When we flew to Albany over Christmas, I got caught off guard by the exit of the airplane, and ended up leaving Helen's backpack that her Grandpa Dick had purchased her in Puerto Rico behind. You see, in Albany, planes unload from the front and back. While I was gathering up Helen and our things, preparing my exit which I thought was still far off, Ed volunteered to take Helen, and I realized he was exiting the rear of the plane with Connor, not the front of the plane. RIGHT NOW! In a rush, I followed.
When we got to our car, I realized we did not have Helen's backpack. The backpack with her two bottles, two wee people, and various art supplies. I ran back to try and get on the plane, but of course, one cannot go near an airplane after they have exited the secure area, and one cannot get back into the secure area without a ticket. Even if they are a mother begging to get a child's toy, and volunteering that maybe someone could escort her.
I begged the security officer to let me run back to our plane. I considered going for it, but figured I would be tackled long before I reached my goal, and then I'd end up on the evening news as a terrorist. I went to the Southwest baggage desk and explained my situation. She told me the airport customer service desk attendant could escort me back. He, naturally, told me the Southwest baggage person could escort me back. In one last desperate move, I went to the ticketing counter and the lady there told me she'd have someone check the airplane. Only, even after describing EXACTLY where the backpack was, she told me that it was most definitely not there. I told her it was definitely there. She told me they had searched the plane. And no, I could not search the plane myself. It was definitely not there. And by the way, the plane would be taking off for Tampa soon and Southwest ALWAYS searches their aiplanes at terminating points, and Albany was considered a terminating point. Obviously, I had left the backpack somewhere in the aiport. Only I knew I had not.
Defeated, I rode back to Ed's parent's house with everyone else.
I called Southwest when I got back to the house, and got the number for the baggage folks in Tampa. I left a message for them. Miraculously, right before the flight landed, the nicest person in the world called me back and asked me to again describe exactly what I was looking for and where it was. She called back a few minutes later "I have your daughter's backpack. What is your FedEx number? I'll send it right out." Only I am not a business, and I do not have a FedEx number, so she told me how to get one, which I promptly did, and then I spent the next WEEK calling the Tampa baggage office between one and three times daily, leaving the FedEx number, leaving my number, explaining the situation, etc.
No one ever returned my call again.
The bag was never returned.
I filed a formal search form with the Southwest main office, giving them a description of the bag, the flight number, when it had been found, etc.
The bag was never returned.
How the heck do they file lost items anyway? Apparently no one knows because every time I ask, I am told something different.
Connor has a backpack identical to Helen's. (In fact, Helen was originally supposed to get a stuffed animal, but I knew she would fall in love with Connor's backpack so before she got the animal, Ed and I had returned the animal and replaced it was the backpack.) Basically, every time Connor gets the backpack out, Helen retells the story of how her backpack got left on the airplane and now she doesn't have one anymore, but if she ever gets to go on an airplane again, she will be sure her backpack does NOT get left on the airplane. It's a lot of drama. And a lot of guilt on my part.
Dick (Helen's preferred name for her Grandpa) heard the story at least once, maybe more times on the ski vacation.
Yesterday, a package came for Helen in the mail. As we opened it, I saw the backpack, and at first, my heart was full of joy because I thought Southwest had sent the backpack - FINALLY - and my faith in what a great airline they were was restored. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that it was a brand new backpack. And it could've only come from Grandpa.
Helen jumped with joy, immediately wanted to call Dick to tell him thanks, and wore the backpack around most of last night, as I'm sure she will for the next few days.
Thank you, Dick, you've made one little girl immensely happy.
And I promise, when we see you in Key West in a few weeks, I will NOT leave it on the airplane again.