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  • I recently traveled to Ohio for a writers' conference. On the return flight--tired from a week in a kind of boot camp of writing and meetings--I left my plane-checked bag planeside. I know better. If I'd had an ounce of brainpower left to process that decision, I would have realized I misunderstood the flight attendant. I thought she said that plane-checked bags would be transferred, but of course, there would be no way for them to know where my next flight connected. She had been so chipper on the flight, I didn't want to interact with her long enough to confirm what I heard. Stupid.

    My mistake occurred to me in the air over Nashville, and I began evaluating the odds of my bag still being in Memphis, and of recovering it with my laptop stored inside.

    To make matters worse, I had plans that evening to meet the photographer I've recently started dating. (For those of you who have been following my stories, he's still interested.) Thus came a defining moment in our relationship. Dare I show up without makeup, in sneakers and travel-friendly gym shorts? I had heels in the bag I left behind, a pair of fitted jeans, a sleeveless sweater. I still hold out hopes of wooing him, of course.

    I called from the airport to warn him that I wasn't dressed for a restaurant like we'd planned. He said he figured I might be tired and planned ahead to prepare a meal at home. When I showed up, he insisted that I sit and relax while he brought sushi to me, replete with small pottery dishes for wasabi. I felt positively tended.

    We sat on the porch at sunset, drinking pink clouds of sake in the shade. We had crossed over into something--perhaps only the good sense to accept each other, life's little jumbles. After we'd finished most of the platter, he asked how I liked it, admitting that he'd had to resort to grocery store sushi. They have in-store chefs, but still, he had asked his work buddies about its acceptability on the fifth date with a "lovely lady." They were divided about it. He and I were not.

    Delta Airlines returned my bag to me the next afternoon. I explained to a woman on the phone in Memphis that my laptop was in the front pouch, and I worried about it being checked. She took the laptop out and put it in my suitcase, covering it with my clothes. It's humbling when a stranger is so generous and you have no way to repay them.
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