Epic airport nightmare tests beliefs about karma, payback

by DGO Web Administrator

“Karma’s a bitch.”

That’s the last thing I heard from the cabdriver before he drove away, leaving me standing outside a DoubleTree Hotel somewhere in Denver around midnight after having just realized that I had lost my wallet at Denver International Airport.

How I ended up at a DoubleTree somewhere in Denver at midnight on a Sunday was like Murphy’s Law, if Murphy had overdosed on human growth hormone.

I’d been at DIA for close to eight hours, my flight to Durango delayed one hour, every hour starting at 5 p.m. The initial cause of the delays was United’s countrywide computer meltdown. Then the delays were about our flight crew, which was stuck in Birmingham or Billingsworth or Beaverton. And considering the snow was being measured in feet in Durango, the chances of getting out of Denver that night were slim.

But wait! There’s the flight crew! After hours and hours of delays, I’m actually going to be home by 10! We board in record time. Even dillydalliers have a hustle in their step. We’re all buckled, overhead bins loaded and locked. Let us fly.

But wait! Somewhere between a plate in the baggage compartment needing repair, an unexpected need for more fuel, the fuel crew going to fuel the wrong plane, and the flight crew at the end of its allotted daily working hours, our flight is canceled after sitting on the plane for over an hour.

We all stood in customer service lines 20 deep to get vouchers (hotel, $20 in airport food, and two taxi vouchers, $50 each way, which was more than enough to get us to the hotel, the United employee assured).

My headaches were just beginning. Sitting at the airport for so long, then getting so close to takeoff, had infuriated and depleted me. I get in the cab: “Where you going?” “The DoubleTree.” “What’s the address?” I call the number on the voucher and relay the hotel address to the cabdriver. And then I sit and watch the fare tick upward. When it goes beyond the $50 my voucher allots, I reach into my bag to discover my wallet missing.

I’m panicking and the cabdriver says, “Which DoubleTree is it? There’s one on each side of the highway.” It’s the most I’ve snapped directly at a working person in some time: “I’ve been at the airport for eight hours. I gave you the address; it’s the best I can do,” I said. “My phone is dead. I’m sorry, I simply can’t do any more.”

At the hotel, we searched his cab with the light from his phone. I owed him $5 more than the voucher. Without my wallet, I said I had no way to cover the whole fare. And then the karma comment.

At the airport the next morning on three hours sleep, I managed to spend $18 on breakfast at McDonald’s, and after going through the extreme vetting the TSA requires of passengers without ID, another two hours of delays, we finally boarded and had an uneventful flight to Durango. But for some reason, I couldn’t shake the cabbie’s karma line. Had I deserved the travel catastrophes I’d encountered? Had I put so much negative energy into the world that it was catching up with me? Did I even believe in karma?

On one hand, our actions do come back to us. If I am kind to others, others will, by and large, be kind in return. But karmic beliefs where I lose my wallet as payback for something I’ve done are grossly simplistic, often confirming what I already think. When my confidence dips or self-esteem is low, when I’m not happy with my behavior and something bad happens, it’s easy, if illogical, to think I’m being punished for such things, especially when pointed out by a cabdriver I’d gotten snippy with. But what or who is supposedly punishing me? And if good things happened to good people, and bad things happened to bad people, the world would be a lot different.

On Sunday, two weeks after my wallet went missing, I received a call from the airport lost and found. They had my wallet, credit cards, driver’s license and each of the six bucks I had intact (I’ve never felt so good about procrastinating for a new license). I’m not saying this makes me any better of a person, but it sure helped my headache.

Oh, and the web address for the DIA lost and found? dia.great-karma.com. Take that, cabbie!

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