just getting someone willing to help is all the difference in the world.

  13. This touches on one of the things that scare me the most in life. That might seem overdramatic, but sometimes you just can’t trust your memories because your brain changes things around or selectively remembers certain parts. Like maybe you did put the passports in the envelope, sealed it up then changed your mind about submitting the originals, took them out and put it in the box. But then your mind ignores that little change of mind because you kept thinking about the idea of actually letting your original passport out of your posession.

    I have been soo convinced that I knew how something happened or what I did that it’s a shock to me that I’m not a perfect machine remembering everything exactly as it happened. This is also reflected in the changing attitude towards eye witnesses. It’s nice to have one, but it doesn’t mean something happened exactly the way they remembered.

    PS – I love how your comments list commenters’ latest posts!
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..Sans bathroom 🙁 =-.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth!

      This is such an interesting topic, especially the points about eye witness and how we can *convince* ourselves of one truth or another!

  14. Thanks for the story, Baker. As always, your transparency about your life, finances, etc., is an inspiration and I always look forward to your posts.

    Since you asked: my SO and I took a trip last Thanksgiving to see family. On that trip, we had a heart-to-heart about my job – it stressed me out, the owners were difficult, it was a long commute, etc. I decided to act “as if” I loved the job, to really throw myself into it and do my very best to mentally turn the situation around. Arrived at work early Monday AM full of energy, started knocking out the to-do list…got called into a meeting at 9:30 and told I was being let go as part of layoffs (it was a construction company and cash flow was tanking). NEVER saw it coming – thought as one of the original employees (5+ years) and payroll manager that I was going to be with them til the end. In retrospect, they probably knew I was unhappy and decided to let me go rather than try to repair the situation, but it was a shock at the time.
    .-= Noelle´s last blog ..Getting ready for November =-.

  15. Personally I think it was option 3.
    Surely you couldn’t be wrong. 😉

    This happens to me (and my hubby) often when we have a stressful situation like that, and are corralling the kids in an office, or something. I blame the kids, they steal a part of your brain or something.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..centsible life update =-.

  16. Hi Baker, considered a small gift for Sashi Poo? Anything basic would do I’m sure.
    Just a thought….
    Someday I’ll start my own blog, thanks for sharing 😉

    1. Um, no… not really. We have consider and actually done this, even on our current trip in cases. I’m all for it, but based on the overall conversation (more than the parts shared here) I don’t think this situation calls for it.

      In general, though, we are huge fans of small thoughts like this.

  17. This is crazy. It brings up a lot of not so fond memories I had while studying abroad. I had a very similar story. Long story short, the embassy actually lost my greencard when I applied for a visa to study in the UK. The only thing is, I never did find it so I’m assuming that I am 100% right and still confident that they lost it.

    Generally I think that confidence is good, but I think that things like these are a blessing because it keeps over-confidence, cockiness from keeping in. It’s life my friend, all we can do is learn from the experience and move on. Keep stumbling forward. 🙂
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Sponsored Kiva Entrepreneurs: Nulu Sseremba’s Group, 11/06/09 =-.

  18. In June 2008, I had an unpleasant run in with an airline employee regarding me not being booked on a flight. After the self check-in kiosk failed to print out my boarding pass, I spoke with the airline employee behind the counter. She informed me that there was no record of me being booked on a 10:00 AM flight to Jacksonville. I probably wasn’t as tactful as you. I kinda made a scene about it. Told the lady she was calling me a liar. And on and on I went.

    She ended up placing me on a flight that left about an hour after our encounter at no additional charge. It wasn’t until I was able to get my itinerary up on my iPhone while waiting to board (I might have still been on the Edge network at the time) that I realized I’d mistaken the arrival time of my flight with the departure time and missed my original flight. Oops.
    .-= Shawanda´s last blog ..Lean Financial Living =-.

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  21. Hey – your site is really great – the content, the tone, the info. We’ll definitely be sending people your way.

    We, too, are hoping to help people – in our case, renters, take personal responsibility and control of their personal finances. Please let us know if we can help you with anything.


  22. Wow!! All i could think of was – NZ immigration rocks, they’re the best I’VE ever encountered, wonder what happened here. Glad to know they still rock 🙂 There’s just something about those kiwis!

    Yeah, I’ve gone all righteous about things that I was redfaced over later. Life man, it happens.

    Tia @TiaSparkles
    .-= Coach T.I.A ´s last blog ..Guest Post: How Pennies Changed My Life =-.

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