was asked to share a story that many of you, I'm sure, have already
heard. It's about one of the aspects of Star Trek that is
not so happy. As part of the Star Trek phenomenon we are asked
to travel to Trek events all over the globe. This particular
episode took place about fifteen years ago. Bill Shatner
and I were asked to fly to Manchester, England, for the launching
of a people mover system. Those of you from Britain know Alton
Towers. It was a people mover system to move people at Alton
Towers. And they wanted the launching of it to be a really
celebratory thing by having the Captain of the Enterprise and the
Helmsman of the Enterprise to be there. And so we were to
fly to Manchester for that opening.
back east somewhere, so he was flying from there straight onto Manchester.
I was in Los Angeles, and I was to fly from Los Angeles to London,
London to Manchester, overnight in Manchester and the following
morning to participate in the opening ceremony of the people mover
system. So, as appointed I drove down to the Los Angeles
International Airport, went to the International Terminal with my
luggage. It was a five o'clock flight and I got there about
3 o'clock, two hours in advance. I went to the British Airways
counter and introduced myself as George Takei. There should
be a pre-paid ticket for me from LA to London, London to Manchester.
The man at the counter had a toothbrush moustache and was rather
arrogantly uppity I thought.
"Oh yes, there is a pre-paid ticket for you here but I'd like
to see your passport, please." Well, it dawned on me
suddenly, I had forgotten to bring my passport. It was really
awkward, but then I had to be on that flight to make the appointed
schedule. I said: "Isn't there some way that you could
get me on that flight? I mean I'm George Takei. Do you
watch Star Trek?" He didn't.
"You must produce a passport. I can't put you on that
plane without a passport." I said "Well,
I've got to be on that plane and I've forgot my passport. Isn't
there some facility here at the airport that would give me temporary
I can't do that."
there some way that you can get me on that plane?"
I can't do that. It's illegal.", illegal was the word
he kept emphasizing. And so I realized that he wasn't going
to put me on that plane. Richard
was working at Paramount at the time. He was responsible for
making the arrangements. So I went to a public telephone and
I phoned Richard and I said "Richard, the man won't put me
on the plane because, it's embarrassing, but I forgot my passport."
Richard said "Well
that was dumb." You know I didn't need that, I was feeling
humiliated enough for being forgetful. I told him "You
might as well phone the people in England and tell them that I'm
not gonna be able to be there." And he stopped to think
and he said "Hold on George, I think there is a fallback position.
Why don't you go back home and get your passport and in the meantime
I'll make some phone-calls and see if I can make other arrangements."
I said "Well,
it's pretty close. I don't think we are gonna be able to do
it.", but he said "You know I'm gonna be working late
today. Give me a ring at the office and go home and let me
know. By that time I'll have a fallback position for you."
So I said "Well,
if you are willing to do that, okay, I'll be game."
So I drove back home, went to the drawer were I usually keep my
documents, pulled it open and looked for it. I couldn't find
my passport! It was not there in the drawer. I pulled
the drawer out, dumped it on the bed and went through everything.
It's not there! So I started pulling these other drawers
out, dumping them out and looking for the passport. I was
really starting to panic! And then the phone rings and it's
He said "George, we are in good luck!
In fact you are really gonna love our fall-back position!",
and I asked "What is it?".
He said "Well,
you are not gonna fly from here to London. You are gonna fly
on a nine o'clock flight, there's plenty of time, by Concorde!"
I had never flown
by Concorde! "A Concorde flight! That's fantastic!"
He said "The nine o'clock flight is going to take you from
Los Angeles to New York. And from New York you are going to
fly by Concorde to London. And then you'll catch up with the
old schedule: you fly from Heathrow to Manchester, overnight at
Manchester and then you'll participate in the ceremony."
I said "Concorde!
New York to London! That's fantastic! Let me phone you
right back." And Richard says "Why do you
have to call me back?", I said "I've got my reasons.
I'll call you right back!", and I hung up on him.
And I started tearing
the house apart. You know, Concorde! I've got to find
that passport! I was looking all over the house! Every
drawer was pulled out. I pulled out my wallet, emptied it
out. I couldn't find my passport! Calm down George,
I told myself. You came back from Tokyo last month.
You had your passport. Now what did you do with your passport
then? I went through customs in Japan, put it in my airline
ticket folder. And then I used it when I came back to Los
Angeles and I put my passport back in my airline ticket folder.
And then when I was unpacking at home I was going through everything
and I pulled out the airline ticket folder and thought "These
are used tickets.", and I dropped them in the waste basket.
My passport was long gone with the trash. And it meant a Concorde
flight! But it's gone. I don't have a passport!
So I got on the
phone and I dialed Richards telephone. And Richard answers
and I said "Richard. I've got bad news.", I told
what had happened. He said "That was really dumb!"
I said "Richard! You know I feel terribly about it already.
You know I'm going to miss out on a Concorde flight.
You don't have to humiliate me even more. But I guess you
better call England. It was just not meant to be."
And Richard says
"No. Wait a minute. There may still be another
fall-back position." And I said "You know, it's
already this late. There couldn't be a fall-back position."
He said "Let
me make some phone calls. Overnight. And tomorrow morning
go downtown, go to the passport office and have them fix you up
a temporary passport. And call me from the passport office,
I'll be in my office early to try and arrange something for you.
Call me as soon as you get your temporary passport and we'll see
what we can do."
I said "Well,
if you want to do it, alright. It's gonna be tomorrow.
And the opening ceremony is gonna be the day after that.",
he said "Let's try."
And so I went to
bed. Trying to sleep. Tossing and turning. I
punched my pillow and said "I've got to get some sleep.",
but I had visions of Concorde flights going back and forth.
I couldn't sleep that night. I got up early in the morning
about five o'clock and, you know I'm a runner, so I put on my running
shoes, got my run-in, took my shower, had breakfast, got my luggage
and went downtown to the passport office. It was still closed.
So I bought a LA Times newspaper, got in line. I was there
first in line and waited for the passport office to open.
As soon as it opened I marched to that counter and I was explaining
to the clerk what my situation was. I said I needed a temporary
passport. Well, in these government buildings they have these
glassed-in offices. And there was a very bureaucratic looking
gentleman. Balding, a fringe of hair, glasses, who was in
one of those glass offices. Looked up, saw me, and his eyes
lit up! And he came rushing out of the glass office and he
stood behind the clerk.
There was a swinging
door next to the counter and I went through that and he said "Follow
me please to my office.", and I thought "Well, this is
going to be fantastic. He is going to arrange something for
me." So I followed him into his office. I sat down.
He opened up his drawer and he pulled out from that drawer that
picture of the entire cast of Star Trek on the bridge of the Enterprise.
And he already had Leonard Nimoy's autograph. "Could
you sign this for me?" And I said "I'll be happy
to. But I'm in something of a rush. I need a temporary
passport because I've got to get to England."
He said "Not
to worry, not to worry.", and I signed that very quickly.
And then he brought on about half a dozen more photos for me to
sign. And I said "I really have to rush", he said
"Don't worry, don't worry. Give me all the documents
I gave him all
my documents, and while I was autographing he went off and did whatever
he had to do and I autographed all to him. His name was Milton.
"To Milton. Galactic greetings. George Takei."
And then he came
back and he said "Go on into the corridor to the far end.
And there's a little photo booth and get your photo taken there
and in the meantime I try to get your passport set for you."
I thought "Oh! I thought it was gonna be a temporary
Anyway, I went
down, did as I was told, got my picture taken, brought it back and
he took it and stamped a few things. And he had not a temporary
passport but a full fledged regular passport with my picture on
so I pointed to the telephone on the desk and I said "May I
make a telephone call here?", and he said "Well, is it
a local call?", I said "Yes, it is a local call.
I'm calling Paramount Studios."
He said "Paramount
Studios? Oh, of course! Please!" So I called
Richard, and I said "Richard?", and he said "Oh no."
"No no! It's good luck this time! I have not a
temporary passport but a full fledged regular passport! So
we are all set. Now, do you have a fall-back position for
me?", and he said "Yes, I have, George.
But this time this is the ultimate fall-back position... but there
is no other. So you've got to make these flights."
And I said "Well,
what is it?", and he said "It's a twelve thirty flight."
I said "Twelve thirty? No Problem.", because it was only
like about nine o'clock. "No problem." "It's
a twelve thirty flight, it's Delta Airlines." I said
"DELTA?" I had more problems with Delta airlines
and Richard knows that. I said "DELTA?", he said
"Shut up. It's a twelve thirty Delta flight from LA going
not to London, not even to New York but going to Cincinnati.
"CINCINNATI?", he said "Shut up. From LA to
Cincinnati. And then from Cincinnati to Gatwick in England.
And then from Gatwick, it's very late now so you are not going to
have an overnight in Manchester. They are going to pick you
up in a helicopter and take you from Gatwick airport straight to
where the launching ceremony is going to be held. So you've
got to make everyone of those connections. It's crucially
I said "Well,
the twelve thirty flight is no problem. But Cincinnati and
then Gatwick?", he says "Shut up. Just make it."
And so I said "Okay." I'd gotten my passport.
I thanked Milton at the passport office. And I drove off to
the airport. I parked my car, got my luggage and went to the
International terminal. I started looking for Delta Airlines.
Looked high, looked low. Looked all over the International
terminal at LA airport. Couldn't find Delta. I know
that Delta has a lot to be ashamed of but they don't have to hide
themselves. I couldn't find Delta! So I went to the
information counter and I said to the woman "I'm flying here
to England by Delta Airlines. Now, where are they? I
looked all over here in the International terminal. And she
said "Delta Airlines? Where are you flying to",
and I said "Well, I'm flying from here to London. You
know, it's an International flight."
She asked "What
is your destination?", "From here to Cincinnati.
Cincinnati to London.", "Sir, Cincinnati is not International!"
I knew that.
And then she said "Cincinnati is in the United States.
It's domestic." It was so embarrassing. She said
"Delta is over there... at terminal five. It's not here
in the International terminal." I said "Thank you.",
picked up my luggage and went out to the front of the International
terminal and waited for the shuttle bus. But, you know, the
shuttle buses never come when they are supposed to. And I
could see terminal five right over there. And I figured,
I'm a runner. I could make it to over there. I picked
up my luggage and with my luggage I jogged over to terminal five.
And the automatic doors opened, I walked in and sure enough
a whole bank of Delta counters was there. And of course long
lines at every one of them. But I figured, well, I have plenty
of time. I got in line and eventually I got to the counter
and I said to the woman "There should be a pre-paid ticket
for me, flying from here to Cincinnati, Cincinnati to London Gatwick",
she looked in the computer and she said "I'm sorry Sir, it's
not pre-paid." "Not pre-paid?" And
then I thought out loud: "Well, it was probably that British
Airways ticket from the day before. Could you call British
Airways and have them transfer that pre-paid ticket to this ticket
She says "Alright.",
and she calls British Airways. But they won't release the
ticket. She says "They can't just release a pre-paid
ticket on somebody calling them." I said "Oh, of
course. That's understandable. I'll tell you what: I'm
a runner. So I'll run over to the International terminal and pick
up the pre-paid ticket and bring it back here. And I have
my passport now. He'll give me that pre-paid ticket.
So, I'll run over. But it's gonna be silly to run over with
my luggage and then come right back. Could you please keep
your luggage on your side of the counter for me, where it's safer?"
She says "I'm
sorry Sir, we can't be responsible for your luggage.", I said
"No. I won't hold you responsible. But you understand
what I mean? I don't want to run over there with my luggage
and run back. It's safe over there than to leave it out here.
Anyone can walk away with it. So, could you please
keep it over there?"
She says "Sorry
Sir. We can't be responsible.", I say "I'm
NOT gonna hold you responsible. But it's safer over there."
But she just wouldn't do it. This woman was not in a position
of authority. I asked her if I could speak to her supervisor.
And she agreed, called him on the telephone and told me then that
the supervisor would be right out.
A few seconds
later this big enormous person came lumbering out. I knew
that this person was a woman because she was wearing a skirt.
Se came out and I explained to her my situation. "I'm
a runner, so I'm going to run over to British Airways, pick up my
pre-paid ticket and bring it back here. But I would like to
leave my luggage here. So could you please keep it behind
the counter? I will not hold you responsible.", she says
"I'm sorry Sir. We can't do that."
I said "No. I'm
not gonna hold you responsible!", "I'm sorry Sir.
It's illegal. We can't do that. We can't be resp...",
I said "I will NOT hold you responsible! So can you please...!",
"I'm sorry Sir. We can't do that." And by
this time my blood was starting to boil: "Alright!
I'm gonna leave my luggage right out here exposed to any thief out
here. And I will hold you responsible because you forced me
to leave it out here." And with that I started running
off. And you know that woman gave chase? "Sir!
Sir! You can't leave it here! Sir! Come back!"
But by that time I was long gone. Out, and on my way to the
And I went running up to
the British Airways counter and the same man was still there with
that toothbrush moustache. I said "Remember me, George
Takei, from yesterday? Well here I have my passport.
I need to claim the pre-paid ticket so I can take it over to Delta."
He says "What?"
"I came to take the pre-paid ticket to take it over there."
And he looks at my passport and says "Oh,
yes. I remember you. No, we can't do that."
I say "Why can't you? It's a pre-paid ticket to me.
And I'm taking it over to Delta."
He says "It was pre-paid to British Airways.
It's not to Delta. We can't release it." I say
"No. The people that paid for it don't care what I fly.
Just as long as I get there. And the only way I can get there
now is by Delta."
"Oh no. We can't do that.
It's illegal. It's illegal. It's paid to British Airways.
It's illegal, illegal.", that's all he said "Illegal."
I pleaded, I cajoled. I did everything
but grovel in front of him, he wouldn't let the pre-paid ticket
go. And so I went to the pay telephone again. I phoned Paramount
and I said "Richard, I don't want to go to England anymore.
I'm tired. I'm sweating, I haven't had any sleep. Please
phone England and tell them I'm not coming." Richard
says "Why? What's the matter?"
And I said "The man won't give me my pre-paid
ticket. And just as I was pleading and cajoling, I did bring
my carry-on bag with me because I have my valuables and money in
there, which I put down, some kid came and grabbed my carry-on and
started running off. "Richard! Hang on!"
left the phone dangling and started chasing after that kid.
"Come back! Come back!"
And the kid was running away with my carry-on baggage. He
thought he'd out-run me. No! I am a runner. I
almost caught up to him, I grabbed him by the jacket and he dropped
the bag and struggled with me. All I wanted was my bag.
So I grabbed my luggage and came running back to Richard.
I said "Richard? Are you still there?", "What
"Oh! You won't believe what's been
happening! Somebody tried to steal my carry-on. And
I caught him. Richard. You have to tell them in England
I'm not coming. Because they won't release the pre-paid ticket.
So, you know, this was the last fall-back position. We might
as well give up. I don't want to go to England. I want
to get some sleep. And a shower."
Richard said "You know what? I just
thought of another fall-back position..." That Richard!
He keeps coming up with fall-back positions! He said
"Go back to Delta and put that Delta ticket on your American
Express card. And I call England and have them reimburse you
when you arrive there and that way you'll get there."
I said "Well, that does make sense.
Alright. I'll do it." I picked up my carry-on bag
and started running to the International terminal. I came
by that British Airways counter and that man was still there.
I went like this and ran out of the International
terminal and over to terminal five. I came to Delta airlines
and there were 500 people in line there. And 500 people all
pointed to my luggage. I had made such a spectacle of myself.
Everybody heard to whom my luggage belonged. It was still
there, exposed to anybody, but they were all guarding it for me.
So I ran to the luggage, picked it up, and they all let me go to
the counter directly.
And I said to that woman "Because people
at British Airways are absolutely impossible. They won't let
the pre-paid ticket go. So, I'm going to put it on my American
Express card." And I dug into my pocket, pulled out
my wallet, looked into my wallet and guess what? It's not
there! The night before in my panic looking for my passport
I'd emptied my wallet out. And I didn't put everything back
in. One of those things being my American Express card.
After I had announced loudly, with all these people listening that
I was going to put it onto my American Express card. They
say 'Never leave home without it'. It was so embarrassing.
I asked that woman "May I borrow your telephone, please?"
I phoned Richard. I said "Richard,
please, please call England and tell them I'm not coming!"
"George, what's the matter?", I say "You won't
believe it!", he says "I'll believe anything."
"Richard, I forgot my American Express
card! It just wasn't meant to be. The God's are against
us. Please tell England...", and Richard goes "Woah,
woah stop! I just thought of another fall-back position!"
That Richard! He said "I've got my American Express card.
So we'll put your ticket on my American Express card and then I'll
be reimbursed by the people in England. Hand me over to the
woman there." And so I agreed with Richard. I had
no energy to argue. I just handed the receiver over to the
woman and she got Richards American Express card number. She
tapped that into her computer. And the she said "Step
aside and I'll tend to the other people while I get the authorization
from American Express. I said "Well, you know, Richard
pays his bills. His card is good." She says "I'm
sorry. His card has not come through yet. So let me
take care of the other customers." I looked at my watch.
It's a twelve thirty flight. It's twelve fifteen! I
waited for about three minutes. And then I asked her "Could
you please check?", "Sorry, the authorization hasn't
I waited some more. It's twelve twenty.
I said "Please. Can you check again?", "No,
it hasn't come through."
"Please, please. I've got to catch that flight."
Twelve twenty-six. She goes through her computer. She
goes "Oh! Could your last name be spelled T - A
- K - A - I ?" I said "Is it George Takai?"
She says "Well, here it is. It
was there all the time. Pre-paid, but misspelled."
I wasn't about to give her any argument. I said "Please,
write it that ticket. And I'm a runner. So I can make
it to the gate. Please phone ahead and tell them I'm coming."
She tapped out the ticket. Got it into my hands, picked up
the luggage. And it's crowded in that airport! But I
took a deep breath and I shouted
Well, you heard the Moses story, haven't you?
The parting of the Red Sea? That crowded air terminal five
suddenly parted. People parted. Senior citizens in wheel
chairs moved aside. I started running through "Twelve
thirty flight! Twelve thirty flight! Coming through,
coming through!" Everybody parted. "Twelve
thirty flight, twelve thirty flight!" Wouldn't you know
it's the very farthest gate at the very farthest end? I was
running down "Twelve thirty flight, twelve thirty flight!",
and finally when I got there I looked and I see the plane out there
but the doors are closed. But I got this far and I'm not gonna
let that plane take off!
I went to the door, dropped my luggage and started
banging on it.
And this panicked Delta Airlines flight attendant
comes running up "Sir, Sir! What seems to be the matter?"
"I've got to be on this flight! Open this door!"
She says "Sir, we just announced that
this flight is delayed by twenty minutes!"
Twenty minutes late! Then they started
boarding. And I got on. That first glass of Scotch on
the rocks was so good! So good! We took off from LA,
made up the time, arrived in Cincinnati, got on the continuing flight,
went from there to London Gatwick, arrived there on time.
The helicopter was waiting. There was a British agent there
who met me at the plane. He escorted me to a car that drove
me across the tarmac. However, the one consistent thing,
the old reliable in London: there was this heavy London fog.
And helicopters don't take off in the fog. The London agent
there phoned Manchester and said "Mr. Takei is here but we
can't take off because of the fog." They told him they
were going to hold the ceremonies for half an hour. We were
going to take off as soon as was possible and they would wait for
me. Well, we waited and waited and then finally, about forty-five
minutes later the fog cleared and the helicopter took off.
It flew low over that lovely English countryside. Rolling
green hills. What that helicopter was transporting was not
an actor from Los Angeles. It was a drunken piece of carcass.
We arrived at Manchester. And I looked
down in the helicopter and the train was already running.
We got there just a tad bit too late. The helicopter landed
and the promotional people came running to the helicopter and said
"Mr. Shatner is doing a press conference in the conference
hall, so we'd like to have Mr. Takei join in there."
And so they pulled me out of that helicopter
and they marched me over to the conference center. And they
plunked me down. There was a long table with a whole battery
And when I sat down Bill asked me "Where
the hell have you been?"
I said "Bill, you don't want to know."