By Debbie Eynon Finley
It’s difficult keeping track of things, especially, things you carry around with you – glasses, keys, wallets, purses. My purse has been left in so many places, it needs a honing device. Whenever I put it down, I know it’s thinking, You aren’t going to leave me again are you?”
When my husband, Keith, and I were getting ready to move to Brazil, friends would say, “Exciting news, but, do you know how to speak Spanish?” Our more traveled friends would ask, “Do you know how to speak Portuguese, Japanese, or German?” A more appropriate question would have been, “Do you have a tracking device for your purse?”
Fortunately, nothing, not even my wallet has ever been stolen from my purse when I’ve forgotten it. It’s only when it’s been on my shoulder that I’ve experienced my wallet being swiped. At the Dublin Tourist office, while I was shopping for a t-shirt, imprinted with a cartoon of sheep dealing with the cruddy Irish weather, a pick pocket magically pulled out my wallet. Now, I hear they also carry a t-shirt with the design of a jet-lagged tourist being mugged. I’m buying it next time.
Of all of the places that I’ve left my purse, the scariest one was leaving it under the plane seat, after my husband and I arrived at Iguassu Falls, Brazil. Once we were off the plane and in the baggage claim area, I realized that it was missing. “Oh my $%$#% %$^^$* !”, I exclaimed running to a door past a plane load of passengers, hopeful, that no one knew English cuss words.
The entrance door from where we entered baggage claim was locked. I had a sinking feeling, especially having to explain it to my husband. Now, I knew how a trapped lobster felt, “Uh, Honey, I won’t be coming home for dinner tonight. I am dinner.” I felt like I had no way out either, “Honey, I may not be leaving the airport any time soon, like ever.” Although, there was the baggage conveyer belt opening, which opened on to the runway. But, I didn’t feel like being shot by a security guard. Our healthcare costs were already too high.
My husband’s and my next step was to look for an airport employee who spoke English. One Brazilian speaking employee directed us to another, who directed us to another until we reached the airline employee who had heard of the English language. But, Mr. English Speaking Airline Employee (ESAE) was busy verifying people’s baggage before they could exit. I never saw this done in the US – A Ripley’s Believe It or Not event.
I explained to Mr. ESAE that I left my purse on the plane and just needed to get back on to get it…IMMEDIATELY! “Just a minute.” he responded with the concern of a dead fish. I looked at my watch and a minute later, said a little more frantically, “I need to get my purse NOW! It’s on the plane!” “Just a minute.” he responded again, with the same level of concern. “Just a minute” meant as soon as I check this entire plane’s luggage with the break neck speed of a slug on crutches.
In the meantime, I was envisioning the worst. Keith and I would be stuck in this airport. We’d be like Tom Hanks in the movie Terminal, only with less ability to speak the language, and no way to make money, since the baggage carts weren’t coin operated. We’d spend our entire vacation and perhaps middle age at the airport trying to get home.
Finally, thirty minutes and ten anxiety attacks later, the airline employee, took me to the ticket counter. There, he needed to shuffle through the thirty something bureaucracy channels to get permission to go on the plane to retrieve my purse. My husband asked, “Can you ask him to find our luggage claim tickets too? I think I left them in my seat pocket.” Fortunately, Mr. ESAE had already headed towards the plane. I wasn’t about to slow him down. Luckily, my lost purse had distracted him from remembering to verify our baggage which we had in tow.
As I prayed by the airline ticket counter for Mr. ESAE to return with my purse, I noticed a group of US tourists, all seniors traveling together. They were in a huddle discussing whether or not they brought enough Metamucil to handle the high protein, low fiber meals in the churrascarias. A Churrascaria restaurant is the Brazilian version of the Atkins, low carb diet – meat, poultry, fish, and cheese on skewers, along with a buffet bar for carbs. The senior in pink who was checking in her hot pink vinyl luggage ensemble, chimed in, “I packed Pepto Bismol.”.
As I stood around waiting for Mr. ESAE, a hurried woman with an American accent bumped past me on the way to the restroom, not even saying excuse me. “Excuse Me!”, I yelled after her. “Errr. Rude American.” I thought, “Why doesn’t she go back to her own country?”
Tick. Tick. Still no news about my purse or Mr. ESAE. So, I decided to go through the automatic doors to see if I could see Mr. ESAE returning with my purse. I eyed my husband down at the rental car desk. He was desperately pantomiming to the rental car agent whose face was contorted in confusion. I could tell that we wouldn’t be getting our rental car in the next decade. So, I wasn’t delaying us.
After five minutes of trying to re-enter through the same automatic doors, a tour operator got my attention. She offered me a sedative, and pointed to another door. It was opening for people and had a sign on it . I think the sign translated to “Entrance.” or “This Way Stupid Tourist”.
Back inside by the airline desk, I continued waiting for Mr. ESAE. I worried that another plane had unloaded, and that he was verifying baggage. Finally, Mr. ESAE returned. And, he handed me my purse! He asked me to verify that everything was there. But, I figured, since it hadn’t been on my shoulder, nothing was missing.
Copyright Debbie Eynon Finley 2005