The frat boys prattled on and on about their coitus conquests across three rows of seats, but I was unfazed.
Somehow our Madrid flight was scary empty and the trio of college boys en route back from a spring break sojourn were animated with youth and excitement. They spread their lanky limbs across the rows, two-three-two seating style, and yelled back and forth to each other while flight attendants just barely looked on. Sitting directly behind this group was a freezing cold, headached me, but I reached into my carry-on and unrolled my little blue cap. I secured it to my head over mounds of fluffy, un-brushed hair, pulled it down over my eyes, and allowed the rocky flight to lull me into a five-hour slumber all the way back to New York. It wasn’t much to look at, a vintage styled blue, white and orange Mets cap, the team logo in recognizable Mets font embellished the front of the hat, nothing on the back. I found it in a discount bin at Target on a grocery run and tossed it into my carriage to wear to a game that week: one of the 6 games R.A. Dickey lost this season and the game that pretty much signaled the end to the team’s play off dreams. But its ability to fold into miniscule triangles and shield my eyes from the horror of horny youth made it some kind of magic during my travels.
It quickly became my travel security blanket. You know. That idea you always keep packed because you never know when you’ll need it. The one clothing item that fits almost every occasion. The totem that reminds you of home during a sticky layover, or a tricky housing arrangement. It wasn’t old and didn’t have much history, but it was mine and I couldn’t be more comfortable.
Three continents and too many airports later, I found myself on a Jucy Cruize in the middle of Milford Sound. Hat on head, hood over it, I was nervy of the chances of sea sickness, excited to witness animals in their real habitats and completely and totally out of money; New Zealand is expensive, but worthwhile. The wind whipped against my face, and my hand, gripping an iPhone forever opened to the Camera+ app, was white knuckled and the skin cracked from the weather. I looked out over the side of our little cruise ship to the number of “temporary falls” dotting the rocky skyline of the sound. It was pouring rain and my hat was, again, shielding me from the necessary travel evils… and then, like R.A. Dickey giving in on that day so many months ago, disaster struck.
I can’t tell you exactly what happened, because it all happened so fast. I stepped forward but my body was pushed back in an icy spray. My hood, ripped back from my head, my glasses pushed halfway down my face. And as I pushed them up, I caught just enough time to see my little blue, white and orange cap sail into the wind and disappear into the dark sound beneath the ship. It took a minute for me to realize what had happened, what with a now cold head and all. But, it was gone. My travel security blanket was gone.
I absolutely could have used that hat during a freezing walk around Queenstown. Or, it would have been fantastic in keeping out the overhead lights on my fourteen-hour flight home. What I really missed, though, was the companionship of this (admittedly inanimate) object that had become a part of my routine. Passport? Check. Bandaids? Check. Hat? Not anymore. It was off somewhere, drifting further and further into the Tasman Sea, much like R.A. Dickey’s chances of winning the Cy Young award this year from that first game onward.
It’s funny how even those of us who are completely willing to toss all of our belongings to head out into the world can be phased by the loss of one little thing, a crazy but possibly relevant feeling.
What have you lost along the way?