Last week, I went to Spain for work. I don’t travel a lot, but enough to have some habits around air travel. One of those is: I generally fly with a carry on; specifically a soft sided duffel bag. I’m not super anti-checked bag, but I don’t like waiting at baggage claim, I don’t like the risk of losing my bag in transit, and I do like forcing myself to travel with a bag small enough that I can easily get around with it, should I need to carry it for long distances.
And usually this works great. But last week, as I landed in Madrid, groggy from several hours of uncomfortable half-sleep in a chair with jeans on, I gathered my backpack, put my headphones in, and left the plane. Without previously mentioned duffel.
I realized it before I even made it to customs, but it was too late, the plane had closed, and I was definitely not allowed back in to get my bag.
“It will be fine”, I thought. “I’ll find it.”
I found and talked to the flight crew who had just exited the plane, and yes, they had seen my bag, and it would be in baggage claim. Great! So I headed to baggage claim.
Baggage claim did not have my bag. And after some back and forth with the woman working customer service at baggage claim, it was clear that I was not getting my bag today. She suggested I use the airline website to file a lost item report, and they’d be able to ship it to me no problem. I took her at her word, and boarded my next flight.
Over the next couple of days, it became apparent that this was not going to work out. The airline website was all but useless. The few phone numbers I found to try to call someone were wrong, or disconnected. And I shrugged. I’m never going to see that bag again, and that’s fine. Total acceptance. Some clothes, my glasses and toiletries. There’s no significant loss here, just minor inconvenience.
A few days later, we were hanging out late into the evening, after the work was done for the day. Free will vs determinism came up. And, surprisingly, I found myself in the determinist camp. Life just happens, and we’re all just along for the ride. There’s no reason to get too worked up over anything, because it’s all going to work out in the end. The bag was gone. What can you do? There’s no use in wringing hands over it, I’ll just accept it and move on. I’m great at that.
The next day, without my asking, one of my coworkers (undoubtedly annoyed with my response to losing my bag, which, again, was to shrug) took it on himself to figure it out. And he dug in, started calling numbers and asking questions, and got the host at our accommodations involved. Together, they got in touch with the office that had the bag (amazingly, they still had it, literally sitting in the office), and told them when my return flight was, and that I’d be through to pick it up. He showed up later that day and had for me a name, and some very vague directions about where to go.
Monday morning, I land in Madrid, follow the instructions, find the office, and am rewarded with my bag. It’s a miracle! I head through security, take the train to the correct terminal, and walk up to the gate just as the flight is starting to board. And I was excited! The written-off bag was like a Christmas gift – look at all these clothes that I had again!
But for the rest of the journey home, the correlation between our free will conversation and my bag wouldn’t stop nagging at me. I gave up because I let the idea that I can’t make a difference, that an unfeeling universe can’t be reasoned with, and our lot is our lot. I’m glad that I wasn’t too attached to the items in the bag, nor particularly worked up by the minor discomfort of having to figure out what to wear for the week after landing. But the bag was retrievable, and was eventually retrieved because someone else didn’t accept my fate.
What else in my life do I shrug at? What else have I lost, or never attained in the first place because I wasn’t willing to put forth just a little bit of effort, instead relying on the whims of fate land me where they land me? Because I’m too lazy to see that while the universe may be unforgiving, it can be swayed?
We make decisions, they make a difference.