I was leaving chilly Canberra and a heartwarming catch-up with my family, for the warmer climes of Port Macquarie. This time I took the bus from the capital rather than fly to Sydney. I like to vary my modes of travel and the bus can be more comfortable than taking a plane which, knowing Canberra, can be delayed or cancelled due to fog. I used the three hours to drift off to meditation music and when we arrived I felt pleasantly relaxed. At the international airport, The driver took the bags out of the hatch, and I picked up my blue American Tourister, veteran of many travels and made my way to the the check in counter. I felt at ease and my bag seemed unusually light-what was my son talking about when he placed the bag in his car saying that it was heavy may be over the limit? Two weeks prior I had retutned from France with a a bag choc full of souvenirs and presents-that was heavy.
It wasnt untiI I put the bag on the belt to be weighed that I noticed how clean and new it seemed.
“Only 14 kilos!” I thought “What an achievement!…”
It was then that reality kicked in:
I had THE WTONG BAG!
Same colour, same brand and not mine. Panic set in and in such circumstances I always call on those invisible helpers, my angels, spirits and guides who keep me safe and (relatively!) sane through all the vicissitudes of travel and life-I knew it would be ok.
Unlike most travellers, all my worldly possessions are in my suitcase. Well not completely, but mostly. Of course every material possession can be replaced but still I had a real moment of stressful panic..
So what to do…
I sought out the helpful people from the information desk and a woman told me the bus company had just opened a new office at the airport and offered to take me there. I noticed her calm demeanour and was grateful for this as a counter to my rising panic. We explained to the person on the desk just as I overheard her colleague speaking to a woman who had lost her bag! I asked her to interrupt him and explained that I was the person who had (mistakenly) purloined her suitcase. On the phone her friendly colleague explained what had happened to the owner of the smaller blue bag, due to depart for Singapore in 90 minutes, and we arranged to meet outside the departures entry.
“It happens more frequently than you might imagine” The cheerful bus company employee explained as he accompanied me to the meeting place. I recalled the first, and obviously not the last, time I took someone else’s case; that was last year just after I had returned from a trip to France and that time the bag was the same brand, colour and size. Sure there was a Hong Kong Airport Orange Sticker on mine , but now I realise how small it was.
When I saw the woman bearing my bag and the look of both severe irritation and relief on her face, I had to hug her and apologise profusely.
I returned to the check in counter for domestic flights with my much heavier bag and vowed to the employee that next time I travelled, I would festoon my bag with wildly vivid colours and ribbons. She laughed.
There were further delays to my travel plans when the plane due to leave at 4pm developed a mechanical problem and a new plane had to be sourced….from Canberra! Although this was an annoying hiccup , my rational mind told me this was preferable to flying on a plane that was not fit for service and I worked on changing my mood from irritation to patience. And after all, I could be patient in pleasant surroundings as I had very recently joined the airline company’s lounge, where I settled in a comfortable nook with a coffee and healthy salad.
The flight was right on sunset a glowing end to a brilliant autumn day. As we left Sydney, the busyness along the roads was transformed from the air into a delicate broderie of twinkling colours illuminating the growing darkness; a perfect end to a long day’s travelling, for which I was grateful.