My connecting flight from Baltimore to Mexico City was in Miami. I had a scheduled layover of about an hour and a half; a comfortable cushion. The weather report was looking great. All signs showed me showing up for the show with plenty of time to spare. Nothing is ever exactly as advertised, though, is it?
On the plane, I was feeling waves of thankful energy sweeping through me. I was so happily grateful, because, despite the fact that my flight had been delayed a day, and people were fighting around me for positions in line to go to assigned seats, I was still at peace.
For much of my life, peace in the face of inconvenience seemed like it wasn’t in the cards for me, but, through study and meditative practice, I had recently been cultivating a new hand.
While boarding, a flight attendant told me to put my carry-on bag in the first overhead space I come to, since room was running low.
In the past, I would have been exceedingly nervous about having my bag on the other side of the plane, but, in the mood I was in, I accepted it without a worry.
As we took off, the worst turbulence that I have experienced, to this day, had me reading the flight attendant's face (Check with a pro, right?), her poker face was showing a tell of “Oh, sh__!”
A new emotional energy surged through me, which I immediately identified as fear.
“Huh. That’s weird.” I thought.
It was weird, because, somewhere along this road trip of life, I had abandoned my fear of death, at a random rest area, on the highway of highs and lows.
“So, why the f___ do I, all of a sudden, care about whether or not I am liquified by gravity?” I asked myself.
There was a patented Kincaid awk-weird pause, where I raid the temple of my mind looking for the mythical perfect words, then I answered myself, “Because you’re in the midst of learning to truly appreciate and enjoy life, on a deep level, for the first time, and you don’t want that precious lesson to end prematurely.”
Another pause ensued before my Questioning Self and Answering Self said, in unison, “Damn. That’s cool.”
worked itself out and my energy returned to surges of joyful gratitude.
Upon arriving at the gate, I sat patiently in my seat and watched the people seated toward the front of the plane get their bags and file out.
My patience took a sudden dip as I watched a man take my bag out of the overhead storage bin.
“Chill. He’s probably just moving it so he can get his bag easier.” I told myself.
When he didn’t put it back up, I got a little more antsy.
With at least forty noisy people, and 20 yards, between us, I would have had to scream or fight to do anything about it, if I was even sure that he was taking my bag; which, of course, I wasn’t. So, I resolved to relax. It was hard work, but I did.
My previously dipped patience plummeted, as I got to where my bag had been and was now absent.
“Somebody took my bag.” I informed the flight attendant with worry in my voice, since I had all my positions required to wrestle professionally in the newly dispossessed bag.
“Really?” She asked, as if I was performing some bizarre practical joke where I make people who have no reason to care about my problems think that I am experiencing a sh__ty moment.
“Yes.” I answered her strange question.
Her unskillful poker face feigned concern, but her voice made no effort to disguise it’s disinterest, as she sighed, “Go tell the gate attendant.”
I was repeating my less-than-ideal-situation mantra of “It all works out; it always has, it always will”, as I rushed up the jet bridge and...got in a long, slow line to talk to the gate attendant.
With a constant battle between inner-calm and outer-“what the f__ am I gonna do” going on in my brain, I inched my way to the front of the line.
“Someone took my bag.”
I got another “Really?”; seems I look the role of an eccentric prankster.
After a sigh of inconvenience the attendant asked me, “Is your name on the bag?”
With an eye roll and tone that I interpreted as meaning “this probably isn’t going to work, but it’s the best I can do for you”, she said, “Okay, I’ll try making an announcement.”
She made an announcement over the airport speaker system. I was paying attention and could barely make it out among the orchestric noise of the thousands of busy people, so I estimated the odds that a hurrying traveler hearing it was less than the odds of Olaf from Frozen following Dante’s footsteps of escape from Hell.
I was finally starting to completely lose the Battle of Keep Cool, while I waited on the busy phone line to talk to someone from lost baggage claims, when I saw the guy that I watched (and whose features I had studied, just in case) take my bag was sitting a few seat aisles away from the gate.
I hung up my phone and sprint-walked over to him. As I got closer I saw my bag. It was with excitement and relief that I informed the bag-borrower, “That’s my bag.”
With all the defensiveness of a young boy wearing an Incredible Hulk shirt getting called a chicken, the older African American gentleman with facial features that I imagine would be Universally described as proud and kind stated loudly, “It most certainly is not! This is my-”
Before he could finish, I casually unzipped the top pocket, to reveal my mouth guard, Sharpies, toothbrush, and toothpaste.
He looked at me in shock and said “I am so sorry!” Then thought for a moment and said, “Then where’s my bag!” and hurried off.
A young man whom I assume to be his son tried in vain to get his attention and stop him, then looked at me and said with slightly humored sympathy, “He checked his bag.”
Ah, crisis averted.
As appreciation for everything that I had experienced in the trip, thus far, cleansed me of all my worries, I boarded the plane.
It seemed the Battle To Keep Cool was over. I had stood the test of war and come out a better person.
Little did I know the war was just warming up.
Alas, it was about to get an inferno of a lot more blistering in the Miami heat.
Man, I hope these donuts are f___ing awesome!