Jeff Fisher has a real "identity crisis!" in Chicago

Ever since my book, Identity Crisis!: 50 redesigns that transformed stale identities into successful brands was released last fall I have used the line "Jeff Fisher is having an Identity Crisis!" to market and promote the thing. I never expected that I would actually have a real "identity crisis" of any kind. Well, after several days in Chicago at the Hyatt Regency Hotel - where I was the closing speaker at the Creative Freelancer Conference - I was preparing to head to the airport and I had a major identity crisis!

I couldn't find my ID. My driver's license was missing

It was about 6:00 AM. I'd almost completed packing all my bags. I had plenty of time to take a relaxing shower, go grab something to eat and a latte, and be ready for the airport shuttle to pick me at 7:30. All I needed to do was print out my boarding pass, get my identification in order and I'd have plenty of extra time at O'Hare International Airport before my 10:30 flight home to Portland.

When I went to get my driver's license it was not where it should have been. I immediately grabbed the pants I'd worn the night before when I'd gone out to dinner. No license. Not yet panicking, I went through the pockets of any pants or shirts I'd worn during the conference. No license. I started to sweat a little as I pawed my way through the stack of business cards I had collected from conference attendees, speakers and vendors. No license.

OK, time to panic! I unpacked everything that had moments earlier been neatly packed. I went through everything - twice. No license. I even went through the waste paper basket. No license.

Then, I remembered the last time I'd had the license in my hand. I was at Macy's - in the great old State Street Marshall Field's location - buying a shirt. Because I didn't have my Macy's card with me, and qualified for an 11% sales tax exemption discount, the sales clerk had taken my license, placing it on his computer keyboard as he entered the necessary information. I don't remember him ever giving it back. A quick online search showed that Macy's would not be open until 10:00. Damn!

By this time, it was almost 7:00 a.m. Chicago time and I didn't have a clue what I should do. I decided to call my partner Ed in Portland and see if he had any brilliant ideas. Not that I really thought he'd be happy to hear from me at 5:00 AM on a Saturday morning in Portland. The answering machine picked up the phone and I started leaving my message. A groggy Ed then answered the phone and I told him what had happened. He suggested that he could scan my passport and email the file to me as a possible helpful piece of identification. Before we hung up I said I'd call him if I did not make it onto my plane.

It was then I thought I would call the hotel front desk and check on what I considered a very slight chance that I'd lost my ID in the facility. The woman who answered told me that she would page the assistant manager of the hotel. When I spoke to hotel assistant manager Scott Penny, he said there was nothing in the hotel lost and found. He suggested that he could write a letter on hotel stationery stating that I had been a guest and was who I said I was. He mentioned that he had worked for the airlines and what I needed was some kind of official documentation verifying that I had lost my ID. He told me he'd call the Chicago Police Department and get back to me.

My partner then called back to tell me he'd emailed the scanned image of my passport. He'd also talked to the front desk and I could print out the passport image and my boarding pass when the hotel's business services center opened at 8:00 AM.

I could hear a clock ticking in my head.

The hotel assistant manager then called back to tell me the police had suggested I get to a nearby station and file a police report on my lost ID so I would have an official document with me. As we talked he did an online search and told me that the nearest police station was 2.7 miles from the hotel - a short cab ride away. His letter would be ready for me at the hotel's Guest Services desk when I returned.

I ran to the shower, quickly rinsed off, got dressed and headed downstairs to catch a cab. The hotel doorman kind of gave me an odd look when I said I needed to go to the police station at a given address.

In the cab, I suddenly realized how ridiculous this whole situation was and kind of laughed to myself. I didn't know where the hell I was in Chicago. I had no ID with me saying who I was except for my boarding pass from my Portland to Chicago flight with my full name of James Jeffrey Fisher, my American Express card with my business name, and a "Jeff Fisher is having an Identity Crisis!" promotional postcard (below) - the only thing I had with a photo of myself.

At the 18th District - Near North police station everyone could not have been nicer. The officer at the desk asked a variety of questions, even attempted to place a call to Macy's with no answer, and then was having some difficulty with the computer (clock ticking in my head) as he tried to complete the police report. A female officer stepped in, saying it "took a woman to do the job properly," and had better luck with the computer. When the original officer handed me the completed paperwork he smiled and said, "Try not to lose this."

I then stood on a street corner for what seemed like forever (tick! tock!) waiting to hail a cab. One finally came by and it was back to the Hyatt Regency. As the cab came to a stop at the front door the doorman from earlier opened the door and said, "Welcome back to the hotel, sir."

I ran up the escalator to the Guest Services desk to retrieve the letter the hotel assistant manager had written. With the envelope in hand, I headed back up to my room. It was 8:45 when I walked in the room - over an hour past the time my shuttle was to have picked me up. By this time I wasn't really worried about making my flight - I was just hoping to get on any plane out of Chicago.

I went online to print out my boarding pass and saw that upgrades were still available on my flight. After all I'd gone through I felt I deserved First Class, so I cashed in 15,000 miles for the upgrade. I downloaded the boarding pass as a PDF, saved the scan of my passport from Ed to my hard drive, and loaded both onto a blank CD I had in my "portable office."

I then went downstairs to the lobby to do a quick kiosk checkout. Four sets of escalators later I arrived at business services center, where I quickly printed out the two documents from the CD. Then it was back upstairs and across the street to where the airport shuttles stopped every 15 minutes. As I walked up to the stop, I asked a bellman when the next shuttle would arrive. He replied, "You just missed one, The next shuttle will be here in 15 minutes." (TICK! TOCK!)

My shuttle left the Hyatt Regency at 9:16. After one additional stop we were on our way to O'Hare. Luckily, there was very little traffic on a Saturday morning.

As I was dropped off at the United terminal, I realized that without thinking about it earlier at all, my First Class upgrade would allow me to avoid the long line to the check-in counter. I walked up to the open station and spread my boarding pass, hotel letter, police report and passport printout on the counter. The agent at the counter looked at everything, then at me, and said, "Everything will be OK." It was 9:45.

She explained that she was putting a priority tag on my checked bag and that it would be searched by the TSA. While dealing with my bag, she told me I would have both of my carry-on bags searched and that I would be searched personally before being allowed through security. She pointed out that I would be going through priority security - right next to her desk - and as I walked away she said, "The rest of your day will only be better."

I had my doubts due to some past TSA experiences in some of my least favorite airports around the country. My fears were put to rest by incredibly pleasant and polite TSA representatives. Still, everything seemed to be taking frickin' forever. (TICK! TOCK!). A couple ahead of me were having similar issues - the husband's driver's license had been taken from him when he'd received a traffic ticket in Chicago. Finally multiple TSA staffers began to deal with the three of us. After looking over the result of my morning of document gathering, a TSA guy asked if I had a credit card with my full legal name on it. Of course, the only thing I had was an insurance card that was not acceptable. I explained that I don't go by my legal name, so everything makes use of the name Jeff Fisher.

The conversing TSA people then pointed out that my flight was to leave at 10:31 from the gate directly across the hall from where I was waiting to processed. I was then asked to sign a document that I didn't even read, providing a home address and home phone number. I suppose I signed my life away. After that, a female TSA representative made a phone call to who knows what government agency, relaying as much information about me as she had on the paper in her hand. I was asked how long I had lived at my current address and I told her. She then asked for the street name of my previous address and I told her. She then asked "Do you go buy any name other than your legal name?"

Hmmm...hadn't we already dealt with that issue?

She then got off the phone and said I was cleared to proceed through security. I was patted down thoroughly. My bags were all searched and swabbed. I quickly put on my belt and shoes, got my bags put back together and hurried across the hall - to a closed jetway door at my gate. It was 10:30. Just then the door opened and a United agent took my boarding pass from my hand. As she scanned it she commented, "We wondered where you were."

As I sat down in seat 1A I couldn't believe that I had actually made it onto my flight. The flight attendant came over and asked, "May I get you something to drink?"

Silly question.

My morning may have been a less than ideal experience. However, everyone along the way - hotel assistant manager Scott Penny, the Chicago Police Department, two cab drivers, the man running the hotel business services center, the shuttle driver, the woman at the United Airlines counter (I wish I'd gotten her name), and even all the TSA employees - could not have been more helpful and pleasant to me throughout the morning. Thanks to everyone who helped me out in getting home.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives


Halftone Dot said...

I need a drink just reading this.

Jody said...

While I didn't have an identity crisis leaving the conference on Friday afternoon, I had major TICK TOCK moments on the airport shuttle ride from hell!

I left myself over 2 hours to get to Midway airport for a 6:30PM flight. The shuttle was late but, hey, I still had plenty of time, right? The shuttle finally arrived with one other woman aboard, and, after some delay, off we set to just one other hotel for a pickup.

I don't know Chicago either, so we're driving and driving...and driving. The driver is muttering to herself- something about always getting messed up finding this particular hotel, and I start to get a little knot of apprehension in my stomach. 30 minutes of driving later, I look up and...we are right back in front of the Hyatt Regency again! My knot is getting bigger, and the other woman on the van is starting to get visibly agitated.

The van driver is reassuring her and me that as soon as she gets to this hard-to-find hotel (which turns out to be directly over the bridge 2 blocks- about 5 minutes tops away from the Hyatt!) it will be smooth sailing to Midway and we will make our flights no problem.

Instead, we sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway, as the time passes for the other woman's flight to have taken off, at which point she is crying because it was the last flight of the day she could take to her destination. Between crying she is on her phone calling the van company, her airline and having a (justifiable) meltdown with them all. All the van driver repeats at this point, like a mantra, is "I done the best I could...I done the best I could." Meanwhile, oblivious to the drama in the front of the van, the gaggle of giggling girls picked up from the H-T-F hotel compare notes on their drunken exploits the night before. And I am in the middle with my steadily-growing knot.

I don't know what eventually happened with the unfortunate woman who missed her flight...exactly 2 hours after the van picked me up at the Hyatt to go 10 miles to the airport, I jumped from the van at Midway, grabbed my bags and sprinted thru security and to my gate, where I just made boarding.

I shoulda taken the train...