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It wasn’t generally how I spend a Wednesday morning – inspecting the nooks and crannies of the exteriors of airplane hangars, which neatly line up one right after another along the runway at Los Alamos County Airport.
If I hadn’t been so fixated on spotting a peculiar lump or bump on the smooth asphalt, I would have probably appreciated the cool morning breeze and the perfect cloudless sky.
I would have enjoyed the fact that I was spending at least a few minutes of the morning in the fresh air rather than in the office.
None of these details registered that Wednesday morning. I had lost something and I was determined to recover it.
The previous evening, while conducting an interview at the airport, I was generously offered a short ride in one of the pilot’s airplanes. The pilot took a trial run of the flyover, which was performed during the July 4 celebrations. Los Alamos certainly looked beautiful from far up in the sky, with the sun setting and all the colors of the mesa becoming richer and more vibrant.
Like a tourist, I furiously pressed the shutter button on my camera, trying to capture the beauty that filled the plane’s windows.
My camera is a pretty conventional point-and-shoot digital camera. It’s small and compact; in fact, recently, I heard my camera being referred to as a “pancake.”
The camera is so thin and small that I barely feel its weight when I hold it in my hand or carry it around in my purse.
So it wasn’t until much later that night when I sat down at my computer to download my photos that I realized my camera wasn’t in its usual drawer.
I checked the typical places – the other desk drawers, my purse, the closet and then my car.
The camera wasn’t in any of these places. Then I looked in the unusual spots – the bathroom towel rack, the laundry basket, underneath the bed, the shelves in the fridge. No luck. I ran through the events of the evening. I had stuffed the camera back into its case when the plane landed, that much was clear, but I couldn’t remember if I had it in my hands from the time I exited the plane to the time I walked through my apartment door.
Suddenly it dawned on me that I might have dropped the camera in the pilot’s airplane. It was already pitch black outside but I called my contact for the story to explain my ordeal. The man kindly agreed to relay my message to the pilot.
I figured I would just have to wait until the morning to see if my hypothesis was correct, but the pilot called me right back and told me he would drive to the airport and look through his plane.
I prayed that the camera was there. Not only for my sake, but I really didn’t want to have someone go out in the middle of the night to look for something I had dumbly misplaced and then have their time be completely wasted because it wasn’t there.
Turns out my fears were realized. The camera wasn’t in the plane. My last idea was that I had left the camera in the car, which belonged to a woman who had given me a ride back to the airport parking lot when the flight was finished.
As fate would have it, the woman works with the pilot at Los Alamos National Laboratory and he promised to ask his co-worker about the missing camera the next day. Leaving my camera in the car may have been my last logical option but another part of me wondered if I had simply let the camera slip from my fingers and fall, somewhere, on the airport runway. This is what led me to scour the hangars the next morning. The airport manager was nice enough to accompany me while I prowled around the area. He talked about the number of airplanes located on the hangar and how he knew a young female pilot who was featured in an airplane calendar while I searched in vain for a small, navy blue camera case.
It was another dead end. So while I waited anxiously for a phone call from the woman, I began to ponder how much a new camera would cost.
But there was no need to start saving pennies for a replacement. The woman delivered the camera, which had fallen between the car seat and the door. This story could be many things. It could be an example of my carelessness or another piece of evidence of my ability to obsessively fixate on things. But I prefer to think of it as something else.
It’s a testament to the good nature and graciousness of those who work at the airport or use its facilities. For a second, I considered sending every individual involved in this debacle a thank-you card. But a public acknowledgment seems more appropriate.
So to everyone involved – thank you.