We were waiting patiently at the Boston Airport baggage carousel when the strangest of things occurred, someone with exactly the same name as mine was called over the PA system and was urged to return to the gate lounge as there had been some lost luggage which had apparently been found (thereby ceasing to meet the definition of ‘lost’ but let’s not go down that rabbit hole).
As you do, when you fear you may have lost a personal item, I immediately started patting my pockets for wallet, passport and phone and convinced myself that if this person with my name, was actually me – I hadn’t lost those important items. Then, making room for the possibility that there may not be two persons with exactly the same name who coincidentally happened to be in the same airport at the same time, I retraced my steps to the gate lounge as instructed by the announcement.
However, I had already passed through the secure area and the extremely large guard who was patrolling this area had no intention of letting me back through the automatic gates. I tried to explain that I had been called back to the gate for lost luggage and referred him to the PA announcement. He didn’t understand my Australian and I didn’t really understand his Bostonian. Now, I have travelled to many places; Italy, Spain, France, the south of England – where they speak ‘foreign’ languages and have been able to find a way to communicate with people, but for some reason I couldn’t make myself understood in Boston. Regardless, he had the home ground advantage and I needed to try a different approach.
Now, let me start by confessing that, with the benefit of hindsight I can appreciate that treating the guy standing between me and where I wanted to be – like an idiot, was a sub-optimal strategy – not that I set out to do this. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing and I was in possession of none of it at this point. I said; “Sir, it seems that I am not making myself clear”, and proceeded to launch into the following monologue, “You see, I was on a plane which landed here in Boston, I exited the plane and went to collect my baggage, someone with exactly the same name as me was paged to return to the plane and while, initially, it wasn’t me – it turns out that maybe it is me. And while initially I hadn’t lost anything it appears now that maybe I have (since I had a few moments earlier recalled that my lap-top computer was missing). So, would you please allow me to return through these gates to collect my computer?”.
He simply stared at me in disbelief for several seconds. The silence was confronting. He was over 6 feet tall and equally wide – he was confronting too. Finally, he spoke and told me that if I wanted to go back to the gate to which I had been recalled, I would need to buy another airline ticket and he pointed me in the direction of the ticket counter. He didn’t specify a destination for my ticket (although I suspect from his perspective, anywhere but Boston would have been adequate). I stood my ground thinking about my next move. The security guard had already thought about his and waved for his colleagues to come and render their assistance he even shouted; “security!”
I thought he was ‘Security’. And if he wasn’t ‘Security’ then to whom did I just tell my life’s story? However, when ‘Security’ arrived I had decided that a ‘Plan B’ was in order and I changed my communications strategy and explained my predicament to a female officer by saying; “I left my ‘laptop’ on the plane” and she told me to go to the ticket desk and get a gate pass or better still ask them to bring the ‘lap-top’ out to me. Good advice. And I was forced to confront the awkward possibility that my communication efforts may have been a factor in my hitherto spectacularly unsuccessful attempts to retrieve my wayward computer.
I therefore decided to keep it equally simple when I explained my predicament to the lady behind the ticket desk, who after checking my credentials rang the gate staff, who, I presume, confirmed that a computer had been found. She said it was now on the way to a manager’s office and that she would retrieve it for me and told me to wait. Wait I did, for over 20 minutes and she did not return. I phoned my wife, who I had left by the baggage carousel, to let her know that despite my absence for what was now more than 40 minutes, I had not been deported from Boston (although there had been a period when that outcome was more likely than not to occur).
I was starting to think my lap-top computer had become someone else’s computer. Yet my new friend behind the desk who I was confident was genuinely attempting to help me, picked up the phone and rang whatever number airport staff ring when they are looking for a lady with a ‘lap-top’, but to no avail. My friend informed me that my lap-top computer; “… was safely in the keeping of the airline, we think we know who has it but we can’t locate her at the moment, and you should wait, since it shouldn’t be much longer before it is returned”. I think she was being entirely honest in her assessment up to the point where she said “it shouldn’t be much longer”, since she really had no idea how long it would take to find the missing woman. And come to think of it there was now a missing woman in the airport – shouldn’t this have had alarm bells ringing and sirens wailing even without the added weight of my missing ‘lap-top’. There was no appreciable sense of urgency to locate this poor woman who, frankly, could be anywhere by now!
Finally, well after I had stopped counting time, another lady carrying a small black device which looked a lot like my ‘lap-top’ appeared from nowhere and I was re-united with the only piece of memory I have which works effectively. I thanked them all profusely and left clutching my ‘baby’. I was pleased that the airline staff member was ok too.
By the time I returned to the baggage carousel the bags had not only arrived but were starting to gather dust and Leanne had found our friends whom we had arranged to meet at the airport at a time which had now long passed. All three of them launched the same questions at me from several metres away about where I had been and what I had been doing. And demonstrating that the day had been a learning experience in keeping things simple, I responded; “my ‘lap-top’ was lost but now it’s found”. They were satisfied with that explanation however the burly security guard whom I had first encountered when I tried to walk the wrong way through one-way gates, heard my explanation and looked over at me as if to say – ‘if you had been that plain spoken with me earlier in the day maybe it wouldn’t have taken so long to get your damn computer back!’.