I’m passing through SeaTac this afternoon…reminded me of this little adventure…just distant enough now I can recall it without a shudder…
So there I was, traveling down from Ketchikan to Seattle, December 19, just in time to celebrate Jack’s 2nd birthday the following day, and launch the round of Christmas festivities. It was all going so well…connections worked from Metlakatla to Ketchikan, and though I did get stuck in a middle seat on the flight, in spite of the premium price of the ticket, still…Christmas and birthdays and family…it was all good.
We even landed early.
That was really where the story began. We landed early. Stephanie had planned to pick me up, so I knew she would be waiting for my text saying I was on the ground. I thought I would just pop into the restroom before texting so she wouldn’t pull around to the arrivals level too early. I was holding my phone as the thought registered, and I set it down with my purse and backpack when I went into the restroom.
The stop I chose was the last restroom on the D concourse at SeaTac, the last one before you exit the secured area. Do you know that airport? I’m pretty familiar with it at this point, and I strolled out of the restroom, past the guard sitting by the big sign reminding passengers that they were re-entering the real and unsecured world.
Baggage claim is one floor down, and I was standing on the escalator heading down when I glanced at the pocket in my purse where my phone should have been.
In an instant, I knew where it was, the moment I saw where it wasn’t.
Let’s just say a bolt of electricity / adrenaline hit my body and I spun around like a crazy woman and began climbing the stairs of the escalator. I had checked my luggage, but I still had a purse, backpack, and a small gift bag, and the purse and backpack were heavy with all the things I never check…laptop and iPad, chargers and all the essentials you can’t do without if the luggage is lost. And I was wearing a polar fleece vest and my coat…I just came from Alaska, and it was December, so I was dressed for the weather.
Suddenly, I was overdressed.
I never sweat, but I felt like I had run a distance race, climbing up those stairs…why I did that I’ll never know, except all I could think was turning around and running back to the restroom where I hoped I would find my phone, hanging out on the shelf where I had left it just minutes before.
As I gained momentum and was almost at the top of the escalator, a man was waiting to step on, and said “Boy, that’s a great way to get your exercise!”
Barely pausing to answer, but absurdly feeling I owed this complete stranger an explanation for my bizarre behavior, I yelled, as I caught the last step, “I. Left. My. Phooooonnnne!” I didn’t look behind me to see if he was horrified for me or amused at me…I couldn’t stop now that I was off the steps.
I raced back to the exit point…the one with the guard…I panted out what had happened and hoped I was sufficiently pathetic to appeal to her sense of pity and humanity, but I couldn’t budge her. To be honest, I hadn’t thought that far ahead when I did my about-face on the escalator, I just knew I had to try to get back to the phone.
She sent me around the corner to the check-in desk for Alaska Airlines, since I had just come off an Alaska Air flight. I inserted myself into a line…if you knew me you would know only dire distress would ever cause me to do that…and I breathlessly told my story…by now feeling a little more desperate as the minutes since I had left the restroom ticked by.
Did I mention, this was a new iPhone 6, and it was in a case that had my driver’s license and the main credit card I use for everything? Perhaps you begin to appreciate my state of mind.
It wasn’t pretty.
The Alaska Air agent shepherded me over to a customer service agent, who began to inquire, halfway through my story…had I come off a flight or was I getting on a fight? I just stared at her, open mouthed, I’m sure…what difference did that make? And of course I just came off a flight…I had just come through the secured area…I stared in disbelief as she printed a new boarding pass for me, with the flight info for the flight I had just left…what good could that possibly do me now? And how did it relate to getting back to the restroom?
Well…there is no mercy in the TSA system, let me tell you!
Not only was there no one from the airline or TSA who would allow me to go back and look for my phone from this side of security…no one would do it for me. The only solution was for me to go back through the security screening and back to the restroom myself. But to get through the screening I needed a boarding pass.
The full horror of the scene burst upon me…they actually expected me to go back through the whole security process, with all my stuff in tow, and then walk back to the bathroom to look for my phone.
Did I mention this was a new iPhone 6? With my id and credit card???
I had the presence of mind to ask if I could at least leave my bags at the customer service desk to speed the process.
But no, there is no mercy at Alaska Airlines either. At least not in this situation.
So I hauled, shaking by this time, back to the security line.
Did I mention this was Dec 19?
The lines were full of happy people who had not left their phones on the other side of the secured Great Wall of China, and who were chatting, taking their time, and who had all, seemingly, brought every conceivable thing that would slow the whole process to the point of a crawl.
By the time I got to the agent checking id and boarding passes (fortunately I had a second state ID in my purse, since my license was with the phone) I was beginning to envision a scene…me causing a security incident as I waiting for the v e r y s l o o o w people in front of me to get through the line. I kept seeing the scene unfold on the evening news…”woman has meltdown at SeaTac over new iPhone.”
Well, it was very upsetting to me. But not worth going to security jail over…and anyway, by this time, I was at least 20 minutes out from the time I left it, so my hope of finding it was fading. But I couldn’t walk away without trying.
I spent the few minutes in the security line thinking through the process of replacing the phone, canceling the credit card, thinking of how I would get in touch with Stephanie…because of course I don’t know her cell number, or Matt’s cell number, or my son’s cell number…I was just solving that puzzle when I made it through the line, and I was able to do a sprint to the D concourse.
By this time I felt like I had run a marathon. I could have used a tranquilizer or a shot of something stiff, and if anyone had looked at me wrong I would have likely melted on the spot…you know that point when you feel like you can’t take one more person explaining why they can’t help you? I was in a fragile state and Just.One.Word would have sent me over the edge.
I walked into the restroom and saw a janitor there, and I asked her if she had seen a phone on the shelf.
She looked at me and said the most beautiful words.
“It was turned in to lost and found, down by baggage claim.”
Oh, I could have kissed her! But I kept it to a heartfelt and hurried “Thank you!” and raced out the door, headed down the same path I had just taken a half hour before.
I stood on the escalator steps, this time catching my breath and calming myself, thinking of Stephanie, realizing she must be wondering what had happened to me.
I walked over to the baggage carousels, and standing there waiting for me was Stephanie and Riley, Jack in his stroller, and Stephanie said, “Mom, I’ve got your phone.”
The story had been working on the other side. My phone had its own little adventure while I had been running around like a crazy woman. If only I had known I could have saved myself a lot of anxiety and a near melt down in the security line. I could have stopped off for a latte and just relaxed and waited it out. But noooo!
Well, that’s life…you can’t always see how things are sorting themselves out, and you have to do what you think is in your power to do.
So the story from Stephanie…
She was waiting with the kids in the cell phone lot, as is standard practice…saves getting the kids out and paying a parking fee, so she just drives up to the arrival doors when she gets the text that I have my bags.
She called my phone to see if I had landed, and she got an answer on the other end, just as she expected.
She didn’t miss a beat, until it suddenly registered…the voice she heard had an accent, and it wasn’t southern. She immediately asked who had the phone, and where they were.
At this point, Stephanie realized this was a situation that was going to require parking, so she got the kids out and came into the airport and stationed herself at baggage claim. Of course my bags had already come off the flight by this time. Alaska Airlines prides themselves on speedy bag delivery.
Turns out it was the janitor who found the phone and answered it. She was able to pass the phone off to an airport police officer, and he in turn gave it to Stephanie. So by the time I saw her, it was already recovered.
It took me the rest of the night to calm down. I kept hearing myself talk too fast and too loud…fortunately we had an hour drive to the house with the traffic, so I was a calmer version of myself by the time we got there.
And later, my only regret was that I didn’t get the name of the woman who found it. At a minimum I would have liked to have thanked her more profusely, and given her some type of reward for being honest and turning it in.
I know the others I encountered in that half hour were following the rules and protocol…at an intellectual level I understand what happened. But I still think there should be some other option…situations like mine probably occur often enough. Maybe they need to create a runner service at airports to go back and retrieve lost items…I would have paid someone to do that for me. Maybe some entrepreneur will set up a service desk opposite the guard post and offer to retrieve items left behind the secured barrier for a small fee. All I know is, when you’re already stressed, it doesn’t help to have to navigate security again.
The last couple of times I’ve traveled, I get this little reminder from Stephanie…
“Got your phone?”
Ah, that girl! She was my rescuer that night!
And yes, I have my phone.
And just in case you’re wondering…going up the down escalator actually is a great workout!