Updated: Oct 28
I got onboard my plane that was heading to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and slowly, patiently, made my way to my assigned emergency exit seat. There were passengers blocking the aisle, putting bags into bins above their seats, taking off coats, making themselves more comfortable. I was in no rush. I had not missed my plane and that alone made me feel relatively quite content. In approximately four hours, I would see my kids and that alone made me feel relatively quite happy. I helped a shorter woman push her bag to the back of the overhead bin. I was tall enough. She seemed to need the help. She didn't seem to mind. Her husband-looking-seat-mate smiled at me. He seemed appreciative. When she'd sat down and straightened herself out, I continued on my own little journey, pulling my bulky rolling backpack behind me.
Mine was one of two seats on the right side of the plane, the window view seat. There was nothing in front of the seats. No one was seated in the aisle seat. It all felt so pleasantly spacious.
There was plenty of room to stand and organize myself and my stuff without blocking oncoming foot traffic. As passengers journeyed past me, I placed my rolling backpack on the floor in front of "my" two seats. I took off Jessica's small Nepalese shoulder bag that I'd taken out and put my phone in and threw that on my seat. I undid the string from the rolling backpack and released my long wool coat, throwing that on the empty aisle seat. I took off my fleece Brattleboro Coop vest and threw that atop the wool coat. I took out my pillow and bongers and threw them on my seat. I pushed the handle down on my rolling backpack, heaved it above my head, and placed it in the bin above the seat across the aisle. I heaved my wool coat and fleece vest up there too, next to my backpack. I stood there for a moment. And then I realized. My favorite wool hat, stuffed with my favorite and one-and-only scarf that I brought, was missing.
I stood on the arm of the aisle seat below the overhead storage bin and searched the bin. I looked again on my seat. I stood up on the arm of the aisle seat again and took everything down. I took everything apart and put everything back together. I looked again on the seat, on the floor, around the seats. My hat and scarf were not there. They were gone. I remembered that moment in the airport when the string came loose and got stuck on a metal sheet on the ground, when my coat was on the floor, when I had to redo and resecure. I remembered that my stuffed hat was not part of that. And then I remembered something else.
That very morning, while repacking my too many too heavy bags, I had thought, "I have too much stuff." "I really don't need my hat and scarf," I had thought. "They're too hot. I've not been wearing them. They're just extra baggage," I had thought. And now, on the plane, that very evening, they were gone. I chuckled a little bit to think I'd brought this upon myself. I had wished them gone and now they were. I also felt a wave of sadness. I would grieve this loss. I would wish for them many times. I knew this.
Then a second realization hit me. I did not see (what was) Jessica's little shoulder bag. It was not on my seat. It was not on the aisle seat next to my seat. While looking for my hat and scarf, the shoulder bag had disappeared. My shoulder bag... which held inside of it my phone. My phone, inside my phone case, that held inside of it my credit card, driver's license, etc., all had mysteriously disappeared.
I felt a wave of panic and nausea. Again, I stood on the arm of the aisle seat below the bin. Again I searched the bin and the contents of everything in the bin. Again I took out and shook out my long wool coat, checked the pockets of my fleece vest, riffled through my rolling backpack. No shoulder bag. I checked the seats again. I checked under the seats. It was not there.
The stewardess who I'd greeted upon arrival, and who had been watching me through my (now two) ordeals, said, "I don't remember you having a little bag when you got on board." "Oh I had it," I said, "I know I had it." "How could it have disappeared," I said to myself, out loud. And then I stopped, closed my eyes, and breathed.
When I opened my eyes, I intuitively leaned over to look between my seat and the plane. Jessica's little shoulder bag was lodged down low between the side of the plane and my seat. I reached in and plied it loose, and pulled it out.
When I opened the little shoulder bag to check on my phone, I was surprised to see not only my phone inside. There in my little bag were my passport and visa to Uzbekistan. I stood there looking dumbfoundedly at the contents. Then I remembered. When I had left the ticket/baggage-claim counter, I was in such a fluster, I had not replaced my passport and Uzbekistan visa where I had been keeping them, in a fanny-pack-type-pouch, strapped across my belly, under my shirt. I instinctively reached under my shirt and felt the emptiness of my pouch.
My passport and Uzbekistan visa were in the little shoulder bag this whole time. I had just almost lost not only my phone. I had just almost lost my passport and visa, that I needed in order to enter Uzbekistan, where I would be landing in approximately four hours.
Perspective is an amazing healer. No longer did I grieve the loss of my favorite wool hat and scarf. I was too relieved to have not lost my passport and visa.
This could be the end of this blog post. It seems a good place to stop. Or I could go on. There were so many magical moments that happened on the plane from Istanbul to Tashkent. But I'm feeling impatient. I want to catch you up to now. Now, I'm in Tashkent, and I've been here for five days and one night - the night I arrived, that night, the night I'm writing about now. So, my friends, I will end this post now.
Just this one more thing, though...
Along the way, flying from Istanbul to Tashkent, I saw snow-capped mountains below us. A wide range of them. A few times. It was beautiful. Here, I took this picture so you could see too...