The song goes: It's that time year, when the world falls in love. The words in my version are slightly different: It’s that time of year when...I FALL APART! Seems I’m not the only one. The number of items left behind in airports during the holidays is about 1000 times higher than during the rest of the year. How do I know? Because the gals in the Continental Airlines Lost and Found at the Houston airport (hidden behind baggage carousel #7) told me when I stopped in looking for my laptop.
I don’t usually use my computer on planes, but I was fast approaching an article deadline (it was due that day) and I needed to make some final revisions before submitting it. So, I took it out of its happy green case, stowed my bag in the overhead and carried the little black, blends-right-in-with-the-floor laptop with me to my seat. It was a bumpy ride from Denver but I pushed through and made the revisions—brilliant ones, if I say so myself—and got the article and photos all ready to send. Tres satisfied, I stowed my trusty laptop it in the back-of –the-seat pouch and pulled out my book.
However, when landing time came around, the flight attendant informed us that back-of-the-seat pouch was not an “FAA approved laptop storage bin….”
Fast forward a day, a zillion frantic phone calls, a lot of hand wringing, head bashing, and more phone calls to the next night: As I waited at the Continental Baggage Claim desk to see if my laptop was the one found on the flight I had taken, but tagged with Bernard Something or other’s name, two baggage handlers came in pushing wheelchairs heaped with more lost and found items.
“How many more days til Christmas?” someone called out. They all laughed and someone else remarked, “We are going to get buried in stuff before the holidays are over.”
Seems the holidays are the major lost item times--and the closer it gets to Christmas and New Years, the more the mounds of lost items grows. Good news: over 90% of lost items are turned in, the Lost and Found folks told me. But not everyone claims them. “You should see all the laptops, Nintendos, cameras, phones, books, coats, we are holding,” the agent said. I was hoping my laptop was among them while trying not to get my hopes up too high. It hadn’t been the best of evenings…
On the way to the airport—my friend, Joy, rode with me—we’d had to pull over to let a fire truck zoom past. A little ways farther up the highway, something happened and everyone in our lane had to slam on the brakes. You know the squealing, screeching, honking, veering out of the lane kind of forced stops that make you scrunch your shoulders and listen for the crash? Fortunately, no crash followed, but when we started back up the car was abnormally loud. Just as we reached the exit from I45 to the Beltway 8 the reason for the noise became apparent: we blew a tire. We were riding on the rim. This was 9:30 at night, in not the best part of town (is under an overpass ever good?) I pulled on the emergency flashers and we inched the car to a lighted parking lot ahead.
The parking lot turned out to be that of a way-too-popular- with- the- wild-bunch sports bar in a strip center with a lingerie shop named “Candy’s.” Guys were drag racing motorcycles, burning rubber, blaring bass with trunks vibrating. In limp two middle-age crazies in a giant, gold, Chrysler “pimp mobile.”
Joy and I are not namby-pamby’s. I’ve changed a tire. I knew how. We knew how to muscle the suitcase out of the trunk, and our bags of holiday shopping, and to tuck our purses in the back seat and lock the doors. “And put our phones in our pockets, just to be sure.” What we didn’t know was how to use the new-fangled jack, or where the heck the lug nut taker-offer was.
But…we were right in front of a tire store (with the garage bays open.) I went in to beg the tire center guys to help us. Reluctantly one followed me out to “see” what was going on. From the way he was barely walking, it was clear he really didn’t want to play “good Samaritan.”
While I was in begging the tire guys, Joy flagged down a young black guy. He was already working at the jack when tire store reject and I arrived. Soon, the young guy was joined by another (his brother, we found out when we complimented them on their willingness to help.) In less than 15 minutes they had our tire changed, the old one stowed, and our luggage back in the car. "Your Mama would be proud," we told them, "we sure would be if our boys behaved the same." We slipped them a Christmas thank you. (We had to call them back to thank them as they took off as soon as the job was done.) But we noticed later, from their giant smiles, they were happy to have our “thanks.”
But a changed flat and a returned lap top are not necessarily the same thing. Could I get lucky twice? I hoped and waited and hoped. The lost and found handler was smiling as big as I was when I turned on my little black ASUS and the familiar “Kelly B” password square popped up.
Laptop and flat tire in toe, we zipped over to the rental car office, exchanged our car for another one—and a delightful girl there, with bright eyes and a happy giggle, helped us transfer our stuff to the new, identical gold Chrysler, and away we went.
This was definitely one of those character definers:
One kind of person would dwell on the lost laptop, traffic scare, and flat tire and call it “rotten luck."
Another kind of person would consider the two young guys who stepped up to help a couple of strangers, the returned lap top, that it was a rented car, and call it “great luck.”
What do you say?
I say: It's that time of year so...MIND YOUR STUFF!