I ran up to the kiosk and popped in my debit card. I was running later than I should have; and even later than that.

Enter the first three letters of your final destination, the machine said.

L-A-N I typed hurriedly.

It pulled up options from Lansing to foreign destinations I could only hope to go. Lancaster was not among them. I typed in the full destination. “We’re sorry, United does not fly to Lancaster.” The machine read. I looked at my confirmation again, but everything seemed to be in order.

I fought with the machine while the clock ticked. Finally, the machine gave up and told me to consult a service representative. I had to wait my turn.

The agent who finally helped me looked at the clock and gave me a disapproving look. I know. I know. Just please, please get me on this flight!

She handed me only one boarding pass–to Dulles–but I took it and ran. I would have three hours in Dulles to work it out. For now, my goal was to get through security and on this flight before it left me.

So far, not an unusual trip. Not unusual to fly. Not unusual to fight machines or be scolded by cranky customer service reps. Not unusual to stand in a long security line. Not unusual to be the last person to board a flight.

Since my first flight when I was 14, I’ve spent thousands of hours in air travel. I estimated that I’ve spent at least the equivalent of 83 24-hr days on nothing but air travel. I’m still basically cattle car status with the major airlines, but I recently achieved elite status on Bostic airlines. Which, incidentally, has the best food at the best prices.

Among my experiences is being stranded for about 24 hours in the airport in Beijing only to be placed on a connecting flight operated by “Lucky” airlines. (Who named that and who taught him English?). I’ve fallen asleep in front of my gate only to be woken up by “final boarding call. Passenger Danielle Walker please report to gate A3.” Seems the gate attendants were watching me and taking bets on whether I would wake up or not. One plane we were on crashed into a random set of stairs while taxiing and we all had to deplane and find some other way home. And, of course, there was the unfortunate day when I left my new computer at a security check point–never to recover it on this earth.

I remember as a kid being absolutely fascinated by airports and the whole business of travel–the coming, the going, the adventure. Slowly, the infatuation has worn off and while it remains a utility, air travel is a largely inconvenient one. Necessary, just not terribly exciting.

Following the lost computer incident, I’ve had two other “after shocks.” During my trip to NH this summer, our delay caused me to miss a connection. I spent about an hour and a half at the O’Hare haggling with machines and customer service reps live and on the phone before giving up and booking a room. It was about 11:30 pm and I wasn’t going to be able to get out until sometime the next morning.

I trudged with my bags down the escalator, through their “was-cool-in-the-80s” moving walkway, out through baggage claim, across 5 lanes of traffic and almost to the shuttle. Then I realized I was missing my computer bag. It had mysteriously escaped. And I wanted to cry.

I retraced my steps down the walk, back across the traffic, and back to baggage claim. But of course the TSA official would not let me back in. I tried to explain to him my problem with what little sanity I had left. “Go to the lost baggage counter.” He instructed me.

“You don’t understand.” I was choking back tears by now in what I knew was a futile effort. “This was not a checked bag.”

“Don’t cry.” He ordered.

That did it. I cried.

“Go to baggage claim.” He said again. He would not budge.

I stood in another line at baggage claim. Recounting to myself all the reasons why I was wasting my time and should instead at least be at the hotel trying to rest. And regain sanity. What could they possibly do for me at baggage claim? It was not a checked bag. I had carried it until…until whatever happened, happened. I didn’t recall ever putting it down.

Finally, it was my turn. I explained my plight.

“We don’t have anything to do with bags you carry on with you. Why are you here?” The lady asked me.

Good question. I didn’t know why I was there. Insanity taking over, I guess.

She made a few calls to make me feel like she was trying to help. A few other agents came over and she explained to them my dilemma and they all said the same thing. “Why is she here?”

I felt like a 10 year old trying to convince a teacher that I should get grace because my dog ate my homework. I was the one who lost the computer. I didn’t know where or when. And it wasn’t their problem.

Then, she appeared with it. My computer bag. It was all in tact. I don’t know how she did it and I was in such shock, I didn’t thank her adequately before she moved on to the next customer.

It was my very next trip that I lost my computer again. Yes, again. Curtis and I were working away on our laptops when the plane came in to land. As instructed, I turned my computer off and set it under the seat in front of me. We were in the first row of economy but the barrier between economy and First Class didn’t go all the way to the floor. So when was taxied to a stop, the computer slid out of sight and into the wild blue yonder of First Class.

Since we would be deplaning in just a minute and since no one in First Class would care about my old computer, I wasn’t too worried and while Curtis crawled on the floor and eye-balled it, I didn’t bother to inconvenience the passengers who were trying to gather their things and get off the plane. We would get it soon enough.

Unless, of course, someone stole it.

To be continued…

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