By the Brother:
Our plane touches down on the runway at the Tacoma airport in Seattle. As the pilots park us at our designated terminal, the seatbelt signs turn off and the sound of metal unclipping floods the cabin. We are seated in the rear of the plane and wait patiently as the passengers ahead of us depart. I let the guy with the striped shirt in the window seat next to me go out ahead of us. I grab my son’s backpack and hand it to him as my sister finds her suitcase and is ready to go.
I had put my carry on suitcase in one of the middle compartments of the plane as the overhead bins in the back near our seats were full. As we make our way down the narrow aisle, I automatically recognize that there is an empty space next to a folded up yellow stroller or cart with wheels of some sort where my luggage should’ve been.
“Someone grabbed my bag,” I say as we make our way to the exit. We rush off to try and hunt down an unknown person with black rolling luggage similar to the many that people are dragging behind them in multiple directions.
I aimlessly turn left, walking briskly with my son and as my sister goes right. I realize immediately that it would be like finding a needle in a haystack. We head back to the terminal with multiple apologies from the flight attendant. I tell her to stop apologizing as it isn’t her fault. She makes an announcement over the intercom with no one returning to fix the mistake. A blue and yellow suitcase about one quarter of the weight of mine has been left behind. Inside are a few items of clothes and two large bags of pickle chips, which does not nearly make up the weight of my suitcase full of clothes for a father and his son, cash, a laptop, and books. I begin to become suspicious.
My past self would’ve started panicking and bitching about poor ME and how could this happen to ME. I’ll admit those ill-fated feelings were aching to get out, but I did my best to stay cool with my impressionable son standing next to me.
Once realizing that no one was coming back, we make our way down to the baggage claim to meet up with my son’s auntie, who had gone ahead to see if the suitcase might be there.
Luckily we have to wait for a friend arriving on another flight. As we stand there contemplating our next action, my sister can tell that I need a moment. Not that I’m pissed off, but to simply collect my thoughts. Her and my mini me walk over to the water fountain to fill up their water bottles as I stay behind with the remaining luggage. As they make their way back, my head is still spinning. I need to pause and catch my breath. I grab my bottle and head to the fountain without a word as I pass the two of them.
On the way, I tell myself to let it go. Whether my bag full of money, clothes for two, and laptop is found or not, is out of my control. Life will go on either way and we will have to continue our trip.
As I fill my bottle, I’m able to get calm and focus. As I walk back to my two favorite people in the world I remind myself to be of service to them. What can I do to help the situation so that we can move on?
I know that a ten year old is watching my reactions and how I will deal with this. He is twirling around obviously feeling the stress from before, but now I show up with a smile and relaxed shoulders. I joke around with him to lighten the mood. My sister stands surprised, not recognizing this guy who isn’t losing his marbles over his missing belongings. We stand there contemplating what to do next.
As usual, both of us get on the same page as we start to speak. I mention that there has to be cameras as she begins to say that we should try going to the police since the airline was of no help. Seconds ago, I was ready to give up and leave the airport with the shirt on my back and figure out what to do later while having to buy new clothes to use for the remainder of our stay in the city next to the silently active Mt. Rainer, while pouting the whole time.
Now we have a plan of action.
The police are instantly helpful and invite us into the office to look through different camera recordings on the computer. My sister and I set our water bottles down on the counter and walk in with my son in tow. What an experience as we watch with excitement the videos of people getting off of the plane. The officer has multiple screens up on his high tech monitor as we try to locate the missing luggage. We narrow down the time frame, rewind, fast forward, switch angles. Try different cameras. “There it is!” We shout.
The camera recording shows my heavy bag being carried off by a monster of a man, clad in all black, running off and plowing people over as security tries to run him down. An old lady in a wheel chair uses her pepper spray unsuccessfully as the madman throws up his spinning fidget spinner to deflect the spicy liquid weapon from contacting his raging satanic eyes…
In reality, the suspect is a senior citizen wearing a white jacket and white hair carefully making his way to the exit rolling two bags behind him. But, why two bags we think, as you are only allowed one. This silver haired thug is obviously up to something.
The police look up different videos from other cameras to try and follow the aging bandit. In each camera angle we notice our striped shirt friend from the window seat next to me is trying to find his way out of the airport with a confused head spin as he comes to each crossroads. He had told me about his marijuana plant business as we flew over Mt. Shasta earlier and I wonder if that had anything to do with his inability to notice the exit signs. We dub him ‘Waldo’ from the character in children’s books about finding this guy named Waldo wearing a red and white striped shirt and hat among a sea of people. We notice our reefer Waldo friend from a camera in the baggage area finally making his way as we continue our investigation.
The policeman finds a camera located near the terminal exit with the silver bandit walking down another corridor. We figure that he is making his way to another terminal to wait for a connecting flight while pulling my bag behind him. I’m sure that he is thinking about the chips inside of it that he would indulge in while waiting for the next takeoff.
The other bag that the one-eyed silver bandit had when exiting the plane was now being pulled by a female partner, which explains why he had left the plane with two. Meanwhile, my son is enjoying the whole scene, sitting next to the police officer pointing out the suspect (and Waldo) in different security recordings. The camaraderie is thick as we work together to solve the case. Another officer had already taken off to try to locate the missing baggage while our friend joins in from the office window. By now, we obviously realize that this gentleman had made an honest mistake and we can no longer think of him as a one-eyed silver senior bandit earning some extra income off of unsuspecting passengers. The officer scrolling through the security videos leaves to patrol the terminal where the suitcase is. A few minutes later we start shouting hoorays as he walks back with the loot.
He tells us that the silver bandit felt bad for the mistake. It turns out he was blind in one eye, which explains how he could have mistaken my black bag for his blue and yellow one. He now has to start an investigation to find his own luggage, and I tell him to locate the over-apologetic flight attendant from the first terminal.
This may not seem like a major deal from the outside looking in, but it was a revelation for myself. I realize that I have a choice. I can play the victim and blame the universe for problems or circumstances that temporarily shift my path while making everyone around me suffer. Instead, I found that pausing and checking myself to get on the right train of thought so that I can be of service works better. If I’m standing on solid ground, I can then be useful to others when life’s storms come and go instead of being a hindrance. I understand now that if there is a loss of oxygen in the cabin of a plane, an oxygen mask will fall from an overhead compartment and I must put it on my face before helping others with theirs. If I struggle breathlessly to try to put theirs on first, we both suffer.
My take from this event is that shit happens, but it doesn’t have to stink. Or better yet, life happens to us all. We can either bow our heads in defeat or stand tall and confidently work through anything that comes our way. That short walk over to fill my bottle to pause while collecting my thoughts and to get on the right path was a simple yet profound event. After leaving the airport, we made our way to the light rail station in high spirits. As we waited for the light rail to arrive, I went to grab a drink from my water bottle that had changed my life and realized that I had left it on the counter at the police station next to my sister’s. Real funny, Universe…
We are not immune to life circumstances, but we are in control of how we deal with them. My life is better today when I practice love and service instead of fear and pity.
We ended up having a lot of fun exploring Seattle and visiting with friends. We packed so much in – from museums to ice cream on the pier to fireworks to watching the sunset from the space needle – that I could fill another blog. Maybe I will write about all of that fun another day. When I asked my son what his favorite part of the trip was, without hesitation he said, “the police investigation.”