Thursday, August 24, 2017

What I Learned From a Bag of Fruit and Keys


I was only laid over in Beijing for an hour and a half. It was barely enough time to get my suitcase, take it through customs and re-check it to my final destination of Dalian.

And yet, Buddy came to the airport to say hello. 

He hugged me and said, “I brought you some fruit.” We stuffed the bag of fruit into my suitcase and then re-checked it. As it went through security the inspector called us over. The X-ray was showing a bag of metal hoops and chains and he wanted to know what it was. Buddy, the inspector and I stared at it for a few minutes, and then I finally recognized it as my bag of jewelry. I opened the suitcase, took out my jewelry and showed it to the inspector. Satisfied, he let my bag go through.

As the three of us stared at the X-ray image of my suitcase we were fixated on my bag of jewelry yet we totally missed another metal object in the opposite corner, which was actually much more troubling.

Buddy and I said goodbye and I made my way to the gate for my final flight. As I waited to board, I got a text from him.

“I think I left my keys in the bag with the fruit.” 

“Oh no! What do you want to do?” I asked. We were scheduled to board in a few minutes and the fruit was in my checked baggage.

“Check when you get to Dalian and if my keys are there just send them back to me,” Buddy said.

“Does someone have an extra set?” I asked.

“My sister,” he replied.

“I’m so sorry!” I said.

“It’s not your fault,” he said. “And it’s not a big deal.”

So Buddy took a half hour cab ride to his sister’s house to get the extra set of keys, then rode back to the airport to retrieve his car and drove back home. By the time he got back to his house I was already in the northeast corner of China.

And sure enough, I had his keys in my suitcase.

This is sort of how we operated when we were married. Life with us was a constant series of surprises, goof-ups, and snafus. We had too little time and tried to do too much. But we always managed to get ourselves untangled somehow.

Some people probably looked at us and shook their heads and thought how irresponsible and careless we were.  But here’s the thing.

It’s easy to find someone who knows where their keys are.

It’s not easy to find someone who will drive out at 8:00 at night to meet you in the airport for just a few minutes to give you a hug and a bag of fresh fruit.

And if you and that person can get through a marriage and a divorce and still want to say hello to each other when you’re in the same city, then I think that’s a win.

I think that saying yes to that person on that unseasonably cool day in August of 1997 was the right thing to do.

Things tangle and they untangle. Keys are lost and they are found. We are bound together and then torn apart.

And if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

It’s easy to find someone who knows where their keys are.

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