“Did you pack this bag yourself?”

I’ve always been an optimistic person. But there are times when optimism can have its downside. For instance, optimists tend to be late for things because they assume nothing will go wrong en route to their destination, which is often the exception rather than the rule.

Such was the case the day I moved from Atlanta, GA to New York City on a hot and humid morning in July 2005.

I’m standing at the curbside check-in counter at the Atlanta airport, sweat collecting on my brow as I lean over my two enormous suitcases.

“They’re overweight,” the agent said. “Step aside and try to redistribute the weight into your carry-on.”

I silently berate myself for packing too much, but then again, what do you leave behind when you’re moving your life to a new and unfamiliar place?

After a few minutes of frantic shuffling, sorting and re-packing, I put the bags on the scale one more time, holding my breath and praying it would be enough. At last, the agent told me I was good to go.

My Dad had taken me to the airport that day and wanted to see me off properly. He stood behind the partition leading to the long security line, crowded with hundreds of people trying to make their own flights.

I bite nervously at my nails, look down at my watch and slowly make my way towards the front of the line.

Finally, it’s my turn to go through. As I wait for my bag on the other side, I hear one of the security agents call out, “Who’s planning to fix a car?” Bewildered, I look from side to side at the other travelers and shrug. But then I realize it was my floral, quilted Vera Bradley duffel bag the man was holding.

He’s a tall, kind, grandfatherly-looking man, not the typical gruff TSA agent. I raise my hand to indicate that the bag is mine. He smiles and gestures for me to step to a nearby table.

“Did you pack this bag yourself?” he asks.

“Yes” I said. My mind races through the contents of the bag. Some clothes, toiletries, picture frames, books… Basically, a mish-mash of whatever wouldn’t fit into my suitcases.

The man glances over his shoulder at the X-ray image, cautiously pokes around in my bag and then pulls out – of all things – a pair of pliers.

“And what do you plan to do with these, miss?”

In a true face-palm moment, I suddenly remember the bag of miscellaneous housewares that I must have stuffed into my duffel at the last minute.

“Well,” I tell him honestly, “You see, I’m moving to the big city – New York City – today and well, thought I might need some pliers when I got there.”

The man can’t help but laugh – neither could I – though the problem still remains that I have a pair of pliers in my hand and a plane impatiently waiting for me at the gate.

Then I remember my Dad, who was still dutifully looking on from behind the partition.

I run over to him and shove the pliers into his hands.

“Why on earth do you have these?” Now it’s his turn to look bewildered.

“Well, I’m moving to the big city! I thought I might need them for something.” I say sheepishly.

He takes the pliers and waves me off one last time, a big grin spreading on his face.

Finally through the security line and only minutes to spare, I run down the forever long terminal hallway, making it to my gate just as the flight starts to board.

I see my best friend nervously waiting for me as I approach the gate out of breath, holding my awkwardly bulky and heavy duffel bag in both arms.

“Where have you been? I thought I was going to have to leave without you!”

“Ugh! My bags were too heavy, so I had to repack them. Then security found some pliers in my duffel so I had to take them back to Dad. And I just didn’t expect it to take so long!”

“Wait, pliers? Why did you pack pliers?”

“Well… we’re moving to the big city! I thought we might… need pliers one day.”

I can’t help but smile when I think back to that day. In case you hadn’t guessed, we made the flight and I’ve lived in New York City ever since – about a decade longer than I had expected. In that time, I’ve had multiple roommates, apartments and I’m sure a few things to fix along the way as I moved from place to place.

Looking back though, I wonder, why did such an optimistic young woman move to NYC assuming that things will go wrong? Then again, maybe I actually knew deep down that things would go right.

© Sarah Porwoll 2018

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