A number of years ago, I went on holiday to foreign climes with a young lady of my acquaintance (you know the routine, I don’t name names).
After we’d flown out and checked into our hotel and all that kind of gubbins, it was lateish in the day, so we decided to go out for something to eat.
“Where are the passports?” she asked as we walked down the stairs to the hotel reception. “Have you got them?”
“No,” I replied. “They’re in the room.”
She stopped walking, and looked at me in a very stern way.
“They’re in the room,” I said again. “Not just left on the side or anything. I put them under a pillow on the bed – they’re too bulky to fit in my jeans.”
This was true.
“You do NOT leave passports in a hotel room,” she said firmly, and as she’d travelled more than I, I had to assume this was a travel truism I wasn’t aware of. “Go and get them. I’ll put them in my bag.”
“Okay,” I said, “but please don’t give me orders, or talk to me like that.”
She said nothing to that, just folded her arms and made it clear she wasn’t going anywhere. I went back up to the hotel room and got the passports, and handed them to her and she zipped them into her bag, and we went out for something to eat as planned.
The incident faded as the evening wore on, and then as the days passed and we had a good time, I’d pretty much forgotten it… until the last night of our holiday.
We were having a meal with a group of other people, and I was feeling strangely tired, though I suspect this was because I’d eaten a huge amount of the local food (in my defence, it was very tasty) and that every drop of blood in my body was diverting to my stomach to digest it. So I decided to turn in, and went back to the hotel room, and fell asleep almost immediately.
I was vaguely aware of some door-slamming noises in the early hours, but apart from that I pretty much slept through to the morning, and woke just in time to grab some breakfast. My companion was not in the mood for food, having … well, let’s say favoured the grape until the early hours, culminating in some sort of drinking contest at the bar next to the hotel’s rooftop pool. So she stayed in bed while I went off to eat.
When I returned to the room, she was not only up and about, but was in a state of some distress.
“The passports,” she said, looking harried. “I can’t find the passports.”
This was quite a problem, as we had about ten minutes before a minibus would to take us to the airport.
“O..kay,” I said levelly, and then, displaying the flair for logical deduction that has led so many to compare me to the famed London Consulting Detective, asked: “So where were they last?”
“In my bag,” she said. “I had them last night, I remember at the restaurant I had them, and then…” She looked around for her bag. “… oh, hang on,” she said, and went out of the room.
She came back a few minutes later, looking a bit red-faced, but not brandishing passports. Or her bag. Or anything else which a person might brandish, for that matter.
“I asked at reception,” she said, out of breath from running up the stairs. “They said they’d have a look on the roof, maybe behind the bar.”
“Right,” I said as neutrally as I could.
“But we’d better get packing, and head down to reception,” she added, and this was a good point – if the passports weren’t on the roof, they could be in the room, and so packing might turn them up.
It didn’t, though, and a touch under ten minutes later, we made our way down to reception.
“What if they don’t find it?” She said, as we added our bags to the pile starting to accumulate near the hotel entrance. “What are we going t-“
And then she was interrupted by the man from reception, who came over and, with a smile, handed over her bag.
“It was on the roof,” he said, “behind the bar.”
She thanked him repeatedly, and gave him a generous tip, and we got on the coach to the airport, and caught the ‘plane, and flew back to England, and so on.
I never said anything to her about it, either at the time or after the return to England; never suggested it was almost like justice for her being (what I considered to be) rude to me; I never said about how, if the passports had been in our hotel room that night they would actually have been safer than they turned out to be when left in her care, or even mentioned how it was, in its way, a perfect example of karma.
Because, in all honesty, at the time, I never felt particularly panicked about the situation; instead, I felt serenely unflustered by the turn of events – perhaps it was an almost Buddhist sense of calm brought on by the realisation that things would probably work out okay, or even if they didn’t there’d always be another flight, or even if I had to live in a foreign land forever, would it really be that bad ? Okay, so I only spoke a handful of words in the native tongue, and the water didn’t sit that well with my body’s system, but it wouldn’t be impossible to make a life for myself, after all.
And besides, any panicking on my part would have made my companion even more worried, and could by implication have appeared to have been me pointing the finger, which wouldn’t have helped the situation or made the passports materialise.
Then again, maybe I was relaxed about it because I had, as per a tip she appeared not to have picked up in her travels, made a photocopy of the important pages of my passport, which was tucked into a side pocket of my bag.