The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - UPFRONT -

Have you ever no­ticed that cer­tain places have por­tals through which lost items pass, dis­ap­pear­ing with­out a trace on their way to some par­al­lel uni­verse? School and hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions come to mind, but the por­tal that con­founds all at­tempts to pur­sue an ob­ject’s tra­jec­tory out of this world is found in aero­planes, gen­er­ally in the seat pocket. Have you ever left any­thing on a plane and re­cov­ered it? I have not. I’ve lost many things: a loved merino sweater, ex­pen­sive head­phones, spec­ta­cles and books, and a most pre­cious foun­tain pen.

The foun­tain pen was the one that did me in. It was a teeny Ger­man Mont­blanc that worked dili­gently over many years when­ever it wasn’t snug­gled up in its lit­tle Mont­blanc wal­let. I went to some trou­ble to pur­sue it. I rang lost prop­erty at Bris­bane air­port – there’s never any­one there but you can leave a mes­sage. I found out the plane went next to Ade­laide and checked lost prop­erty there. I fol­lowed its jour­ney for the rest of that day, leav­ing mes­sages at ev­ery air­port, hop­ing my pen had stayed with the plane, only to find it hadn’t; it had van­ished. Its lit­tle wal­let sat in my pen drawer gap­ing open for months un­til I threw it out, un­able to bear its empti­ness any longer.

Af­ter the pen, of no value to any­one but me – nibs bend over time to the writer’s hand – I de­vel­oped a view of air­line staff. Some­one told me they pinch lost prop­erty or sell it at auc­tion. Had some­one pock­eted my pocket pen? Had it been auc­tioned by the air­line to im­prove the bal­ance sheet? I dipt my soul in the ink of bit­ter­ness. And then I en­coun­tered Mal­colm Martin. I was due to fly to Syd­ney for a meet­ing one morn­ing. We pas­sen­gers were boarded and set­tled in when we learned that the flight was de­layed be­cause of bad weather.

The de­lay would make my al­ready short trip im­prac­ti­cal, so af­ter telling the flight at­ten­dant, I dis­em­barked with­out check­ing the seat pocket, called the client and went to the lounge to resched­ule the flight for the next day. With that done, I left the lounge to head for the car.

As I was cross­ing the road I heard my name. I turned around to see the Qan­tas staff mem­ber who’d as­sisted me in the lounge, Mal­colm Martin. He had my very ex­pen­sive lap­top un­der his arm. I’d left it in the lounge when I was look­ing up the client’s num­ber. Mal­colm had pur­sued me all the way out of the ter­mi­nal to re­turn it to me.

Mal­colm could eas­ily have had a new lap­top in­stead of chas­ing me – I’d never have re­mem­bered quite where I left it – but he wouldn’t even ac­cept money by way of thanks. It taught me that you can see the world through un­kind glasses if you want, but while things get lost, most hu­mans have good hearts.

And in that par­al­lel uni­verse, per­haps there’s a writer right now cre­at­ing some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary.

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