Hurricane Irene was on her way, and because of dire and hyperbolically pumped up predictions on every weather channel, my partner and I decided to cut our upstate vacation short. The airports were all being closed and we didn’t want to get stranded outside of New York City with no way to get back in. It already happened during 9/11 which marooned us Manhattanites on our own island for five days with no way on or off the island. Cell phone service was down then, too and we knew our families were worried about us. Now, ten years later, we didn’t want to get trapped again, this time upstate a few hours away.
Luckily, we were able to scramble aboard the last Metro North train upstate that would bring us into Grand Central Station just minutes before all mass transit was ordered to eject passengers and board up the system in preparation for Irene’s arrival. The excitement of the impending storm charged the air between passengers and the beleaguered employees of the train as this official directive, unprecedented in the history of our city, went into effect. A few hours later, our train pulled into Grand Central Station exactly five minutes before noon, the mayor’s cut-off time for all mass transit to shut down.
We were all whisked off the train in a frenzy by the conductors who were ready to board up the station. Once out onto the street, my partner and I walked briskly through an all-but-abandoned city, pre-storm wind devils already whipping up the street litter into aerial eddies. The sky was a menacing shade of gray as we hurried home, our vacation luggage hanging off us or strapped and bouncing along like we were overly-laden pack mules. Once safely back in the apartment, we put our things away and I decided to get a few last minute e-mails sent off in case we lost power, as was predicted we would.
But where was the new Mac? I was writing on her only minutes ago as we pulled into Grand Central Station so she must be here somewhere….I tore through our luggage pile with help from my partner, but didn’t turn up the burgundy computer bag. I started to panic. All my work was locked inside the files of that new laptop. One more frantic search through the apartment, we were like small wind storms ourselves, turning over every piece of anything in our apartment. But our searching yielded nothing. A deep defeat swept through me; I felt myself slump down onto the cluttered floor and cry like a child, head in my hands when I realized she was gone. Left behind on the train. Lost, my new $2500. computer.
My partner wisely got out of the way of my impending freak-out about all the documents stored on that laptop, all my work of the past few months, and no, the documents were not backed up. Once alone in the room, I sat down on the bed and fell into a state of bleak despair that I’d have to start all over again creating new work documents. And on top of the bills from vacation that would be coming in, I’d now have to shell out a hefty chunk of change to replace my Mac on top of everything. I felt so stupid. How could I have rushed like that, leaving behind possibly the most important piece of luggage we had?
Frantically searching for a way to find some compassion for myself and desperately trying not to hiss at my partner for what surely wasn’t his fault, but dang it, why didn’t he notice the Mac was left behind on the seat…I was exhausting myself. I finally just resigned myself to accepting this big loss. Only thing was, I didn’t feel she was really gone. Somehow she felt like she was hovering nearby. So I searched again. But once again, nothing turned up.
I gave up and powering up the PC on our desk, I filed a Lost and Found report with the Metropolitan Transit Authority. When I submitted it, the site electronically lobbed back a reply saying I’d get an e-mail me if anything matching the description of my lost article was turned in. Fat chance, I told myself.
I felt so cut off, so utterly helpless without access to my work and the interview notes I needed to interview Dr. Robert Jensen the next day. It was an interview I’ve dreamed of procuring for over 3 years now. I spent half the night recomposing the interview notes from memory while outside our windows, the hugely anticipated end-of-the-world storm ended up being nothing more than some wind and a little rain. Nothing unusual at all. All that rushing about caused by the weather channel’s predictions caused me to lose my computer. Now, the storm was a veritable bust in Manhattan. Ergh! E.r.g.h.h.h.h.h.!!
I e-mailed my MacVangelist friend Terre, who has such a deep connection with her Mac Laptop that if there were such a thing as a prayer warrior for Lost Macs, she would surely be it. I laid my tale of woe on her. She said she’d put in a Lost Mac prayer….and then said, “You know, Lili, she doesn’t feel gone. I dunno. I think she’s nearby.” I got a shudder of goosebumps. Terre’s not one to throw metaphysical bon mots around. Far from it. I took some hope from her prescient comment.
The next day, I completed my interview with Dr. Jensen which buoyed me incredibly. His brilliant intellect, his enormous heart, his clear insights all helped lift me up over the top of my despair that I’d been thoughtless enough to leave my beautiful new computer on a train. I felt “right” with the world again.
The next day, the sun came blazing up over the skyline in a show of surreal clarity, a crisp brightness seen here only in early September. I walked through Central Park on my way to my Spiritual Counseling session, faraway in thought about my session in a few minutes. As I walked through the sun-filled park, my phone suddenly buzzed to inform me an e-mail had come in. Should I answer it? It’s probably only twitter, or someone needing something from me, or else a bill come due. I clicked on the envelope icon and saw it was from the Metropolitan Transit Authority. What? No……
Sure enough, there it was: Please come in and retrieve your lost item which has been turned in.
No way. No way!!!! The Mac’s only been gone 36 hours! And there was such mayhem at the station! MTA employees were undoubtedly insanely busy trying to restore the train systems back to normal. How could…? Wait! Pinch me!
I floated through the Counseling session, then just about flew down to the MTA Lost and Found office. The employee there asked me for my claim number and some ID, which I produced while she disappeared around the corner into another room.
In my head, I heard a thousand competing voices: It won’t be your item. It’ll be your item but the computer will be gone and only yesterday’s newspaper will be there. It’ll be your bag and your computer will be there, but someone will have hacked into it and rendered it unusable. Life is full of hardship. Life is full of thieves and low-lifes. We’re in a recession; anyone could sell that laptop for at least a grand. Someone sold it and replaced it with a piece of junk in your bag. Maybe there are good people. I should keep hope alive. I hate this feeling of powerlessness more than anything in life. Burgundy computer bags are a dime a dozen. Life is filled with difficult knocks. Maybe there are some honest people out there.
And in the midst of the cacophony of competing voices, the employee reappeared holding my computer bag. Oddly, I still felt nothing; except that I was in some kind of dream. Till she handed the bag to me and the weight of it betrayed my Mac was safely inside. And there was yesterday’s newspaper.
And all of a sudden, I felt a seizing in my throat, the impulse to burst out in tears. Averting my eyes which were quickly filling up, I took a moment. I tried to breathe deeply. I couldn’t speak for a few seconds, but then I looked up at her and she “got it” too, and we both just connected in that moment in a deep, unspoken, “THANK YOU” and “You are welcome”.
I walked away and when I could compose myself with enough certainty that I wouldn’t break down in tears again, I returned to her window and properly thanked her, explaining that all my work was inside. She smiled warmly at me. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was thinking that moments like this made her job worth doing every day.
I leaned against a wall and immediately texted Terre, thanking her for the prayers, and that my Mac was safely back home. She texted back, “I knew she’d come back to you”. Thank you, Terre! Thank you, thank you.
I texted another friend who, when I’d told him yesterday the Mac was gone, had said, “Say goodbye to that toy! You ain’t never seeing that again!!”
To him, I texted only, “Oh ye of little faith”.
And then I enjoyed his flurry of texts back, expressing disbelief that the Mac had really been returned.
I didn’t feel compelled to reply to any of them.
There are good people in this world. They are moving right alongside us in all the frantic busyness and today, I know this anew. There are good people in this world. I must remember that to keep faith is always the most important thing. The Universe is always more generous with me than I’m willing or able to give it credit for. When will I let go into the reality that the Universe is full of wondrous surprises? When will I surrender more into that knowing? When will I believe that some goodness is always set aside and earmarked just for me?
And now that I’ve been ‘tested’ on how serious I am about the manuscript I tucked inside my Mac’s files, I’ve gotta run. There’s a book I’m writing that’s waiting to be finished. I think I can feel a small band of invisible angels at my side, urging me ever onward.