I was working my way down the center aisle of the plane, looking ahead to see if I had any hope of overhead compartment for my carryon bag.
And then I heard, "Tricia! Oh my gosh! You're on my flight!"
I looked over to 14B, to see who was calling my name. As soon as we made eye contact, she said, "Oh, wait. You don't know me."
I smiled. "That's okay. Sounds like you know me."
She thrust her hand toward mine. "I'm Alison. I read your blog. Actually, I read your everything. I knew you were flying today, and I can't believe you're on my flight. You don't need to tell me where you're going - I already know."
We shook hands, new friends reunited for the first time in person. I would have talked longer, but there was a line of people waiting behind me with their own hopes of overhead space.
"Nice to meet you!" We called to each other as I made my way to the back of the plane.
Three hours later, when our flight landed on the other side of the country, I gathered my things and prepared to deboard. (I am never bulkier than when I travel. I have got to get better at this.) I felt like I dropped something, but I coudn't see anything of mine under the seat or in the areas designated as mine. Plus, there was that line of people waiting for me to move yet again. I'm always in their way. I'm not an efficient traveler, but I make up for it with a joyful, low maintenance spirit.
I stepped into the airport to find Alison waiting for me inside the gate. She introduced me to her husband (or boyfriend or brother). We chatted for the few extra minutes we had hoped for en route. As we talked and I learned just a fraction about her, a man stood nearby. He kind of hovered actually.
"Ma'am, did you drop something on the plane?"
"Oh! You know what? I think I did. I feel like I did."
"I picked it up for you. They're holding it for you behind the counter." And then he slipped away, like a leprechaun who had come to gather my things and send me on a scavenger hunt.
And so, I approached the counter. "I think I dropped something on the plane. I believe someone gave it to you."
"Well, what is it, ma'am?"
"Well, I'm not sure. I just know I dropped something."
Insert snootiness. "Ma'am, I cannot just hand over the entire contents of the desk because you believe you dropped something."
Good grief. I wasn't asking her to.
Oddly, I felt like I was in the real live version of that Friends episode where Phoebe is mad at Ross but she won't tell him why, and he's begging to know so he can apologize, and we later learn she won't tell him because she actually can't remember since she woke up angry with him after a bad dream of fighting with him.
Anyway, while Ross is begging for her to tell him what he's done wrong, she says, "Well, if you don't know, then I can't help you."
"Well, I don't know."
"Then I can't help you."
(Brilliant writing, the creators of Friends. I seem to reference them in my mind at least once a day. Or, you know, act like Rachael Green in her later, more beautiful, smarter and responsible years.)
I stepped aside to take inventory of my things. Alison said, "You're going to blog about this, aren't you?" Indeed I will. Every day is a new post.
Search, search, search. It's hard to figure out what one is missing. My mind doesn't work in that backward way. I can barely find what I have, let alone what I don't have.
Aha. I'm missing my iPod and headphones.
I stepped back to the counter, now feeling like a contestant on Joey's gameshow, Bamboozled. "Is it…" I pause, knowing if I describe it inaccurately I will be denied, "a silver iPod and black headphones?"
"Yes." I wished she would say "Congratulations! You've won what has belonged to you all along!" And balloons and confetti could fall from the ceiling.
Alison and I parted ways on that happy note. And today I wrote about her. Thanks for saying hello, new friend. I suspect you are reading this.
Or I hope you are.
Like when Ross calls the radio station to request a song for Rachael when they were 'on a break,' hoping she's listening. Sort of like that.