Lost In Transit – By Pete Day


In my long and interesting life I must have travelled many thousands of miles, by train, boat, plane and car, and other more unusual forms of transport, mostly on government assignments, with many trips of a private nature. These journeys have taken me to many countries throughout the world, tropical and temperate, and during all of those many journeys I cannot recall ever having had anything lost, stolen or strayed, or mislaid.

Perhaps I’ve been more fortunate than most travellers. But a close friend of mine, whom I shall refer to as 'Smith', which is as good an alias as any, has not been so lucky. As a matter of fact, he could hardly go anywhere without losing something. Perhaps his passport, or maybe a suitcase containing his shaving gear and personal items, even, once, his entire briefcase full of confidential government documents.

It was this last item that got him fast-tracked out of the service, and it all happened because of a media pest - a journalist. Because of this person, Smith was forced to resign and take early retirement 'on health grounds', as they say, although truthfully he was as healthy as you or I, or was until all this happened.

Whenever he embarked on a trip, those of us left in the office would lay bets on whether what he lost would be personal, private, somebody else's property, or something official. Sometimes, if we were feeling more than usually bored, we'd bet on what the lost item might actually be, but never did we bet on   IF   he would lose anything! That was almost a foregone conclusion.

How it came about was like this. Smith was returning home from official government business in Cairo and at the airport met up with the aforementioned hack in the bar whilst waiting for his flight. He knew this hack by sight, so they got chatting and passed a sociable half hour together. When the time came to board their plane (the journalist was travelling on the same flight) they were both quite sober, but it was then that things turned sour for Smith, even though at the time he was mercifully unaware of this.

Smith had previously carefully checked all his pockets for his wallet, passport, tickets etc, and everything was just as it should be. His official briefcase was chained to his wrist and secured with the government issued lock, the key to which was itself chained in a special hidden pocket inside his jacket, which, stifling though it was, Smith was wearing.

Whilst they were standing in the queue at the gate the loudspeakers suddenly announced there would be a 'short' delay to the flight due to a technical difficulty. Smith and the hack returned to the bar and spent the intervening time getting to know one another better. By the way, I did mention, didn't I, that the ‘hack’ was female? Well, be that as it may, she was, and quite attractive too; more so as time went on.

The air-conditioning in the airport bar was not too efficient and Smith was getting hotter and hotter, whilst his perspiring forehead was getting damper and damper. Eventually he was forced to take out his handkerchief to mop it. In doing so the spare key to his briefcase lock, which Smith in moment of carelessness had placed in the same pocket as the handkerchief, fell unnoticed to the floor. Unnoticed by Smith that is, but not by the beautiful blue eyes of the lady, who, when Smith made his excuses and left for the gents reached down and picked it up, carefully placing it inside her handbag.

Well, just as Smith returned to the bar and his companion, the tannoy announced that their flight was now ready. Once airborne, Smith felt in an expansive mood and, as his charming new acquaintance was able to move into the vacant seat beside him, he decided to celebrate a little. The lady, with her beautiful blue eyes fixed on his, insisted that she bought the drinks (on her expense account!) and after an hour or so and in good humour he fell asleep for the remainder of the flight. It wasn't until the plane had landed and the other passengers disembarked that Smith discovered that his companion had already left and he was the last passenger to leave.

It was even later that Smith realised that his briefcase was missing, something he had not noticed in his fuddled state when he left the plane.

What was he to do? His key was still chained to his pocket, but suddenly he remembered the second key, and also remembered where he had put it. Frantically searching through his pockets it slowly and hideously dawned upon him that this 'oh so pleasant lady', who so obviously had been so very impressed with him, had somehow got hold of this second key and used it to steal the briefcase from him while he slept.

Fortunately for Smith, the editor of her newspaper was a responsible person. When the lady, hoping for a sensational story, and promotion, gave him the stolen briefcase he immediately telephoned the Ministry and it was returned to its rightful owners.

So Smith was saved, even if his job wasn’t.

Poor Smith.

P.S. His wife wasn't too pleased with him either.