Okay, so here is your basic, worst nightmare scenario – losing a laptop with all manner of critical information – some of it due to be presented the very next day – at a crazy-busy airport. The only thing that’s worse is looking around and thinking you’ve lost your kid. (I’m familiar with that one, too.)
Now, some of you have already started hyperventilating out of sheer empathy. Thank you for that, but please keep breathing some nice, deep, belly breaths. There’s a happy ending in here.
I’m on my way to an invitation-only conference with a bunch of heavy hitters from all over the place. I’ve been helping to plan this thing since early June. It represents a really big opportunity for some terrific changes for thousands of people, and I care a lot about it going well and yielding good, useable results.
There is to be one kick-off keynote and I’m surprised to learn it’s been handed off to me. I give a lot of thought on how to focus this talk, to make sure it lines up with the goals of the meeting, and has some useful, hands-on lessons learned in it. So I take my time, think it through, check my ideas out with the people I’m accountable to, and write it and tweak it over the next several days.
On the plane, I take a fresh look at it. I do some final edits, re-craft some sequences. And I’m thinking that it gets the job done, and that I’m feeling okay about delivering it.
The plane lands and I stuff the hard copies back into my laptop bag, along with my laptop, my Bose noise-cancelling headset, my iPod and a bunch of other stuff. I’ve even got a file in there with bills that I’ll need to pay on the road. It’s pretty bulky.
I take the bag off the plane, pick up my roller bag on the jetway and enter the airport, where I attach the laptop to the main bag. And then I make the long trek from one end of the airport, through escalators, people-movers and concourses with annoying, friction producing carpeting, to the ground transportation curb, where I await the rental car shuttle. I’m feeling good. I’m satisfied with my talk and I’m early – plenty of time to get where I’m going. My keynote is first thing the following morning.
I turn to pick up my bag and there is no laptop there. It’s one of those times when you just keep on looking, because you just don’t believe what you’re (not) seeing. I tamp down my rising panic and my brain goes into overdrive, in no small part because of the biochemical insanity coursing through my instantly adrenergized nervous system.
So now my brain is running on two separate tracks simultaneously. One track is trying to figure out how much of this speech I can remember without the notes; and the other is steering me to retrace my steps, so I can ask every possible person if they’ve seen my laptop.
I see the stricken looks I’m getting and this is making me feel worse, even though I know these looks are borne of empathic identification.
I basically spend an hour going backwards (including getting a gate pass to get back into the gate area without a ticket.) I notice that at least three different people have told me the same thing: “There are still very good people going through this airport”. I know this is true.
Everything comes up zero. I tell the last batch of TSA folks who are standing at the point where, if you leave, you have to go back through security to get back in. A nice TSA guy in his 40’s tells me to wait there, so I don’t have to leave the area yet, and he’ll go to the police office himself to check it out. I wait there for what feels like a very long time.
I look up and he’s crooking his finger at me. I walk over. He says, “What’s your name?” I tell him.
He flashes a huge grin and with both of his hands, holds up one of my bills. Then he points to my overstuffed laptop bag, with the Bose case sticking out of it. I stare at the bag in the same way I had stared at the spot where it was missing, just a little more than an hour ago.
I’m so overcome with relief, I realize I’m just short of weeping.
Instead, I look at this guy and deadpan, “Will you marry me?” and give him a big, noisy kiss on the cheek. The other TSA watches from a distance and blows a kiss.
Now, I have no idea how or where the
laptop got disconnected from the roller bag; or what good soul
found it and brought it to the police office. Whoever you are, I
love you too. I'm kind of glad I don't know who this was,
because that allows me to let them stand in symbolically for
what's best in us humans.
I do know that I was so happy and relieved, that a short while
later, once I’d picked up my car and got stuck in crazy
tornado-watch traffic for several hours, complete with downed
trees and tangled electrical lines, I didn’t care – I was still
so flooded with gratitude and grinning like an idiot. It’s now
many days later and I still feel that way.
Oh, and I know one other thing, too. There really still are
a lot of very good people who go through airports. And who work
in them, too.
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Pat Alandydy, RNHats off to Pat Alandydy, RN, O.R. nurse, Reiki Master, health educator and integrative care innovator, who first approached the administration of Portsmouth Regional Hospital in Portsmouth NH back... + Full Story