"Schmuck," I muttered to myself as I sat on the bench outside the San Francisco airport in the dark at 4:45 AM Sunday morning. No one was around to hear me which was fine, as I was addressing myself.
Of all the stupid things I 've done in life--and there are a few--this ranks up there as one of the goodies. I had a 6:30 flight out of San Francisco to return home after my conference. The hotel shuttle didn't run that early so I had them call me a cab. Feeling very metropolitan (we don't have cabs in NC--we just hitch rides on tractors), I tipped my cab driver, grabbed the handle of my just-under-50-pound suitcase and sauntered into the airport. I parked my bag in front of a self-checkin kiosk, reached into my bag and...shit!
I'd left my wallet in the cab. The wallet including my money, every credit card I own, and that all important driver's license that would allow me on the plane.
Ever have those moments of pure panic where you just become completely immobilized? I experienced that, then came to and burst into a run for the door. It had been about 4 minutes since the cab dropped me off and I knew there was no way he was still out there, but I had to try. I flew through the door and wild-eyed examined the drop-off area. Nope. Gone. I turned to a luggage check-in guy and shrilled "I left my wallet in the cab!"
"Wow," said the guy. "Try downstairs and see if they can call the cab company for you."
Okay. Now I had a plan. Downstairs. Call cab. I ran up to the nearest uniformed person, a young woman standing outside a luggage x-ray machine. "I-left-my-wallet-in-a-cab-and-the-guy-upstairs-said-someone-here-could-call -the-cab-company-for-me," I babbled.
"Que?" she said.
Rational thought started to kick in. I grabbed my cell and called the hotel. "We know the driver," they said. "That's Amad. Hold on and we'll connect you."
I got Amad on the phone and explained my wallet was in his backseat and please come back to the airport. He said he'd be there in 15 minutes. Thank you, God, I silently intoned and went upstairs to wait for him. I held out for 20 minutes before I called him again.
"Hi Amad, this is Dena. I just wanted to let you know I'm waiting in the drop-off area like we agreed."
"Yes, yes. I am coming to you. I promise."
"Oh, I know. I was just, um, checking."
Another 15 minutes goes by. How on earth did he get that far from the airport in so short a time? But he finally pulls up and he's in a bigger panic than me when he hands me my wallet. I try to hand him a tip but he waves me away. "Please, please. Check to see everything is there."
I glance inside the wallet. "It's here. Thank you so much for--"
"No! Please check carefully that everything is there." He's very upset.
I do an inventory and everything appears fine. Only then does he accept my tip. I finally make my way inside, obtain my boarding pass and collapse in the waiting area.
And THIS is why I arrive at airports two hours early. You just never know when you'll hit traffic, an airport delay or--if you're me--do something incredibly stupid.
But life is a matter of perspective. I called Blair while I was outside waiting for Amad to show up. "Guess what I did?" I asked, then told him the story. "So you're having a bad day?" he sympathized.
I thought about it. Although my heart was only just returning to its normal beating pattern, I was okay. I was getting my wallet back and I had enough time to make my flight. I'd been extremely fortunate the hotel had been able to help me as quickly as they did and that I had a cab driver willing to return.
"I actually have to say I'm having a pretty good day," I said. "I got lucky."
Here's hoping each of you has a lucky day as well.