Photo Credit: Jewish Press

I recently returned from my annual visit to New York. I live in Memphis but grew up in Manhattan and very much miss my friends there. This was one of my better trips. I went to two weddings, met a lot of my friends for lunches and dinners, and strolled along by myself soaking in the neighborhood.

My friend Phyllis always picks me up from the airport and takes me back a week later. I’m grateful for that, and for my other friend who lets me stay by her; all year she asks me when I am coming back.

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This past June, on the way to LaGuardia Airport for my trip home, Phyllis’ cell phone was working only sporadically and she could not access the Waze app she wanted to use to get to the airport. Also, it was a little after 8 a.m. and I had forgotten to factor in rush hour when deciding when to set out. I became a little nervous seeing traffic build up. Phyllis then used the GPS in her car instead, but told me that it was not as good as the Waze app. Uh-oh!

Traffic was barely moving, so I told Phyllis that I might not have time to check my luggage – but that I was going to board the plane. Traffic was looking more like a parking lot when Phyllis saw a lane which had very little traffic and she veered into it, thinking it was either a shortcut or a way to avoid all that heavy traffic. Phyllis immediately realized that this was not the way to get to the airport. Sure enough, we ended up in the wrong borough. At this point, I was afraid to look at my watch.

My mind was now racing as I decided that, to save time, as soon as we got to the Delta entrance at the airport, I would jump out of the car and run. That’s what I actually did. I then noticed an employee outside the door checking luggage. He took my suitcase and ID and checked his computer. He said that it was too late to check my suitcase and to go inside. I misunderstood and thought he meant that I should check my luggage inside. I realized later that he actually meant that I should go inside to security – the last step before boarding.

I wasted more time racing inside to the baggage-check counter, and once more handed over my luggage and ID, and yet again was told it was too late to check my item. I was in a frenzy as I grabbed my belongings, ran outside, and left my suitcase on the street not knowing if I would ever see it again.

I bolted back inside to security and saw that the line snaked around so much I could not see where it began. I found the employee in charge and blurted out that if I could not get to the front, I would miss my plane. She seemed sympathetic and asked for my ID, so I looked through my wallet – only to discover that it was missing. What a shock! She told me to keep checking my handbag and waited patiently as I did so, but to no avail.

I kept thinking that I would never get home that day. I ran outside to where I had left my luggage and was heartened to find that it was still there – but not my ID. I retraced my steps. Nothing. Suddenly, I remembered that I had been at the indoor baggage check, and sure enough, when the man at the counter saw me approach, he held up the card for me to see. He had forgotten to return it to me when he gave me my boarding pass. I grabbed it and hurried away.

I found the nice employee at security and, to my relief, she took my ID and brought me to the head of the line. I was confident that I was on my way now, but still was afraid to check my watch. I walked to the conveyor belt and put my handbag and small carrier on it to be scanned, then walked through another area to be x-rayed. I waited for my two items and after a while realized that they had been confiscated and had been put to the side.

By now I was so nutty that I yelled at an employee that I needed my belongings, and of course he just walked away. I thought of the saying, “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.” That seemed to apply to me so well. I waited a while and then watched as an employee slowly opened my carrier and pulled out the bottle of water I had neglected to discard. I grabbed my items and must have been running on sheer adrenaline as I hurried to the gate.

When I got there, instead of an empty waiting area, I saw lines of people. Could it be that by some miracle these people were waiting for the plane I was scheduled to board? I asked a woman and she verified that indeed the plane was delayed. As if in a dream, I found my place on line and after half an hour we were allowed to board. I called Phyllis and asked her to retrieve my luggage.

As I sat on the plane, I was able to relax. I had been through so much and now the nightmare was over. I would soon be home. We waited almost an hour and at some point we heard over the loudspeaker that we had to wait for water to be delivered because planes must have food and water to be able to take off. The delay did not bother me one bit – it actually helped me.

I got home safe and sound that Thursday and my luggage arrived the following Thursday. Phyllis explained that she saw my suitcase where I had left it, and an airline employee was on the phone with the police because it looked suspicious. She told the man that it belonged to her friend and amazingly he replied that if she took responsibility for it she could take it. Both Phyllis and I were astonished that it was so easy since the authorities had been involved. She sent me my baggage a few days later via UPS.

What I understand from that day is that when something is supposed to happen it will – no matter what – because Hashem is in charge. It is amazing that I fly at all because I had a fear of planes for over 10 years… but that is a story for another time.

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