Have you ever wondered what happens when you go back through the exit doors at the airport? Well, let me tell you what I discovered: those doors are weapons!
Just when you, as a filmmaker, think you'll never be able to write or make another film because inspiration will never come, your life begins to turn into a film.
I've always wondered what people mean when they say they see their life flash before their eyes. What exactly is going through your mind at this point?
I think I got my answer in the last two days.
And so the story begins..
Flying back to Hamburg from London via a connecting flight from Munich on Monday evening, I did the "smartest" thing - I went straight back through the exit security doors in the arrivals hall. The doors threw me at what I could swear was 50 km/h and I landed on my lower vertebrae a few feet away. Ouch! It was the worst fall I've ever had. The door alarm went off and I literally saw my whole life flash before me. Will I get arrested? Did I break a bone? Will I survive the fall?
Now I know you might be wondering: why on earth would you do something like that Grace?!
Well I'll tell you why: The moment I stepped off the plane and out of the arrivals area, I realized I had left my laptop on my seat in the plane. My first instinct was "Go get it!". If I had known these doors were security weapons, I would never have dreamed of doing such a thing.
The moment I stepped off the plane and out of the arrivals area, I realized I had left my laptop on my seat in the plane. My first instinct was "Go get it!". If I had known these doors were security weapons, I would never have dreamed of doing such a thing.
Again, my life flashed before me when a while later, after being let through by the very considerate customs officers and desperately trying to get the laptop, I was told that my laptop was no longer on the plane. I was in panic. I hopped to various stations at the airport, and to the Lost and Found department trying to find my laptop. I got number after number from airport staff. Nobody could help me. Not even the police - they too gave me a number to call and said they could only file a complaint.
At 10pm I was still at the airport, then 11pm, then midnight and still no sign of my laptop. I was tired and in excruciating pain. I decided to go home and contact the airport the next day. So I went home but couldn't sleep. I googled all night: What happens if you lose your laptop on a plane? Have you ever lost an item on a plane and how did you get it back? Can I get my laptop back if I forgot it on the plane?
I couldn't sleep and couldn't count sheep.
To say I was scared is an understatement. Thoughts raced through my head. It's been ages since I last backed up my files. What happens to all my files, the deadlines... the BiZmeetsArt project! I've packed every part of my work life into this little device. What the hell am I supposed to do now?
So I waited until 7am the next morning and called the first number. I was given another number to call which is available at 8am. I waited a little longer and called at 8am and was instructed to go to a website to fill out a Lost and Found form, which I did.
At 9:00, I had lost my patience so I called my office, rescheduled all my appointments and headed to the airport.
Lost Property informed me that they have been waiting for items left on the plane for two days and still have no leads. "I'm waiting for a call to let us know when we'll get the things," the lost-and-found assistant told me.
Finally the call came and the lady was told that all the items had been handed in to them the day before and that they had nothing more to deliver. The assistant checked but couldn't find any recently delivered lost items.
I was desperate. What do I do now? The assistant wrote down my number and contact details. She said they would call me if they found anything and that I could come back later or check at another counter for Group B flights. At that moment, a huge guy walked in with a collection of items. I had a glimmer of hope. Unfortunately, my laptop wasn't there.
So I went to the other counter for Group B flights. The counter was empty so I went to its other entrance where a Sri Lankan looking guy was sitting. His job was apparently to open the doors to the Group B area. He advised me to go to the Tango terminal: “All lost luggage is stored there. You should find it there."
So I left the airport and made my way to Terminal Tango. It turned out to be an almost derelict building at the other end of the airport that had been converted into a warehouse. I walked in and was shocked at the countless bags, suitcases, children's trolleys, ski gear, surfboards and various types of luggage that were lost and unclaimed. A very pungent smell filled the air. It was a disturbing sight.
How and where do I start looking?
I felt sick.
"What are you searching for?". I hadn't noticed a short young woman with an Arabic accent sitting at a desk nearby. I wondered if it was legal to have people work in such spaces.
"I'm looking for a laptop in a gray laptop case," I replied.
"You won't find it here. Little things like that are dropped off at Lost and Found.” She said.
"But I was just there and they can't help me either," I replied tiredly.
“I don't think you'll find it here either. There are no trifles here, but if you really want to look for it, be my guest,” she explained resignedly.
I couldn't stand the smell in the Warehouse anymore. I thought if I stayed in there another minute I would throw up. As soon as I had that thought I ran out. The "fresh air" outside was a great contrast and immediately had the opposite effect.
I was desperate and exhausted. I had to rest. I found a lonely place outside the airport. I sat down on the hard, cold concrete wall that fenced off a flower bed. And wept.
I asked God what I had done to deserve this. I wept some more.
Then I heard a whisper. I instinctively looked around. Nothing. There was a quiet voice deep inside me: "Go to Lufthansa customer service," it said.
Gathering all the strength I could muster amidst the excruciating pain in my lower lumbar vertebrae, I got up, walked back to the main airport, to Terminal 2, to the Lufthansa counter.
The woman behind the counter was so friendly and had a voice that sounded like a song...or maybe an angel. I rubbed my eyes and looked at my watch. It was noon. Was I hallucinating?
"How can I help you?" She interrupted my thoughts.
"Well... (I stammered). I left my laptop on the Lufthansa plane yesterday on a connecting flight to Hamburg. It's a dark gray MacBook in a gray laptop case with a tan-orange handle.
“Ah yes, are you the owner of that laptop? I had a call from the OR a while ago. Someone found your laptop, but we are not allowed to accept lost items and Operations does not have enough staff to send it to the Lost and Found department.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
"Give me a second. I'll call the facility now to find out how you can get your laptop. She takes her phone and makes a call.
It felt like I was in a trance. I couldn't believe there was still hope of getting my precious laptop back in my hands. My Precious…
She interrupts my thoughts again, "Ma'am, it's definitely your laptop they found, but as I mentioned, there aren't enough staff at the airport to get it..."
"Oh, I can get it myself. I don't mind," I interjected.
"I'm afraid it's a security area and you're not allowed in there. But they promised to send it to the Lost and Found by 1:00 p.m., okay?”
"Yes, yes, that's perfectly fine. Of course I can wait. Thank you very much. God bless you".
Tears ran down my cheeks. This time it wasn't tears of despair. They were tears of joy!
And so I waited. It was 1:17pm as I was sitting in the airport cafe sipping my tea when my phone rang. My laptop was now at Lost & Found and I could pick it up.
I'm much better mentally today, but I need to make an appointment to see the doctor for a physical exam. The pain in my lower lumbar vertebra won't go away.
I'm glad I took the initiative to do it myself and go to the airport in person instead of trying to sort it out via email and phone calls. The terrible communication problem with the various departments at the airport was made even clearer when I received this email from Cabin-Lost Baggage Services long after I had already picked up my laptop:
“Dear Sir or Madam,
Thank you for your message.
We would like to process your inquiry; however, we need more information
regarding this case.
Please send a detailed description of the device, e.g. manufacturer, colour,
language setting, wallpaper image, IMEI/serial no., cover and accessories.
Based on the detailed description our team will try to locate the personal
item as quickly as possible by means of an intensive search.”