We were in the 26th row of the plane and remained relaxed and seated, as is our custom, watching the final passengers trail out. With only the flight attendant behind us, we got up to retrieve our belongings from the overhead compartment.
“Somebody’s left their shoes here, ” A. said. I peered up and saw a blue shoe. “Let’s tell her,” we agreed and he turned to the flight attendant, “Someone’s left their shoes behind.” She approached and reached in. “Only one shoe! Ah no, here’s the other one.”
A pair of blue sports shoes with funny blocks on the soles. They looked brand new. “Are they golf shoes?” she asked us. “There were golfers sitting here.” We raised our brows and shrugged, neither of us play or know much about golf.
“What will you do with them?” A. enquired.
“Oh, I guess we’ll take them back to Prague,” she replied. I can’t remember whether we actually said something or it was just our looks of disbelief that prompted her to add, “I’m not sure, I’ll have to ask my colleague.”
Civic duty completed, we walked on and conferred. It didn’t make sense to take them back, we surmised, but maybe the colleague would say something different.
As I walked down the aisle, I recalled how I’d lost my scarf on the second leg of our last trip, somewhere in the airport or plane. I hadn’t managed to find it again. I also remembered how I’d found a wallet on the flight home. It had fallen down the side of a seat and I’d spotted it on our way out. I’d picked it up and dutifully handed it to the flight attendants, who were very surprised and grateful. As we’d neared the luggage belt, it occurred to A. that that we might be able to spot the person there from their I.D. so we turned back to look for the attendant. Alas, he told us that he’d already handed it in to the lost-and-found. We both felt somewhat disgruntled, wondering if the person would think of looking there – we hoped so. A. had wondered, why didn’t they say something over the tannoy? What an unfortunate and inconvenient way to start a holiday, or come back home.
We were at the plane’s exit and I paused, “Why don’t we take them with us and put them on the luggage belt?” I asked A.. “Good idea!” We stopped and turned towards the aisle, the attendant was making her way down.
“Can I help you?” The male attendant or co-pilot sounded irritated at our dawdling. “Oh, I just wanted to speak to your colleague,” I replied. As she joined us, I explained to them both and the man’s demeanour changed considerably.
“It’s a good idea. Very kind of you to do that.”
We were handed the shoes and started walking fast, hoping their owner would still be there. Upon closer inspection the shoes looked brand new. They were very light and there was a black shoe bag inside a white plastic bag with a logo on it.
It seemed likely they’d been purchased at duty free and their owner had forgotten all about them, I mused, as we rushed through the airport.
As we arrived at the belt, there still seemed plenty of people around. We went to the beginning of the belt and I set the shoes carefully on top of the black bag, with the white plastic bag held underneath, logo visible, to attract the eye and hopefully remind the owner of their purchase.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw my own suitcase emerge next. I smiled happily at this cute coincidence as I pulled it towards me and stood there, watching to see what would happen. I saw A. retrieve his rucksack and walk towards me. The shoes made their way round the loop. I saw some women point at them and laugh. Then a couple of men pointed, said something and scooped them up! Yes!! It had worked!
I decided to approach the man and asked if they were his shoes. He told me they belonged to his friend and pointed to a man walking towards us in the distance. He said that his friend was quite scatty and had just bought them. He asked where he’d left them and we explained. He thanked us and we went on our way. I felt happy.
It is not so much about those blue trainers but the action, the choices I/we made. As things go, I’d have rather seen the wallet return to its rightful owner, than the shoes. There’s nothing I could do about that though – but I was in time with the blue shoes. My initial reaction is to defer to authority, trust the (official) system. However, as A. and I had observed, that system is somewhat lacking; not efficient or well thought out.
Our good intentions and idea trumped the system’s – we really cared. When I walked away after handing the shoes over to the attendant I did not feel satisfied. When the idea came, I acted in that moment. All to often I have failed to do this, which is why these blue trainers are so important to me. They are proof and a reminder for me that acting in the moment, following that impulse or inner guidance, really does lead to rewards. All too often I have put my faith in “the system” and diligently followed the rules.
There are important lessons for me here.
The sweet synchronicity of my suitcase appearing right next to the shoes as I put them down is the icing on the cakes.
Last, but not least, the reminder that we can learn from anyone or anything.
1 a person who trains people or animals. a racehorse owner and trainer. teacher trainers. a fitness trainer.
• informal an aircraft or simulator used to train pilots.
2 Brit. a soft sports shoe suitable for casual wear. a decent pair of trainers.