Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Special Handling-a short short story


Several years ago, I was returning to San Francisco from Edmonton, Canada. I was travelling, as usual, with my 1964, 0018 Martin guitar which I had had in my possession for 18 years. I had arranged for what they termed, "Special Handling", confident that that meant I could rest assured that it would show up at the airport when I did. When my Delta flight arrived in SF, I went to the "Special Handling" baggage claim to get my guitar. I waited the better part of an hour, having been assured by the woman at the desk that it took extra time to get "Special Handling" baggage from the planes to this section of the terminal. That made sense and I waited...and waited, eventually being informed that there was no guitar anywhere and they had no record of one expected. I had the "Special Handling" baggage claim clutched in my fist! How could this be! Becoming increasingly anxious, I asked to speak to someone in charge. A new person was brought to the desk, "Well, we'll send someone out to look again." he says. Send someone out? Where? Out where? What the hell!

I waited for another eternity, anxiety rapidly changing to outright anger. By now it had been close to three hours since my flight had arrived. I started to really lose it. I became apoplectic, shouting, demanding to speak to the Airport Manager NOW! This outburst resulted in some big shot in a suit (not a uniform) showing up. Attempting to placate me, he implied that I would be reimbursed for the guitar, after I filled out a sheaf of forms and mailed them to the Delta Airline headquarters in Dallas. I was freaking. There's no way they could replace my priceless little Martin. I snatched the forms and left the office, realization of my loss beginning to set in.

I figured it was probably time to go home. I went down to the entrance of the terminal where the big doors slide open to rows of taxi cabs and bustling travellers. I sat down in one of those horrid molded plastic chairs, riveted in ugly rows under the nasty bright fluorescents. I was devastated. There seemed only one direction for my head to go and that was to total acceptance. I sat there for no more than 20 minutes, telling myself that after all, it was only a chunk of wood and steel. Was not a person, I could get another guitar, I had to let this go. I actually did. I let it go. I really let it completely go.

I gathered my suitcase and my handbag, stood up to exit the airport and there, about 15 feet directly in front of me, leaning up against the side of the exit doors, was my guitar. All by itself, no one near it, just the doors opening and closing, people coming and going. There it was. I was sure I had lost my mind. Couldn't be. My perception slowed down to absolute slo-mo. In that slow motion dream I went to the guitar and when I clasped my hand around the handle I knew it was actually real. I took it back to my chair and just sat there with my arms wrapped around the case, so stunned in disbelief that I could not move.

I will never know how this came to be. Maybe someone tried to steal it and changed their mind at the last minute and left it by the door. That's the only explanation I've ever been able to come up with.

I never took that guitar on a commercial flight again. Everything else has come and gone, lovers, husbands, children & friends, houses, furniture, cars and pets but that sweet little Martin which always stays in tune, is right here beside me as I write this story, 45 years after I bought it.

Special Handling indeed!