I enter the airport grateful for the automatic doors that allow me to pass with ease, given the load I’m carrying. I scan the concourse in search of the nearest counter and make my way there, shuffling, cursing myself for not having invested in the kind with wheels. I enter the queue, and am guided by barriers to the front of the line. The queue is empty at the moment, although I sense that the woman behind the counter has dealt with many personalities already today. I make a conscious effort to start out on the right foot. Positive. Polite. Cheerful.
“Hello,” I say, smiling.
“Good afternoon,” she replies, half-smiling.
Uh-oh, I think, but remind myself these things can change on a dime. Maybe I can win her over.
“I’d like to check this bag.” I’m met with assistance as she tugs the bag from her end up on to the weigh scale. My shoulders relax as the bag moves from my grasp. It’s not out of reach, but it’s far enough to provide some relief. And I’m so happy she has taken it. It’s almost enough, to be done right here. But I know there is more. There are formalities.
“May I see your ticket and ID please?” she asks.
“My ticket? Oh…um…” I pat my pockets, for appearance only, because I know there is nothing there. “I don’t have a ticket,” I tell her.
Her half-smile diminishes to a quarter of its capacity.
“Where are you flying to, ma’am?” she asks.
Flying, I think? Yes! Flying—light and easy, no effort, safety measures in place, waited on, piloted by someone else, squishy little seat, sore ears, stuck with the same companions for the entire journey, nausea… “No!” I blurt out. “I mean, no, I’m not flying. Um, not today. I’d like to walk.”
“You’d like to walk to your destination, ma’am?” she raises her eyebrows.
“Yes, yes, that’s right,” I nod, glad that she’s beginning to understand me.
“You’ll have to take this luggage with you, ma’am.” She points to the bag on the scale. The weight of it flashes at me in digital red.
“No,” I say. “It’s too heavy.”
She shifts her position. “Did you pack this bag yourself, ma’am?”
“Uh, yes, I did.”
“Are you aware of all the contents?”
“Yes, yes I am.” I hope my answers are appeasing her.
“Where do you want to go?”
“Forward,” I tell her.
“Forward?” Eyebrows again. No smile.
“Yes, forward. As in…not up, not over, not sideways, not nowhere, and definitely not down or backward.”
“Listen, ma’am. There’s a line-up forming behind you and I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but we have rules here; rules and regulations; protocol, you know? And we need to move this along…”
“Yes, let’s move this along…forward.”
“Okay.” She takes a step, tosses her hair, and crosses her arms in front of her. “Tell me where you’re going.”
“Look, I don’t have all the answers. I just want to check my bag,” I say.
“You can’t leave this bag here if you’re not planning to accompany it.”
“There’s no such thing as can’t!” I snap. “Didn’t you ever learn that? Think about it. There has to be a way. Surely there is a way. Read your guidebook! Call your superiors! And if there is no way yet outlined to make this possible, then create one! You can do that.” I turn and move away from the counter, away from her incompetence, her negativity, her unwillingness to take a chance, her lack of responsibility, and most importantly, away from my bag.
“Ma’am? Ma’am!” she calls, “You need to take your bag! You need to accompany your bag to your destination!”
I keep walking. I can do this, I tell myself. I hurry my step to create some distance. I don’t want to hear her. She continues to call after me, but soon her words fade into something unintelligible. The airport doors slide open and I step through, gasping.
Outside, I want it to be easy. I want sunshine on this side of these doors. But it turns out there are clouds and rain and traffic, lots of polluting traffic, rushing and jostling. I double over, hands on knees with the knowledge that it won’t be easy. Behind me they will be calling for security. Ahead of me, there are unknown hurdles, to be revealed over time. I call on faith. I trust.
I take a deep breath of polluted air—grateful for air at all—and I push on, walking, picking my way through the obstacles of the streets. I keep my back straight; hold my head up, look left, right, and left again. I listen. And although I watch, sometimes I pretend not to see. Because right now I’m looking at me. I am loving me. That is what I have space for. Because even though I left that baggage behind, it wants to be with me, and for a short time it will take all of my focus to keep it from finding me. Ha! Now I am glad it doesn’t have wheels. It’s become to my advantage as I glide through paved streets with more ease than it can manage with its wheel-less existence.
I catch glimpses of colour up ahead. Blue sky, green earth, sunshine. I move toward them.
She screeches her last attempts to get me to hear, to listen, to obey. And when she realizes it’s futile, she does what she has to do next. For the safety of everyone, she picks up the phone. But she hesitates. She sees me walk boldly out the sliding doors, and although she’s been trained to fear these situations, she is not afraid. There is a feeling in her that she can’t place. It’s so buried that she can’t quite draw it to the surface. But from deep down, it tells her to wait. She holds the phone and watches me exit through the automatic doors—sees me bend over, stand up and disappear—before completing the call. Around her, passengers have become restless. They are unsure whether to be scared or annoyed or relieved or heroic, and clearly they feel a little of all these things, as they each react in their own way. But she holds them at bay, puts her hand up in a…Stop! Wait!…type of command and then makes sweeping motions downward to calm and soothe them, as she calms and soothes herself throughout the call. Yes, there is an unclaimed bag here. Yes, she saw who left it. No, it was a woman and she has left the building. No, she has no reason to believe there is anything dangerous inside the bag. Yes, she believes she is following protocol.
Security arrives. Dogs. Police. Bomb squad. They evacuate the passengers and bystanders from the immediate vicinity and cordon off the area. The bomb squad assesses the suitcase and pronounces it harmless.
The bag is opened and several officials scrutinize its contents. They look through their own filters, conflicted over what they see inside. Some think this bag is light, and they lose interest quickly. Some are surprised at what different people carry; they’d never dream of having these things in their suitcase. Some can relate. Some recognize their own items—same brand of deodorant or a similar shirt in a different colour. Some are relieved to see the likeness; they feel less alone just by having had the privilege of exploring the contents of another’s baggage.
I arrive at a beautiful place. It’s been a long journey. I’m unsure how long I’ll be able to stay here, but I hope to appreciate it for as long as it lasts. Friends have helped me along the way. And mantras, rituals, and songs. I feel blessed.
I’m surprised to see my suitcase here. I thought I left it behind, on its own trip to nowhere. I didn’t ever want to see it again. I was happy to keep it as a memory rather than something tangible like a photograph of a memory. But here it is. And I realize it’s been with me all along. It sits in a different light now. What I see is its capacity to gift expansion, understanding and comfort to others. I’ve shed my attachment to it and am no longer in need of its contents, but it still belongs to me. The question is: If I pick it up, how will I choose to carry it?