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Our journey home, a cautionary tale with a happy ending

This blog post could alternatively be titled, “Faith in Humanity Destroyed and then Restored…”  or “International Intrigue and Baggage Handling Nightmares…” It all started about four days ago now… let me explain.
 
On Tuesday of this week, after a long day in Melbourne, I stopped to get gas on my way home from the airport.  I like to think we live in a pretty safe part of Sydney, I’ve never studied the crime statistics, but judging by the cost of real estate, it certainly can’t be a bad part of town.  So after I pump gas into my car (don’t even ask how much a tank of gas costs in our neighborhood), I turned my back on the car long enough to walk the 20 meters to the cash register to pay, maybe 30 seconds.  I paid, walked back to the car and my back-pack which had been sitting on the passenger seat of the car was gone.  Just plain gone.  I didn’t see anyone take it, there was no one else pumping gas, there was one guy parked off to the side, but he was on his cell phone talking in Japanese and he didn’t see anything either.  So my bag, and everything in it, my computer, my blackberry, my kindle, my ipod, my house keys, a bunch of work papers, our home address – essentially my electronic life – was gone.  I thought of the Kookaburras that have been stocking us, but quickly dismissed them as a suspect as they clearly couldn’t pick up the bag.    
 
I called the police – they shook their heads, looked around said, “Mate, you’re outta luck, your stuff is gone.”  I stood there thinking, “in 48 hours I’m leaving for the US and I can’t even remember if my passport was in my backpack or not.” 
 
“Outta luck,” the cops said.  They also said, “you should have put your bag in the boot, mate.”  I agree, lesson learned, but it doesn’t mean my bag should have been nicked either.  Unfortunately as pleasant as they were, the officers weren’t able to offer much help.
 
Within 30 minutes of the bag’s theft I’d already called the people I needed to put on alert – and the process was kicked off to encrypt the computer and blackberry, cancel a couple credit cards and start the process of taking things down so they could be put back together again.  Irritated with myself I didn’t sleep well Tuesday night and was not looking forward to the reconstruction on Wednesday morning when I got an email and a phone call from a woman who found my bag – and get this, everything that mattered was in there, everything.  My computer, blackberry, Kindle even my iPod still there and still working.  This good Samaritan who found my bag and stuff scattered in her driveway two towns away from where it was stolen, made a point of finding me and getting my stuff back to me.  Pretty cool that in a dark world where one minute your whole life can be stolen from you and then the next minute someone creates a ray of light in the darkness by being especially gracious.  One big sigh of relief.
 
Two days later we boarded our flight to come home to the states for Christmas.  The level of excitement was very high, and even though we had a very long day of travel ahead of us the entire family was committed to powering through.  And then things took their first turn for the worse.  It wasn’t until we reached the airport that we realized we’d forgotten one of the bags in the house.  Thankfully we quickly assessed our existing clothes and supplies and decided we could live without the forgotten bag, although it would mean the boys would only have one sweatshirt for the entire trip, we would undoubtedly survive. 
 
We went to board the plane for the long Pacific leg of the journey only to find they’d separated us.  Instead of five seats together they wanted to put one of us in business class and the others, well… not in business class.  I had visions of man servants, hot towels, Eggs Benedict made to order on my whim and as much Dom Perignon as I could drink.  Wendy quickly informed me that she would be sitting in business class, not me, I'd be with the kids – which was just minutes before we got it sorted and they found five seats together in… not business class.  Another disaster averted, they say these things come in threes, maybe we’ve filled that quota, or maybe not.
 
After a full day of travel, 20 hours on a plane, and another seven or eight hours waiting around we arrived in Boston excited, exhausted and suddenly quite cold.  The kids are standing around in shorts (it was after all summer when they got on the plane) while on our arrival into Boston it was somewhere in the 20’s (definitely winter).  We needed to get our suitcases from baggage claim, get the boys changed and get on our way home.  Only one problem, one of our bags, the one with all the boy’s clothes in it, didn’t arrive.  All of our other bags came off the plane, why didn’t the red duffle bag?  And then it became clear.  The one bag on the carousel after all others had been collected was a red duffle, not ours, but exactly like our missing bag.  It seems that someone, just as tired as us having flown in from New Zealand himself, had grabbed the wrong bag. 
 
The airline wasn’t particularly helpful at eleven o’clock on Friday night so we took matters into our own hands (or rather Wendy did).  She placed a call to every number she could see on the luggage tag of the red duffle.  We weren’t able to resolve the issue right there and then, and it wasn’t until we arrived home that we heard from the owner of the other duffle.  He’d gotten all the way to Falmouth before he realized what had happened.  He couldn’t have been more embarrassed or gracious when he called us and apologized no less than 20 times.  He and I talked a bit about Australia and New Zealand and he committed to getting our bag back to us as quickly as he could drive back up from the cape.
 
While I post this message, our missing duffle bag has been recovered and delivered to us a day late but no worse for wear.  The stuff from my back-pack has all been found and is working again; my electronic life that once was lost is now found.  Through all this, I learned a couple key lessons.  One, lock your car dummy.  Two, there is a reason people crowd around the very front of the baggage claim carousel.  Three, things are going to go wrong, but the capacity of people to go well out of their way help strangers will always humble and amaze me.
 
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas full of friends, family and amazement – I know we will.

4 Comments to Our journey home, a cautionary tale with a happy ending:

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Karen on Thursday, December 30, 2010 11:02 PM
Mike - glad you and the family made it home safe. Welcome home my friend, welcome home!
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Dan on Monday, January 03, 2011 10:15 PM
Priceless! Reminds me of the time we left our suitcase on the sidewalk in Barcelona. Welcome home!
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