October 28, 2007

Watching all the fires in California I was asked by a friend, "What would you save if your house burned down?" Not much. There's nothing I can't live without. Thinking about this I couldn't figure out - was this incredibly Zen, or incredibly sad?

There's really only one thing that I am attached to. A few weeks ago, I had a scare and I realized how much it mattered. My plane had just landed at JFK. An announcement was made that it would be a while before we could disembark so I turned my phone on and made some calls.

As I exited the aircraft and walked to immigration, I was still talking, following the crowd.

Standing there, amiably breaking the rules by chatting illegally on my cell phone in the immigration line, I wondered why wasn't my shoulder aching the way it usually does? Then it hit me: I had left my laptop on the plane. Panic. I hung up and instantly sprinted back to the gate.

Anyone who's ever landed in the JFK international airport knows that the distance between immigration and the gate where the plane arrives is often longer than the flight itself. And I was flying. Like a gazelle in my natural habitat. Only without the gracefulness.

It was late at night and the terminal was completely empty. I saw a security officer and I yelled out: "You have to help me! Please!" I was too winded to get the rest of the sentence out.

When I caught up to him I explained what happened. But I was so out of breath he could barely understand. He told me he would accompany me to the plane. "Please... walk faster..." I said, the entire way.

All of my writing is on my computer. I rarely print anything out and, I don't back things up. "You don't understand," I said, "That computer is my life." Julius kept nodding. He looked like he wished he hadn't stopped.

We reached the plane and the cleaning crew was on board; they wouldn't let me enter. So Julius explained and when he was done I repeated everything he said as if I was translating. Even though he had spoken English. "It's an Apple laptop" I said. "It's my life."

I couldn't stop saying this.

Julius and I waited as they searched. Five minutes later when they returned they were empty handed. They announced it must have been stolen.

You'd think someone had died. I was hysterical. We immediately began power-walking back towards immigration. He was trying to reach his supervisor but now there was no reception. While he was trying to do this, I was manically instructing him to try again.

"They have to make an announcement..." I said, as I envisioned someone hailing a cab outside the terminal with my computer under their arm. "Tell them to make an announcement."

By the time we got back to the immigration line, we'd been gone nearly half an hour. The line hadn't moved. I'm breathless, sweating.

"Has anyone taken my computer?? I shout. "Has anyone seen it?"

People are shaking their head. It's become a situation.

Julius tells me I have to get in the line to go through passport control but I can't move. He heads off to speak to someone on the other side. People are saying nice things to me but I can't focus. All I can think is that if my laptop is gone, I have no idea what I'll do. Just then as he returns, I see that under his arm is my computer. I run towards him, and give him a hug. He doesn't hug me back. But I can't let go.

At that moment, I felt more grateful then I've felt in a long time. So grateful, I start crying. I let go of Julius and move to the end of the line and there is a woman with an infant in front of me. "It was like losing a child," I say. She gives me a disapproving look. "It's not the same." So I revise my statement. "For me, this is like my child," I say. But I can tell she's not interested. I considered momentarily debating this but then I decided she wouldn't get it.