THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Tick-tock, everybody looking
I have a portable charger that keeps my cellphone up and running when I have no access to an electrical outlet. So as I was about to board a flight recently, I hooked them up to ensure I would have enough battery life to make some necessary calls and check my messages when I reached Barbados.
On board, I was about to place my carry-on bags in the overhead bin and rested the phone and charger on an empty seat across the aisle from mine. Yet when I sat down and looked for them, to my horror they had both disappeared.
As happens in such situations, I began to doubt my memory and after frantically checking my pockets I assumed I had placed them in the overhead bin with my bags and not in the now completely empty seat across from mine.
I jumped up and opened the bin but a thorough search around and inside both bags revealed not a trace of belongings. Imagine the panic as I wondered if I had really not brought them on board but, rather, had left them in a duty-free shop or on the bar counter where I had had a cup of coffee in the terminal building or, worse yet, in the unknown taxi that had taken me to the airport.
In spite of these thoughts, deep inside I remained convinced about having had the phone connect to the charger and in my hand when I boarded and up to the time when I was about to place my stuff in the overhead bin. Fortunately, my daughter Kathy had accompanied me on the work assignment and was seated three rows behind doing some last-minute messaging on her own phone. Did she see mine? No, but I had when I boarded. Did she see what I did with it? No, but maybe I put it in a bag. I had already ruled out that possibility, so I asked her to call my number.
What happened next brought to mind an ancient wutless calypso from my childhood days about the confusion that broke out when a man lost his watch in a railway station. For, no sooner had Kathy fingered the number than my phone began ringing barely audible somewhere. It definitely was not from the overhead bins or my side of the aircraft. It was somewhere on the other side but so muffled I couldn’t tell from in or under which seat or row it was ringing.
There and then the chorus of that ancient calypso started singing in my head: “Tick-tock, everybody looking/Tick-tock, everybody searching/Tick-tock, everybody looking/But they can’t find out where the watch was hiding”.
So I hurriedly called one of the in-flight staff because I knew somebody on the plane had my phone and there was no way it was going to leave before I got it. As Kathy called and called and the phone rang and rang without anybody being able to detect where it was hiding, the perplexed flight attendant suggested I check the bags again, opened the overhead bin and immediately realised, as I had told me, that the sound was coming from behind us, on the other side. Then, as we turned in that direction, a young lady in the seat next to the previously empty seat asked, “Is this what you are looking for?”
Miracle or all miracles, my phone and charger that had disappeared into thin air had reappeared on the no longer empty seat.
Coincidentally, in the calypso it was also a woman who revealed the man’s watch when nobody could find out where it was hiding.
• Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm.