Laptops, Jobs, Airports

I never planned to carry the laptop. The 15” Macbook Pro was intended to be left on my desk at work—like a dying patient perched on a translucent stand and with cords snaking to high-end gadgets. Yet being a good employee at the startup, I reluctantly agreed to work remotely, while I visited friends in Pittsburgh in the February winter.

During layovers, taxi rides, and interminable gate delays, I took conference calls while hunched over my laptop and cranked out document after document. Beyond a meal with friends and a short roadtrip to see the groundhog at Punxsutawney, I stared at my screen...moving pixels and typing meaningless text. 

On the way to my 8:55 AM return flight to Oakland, I declared to my friend, “My job isn’t for me.”

At security, I prepared for my usual routine. Four bins. One for my backpack and bag. Another for my wearable accessories—the sunglasses, the hat, the scarf, the winter peacoat. The third for shoes and liquids. Finally one bin solely for the laptop.

Gathering everything together, I rode the tram from the landside terminal to the airside terminal. I loved the tram—transporting me from the banal everyday world to a world of endless travel possibilities.

At the gate, this whole weekend gnawed at me—management’s demands, the lack of clarity, and the ambiguous product goal. I made a promise to myself—I will quit in six months.

Satisfied with my decision, I leaned back in the blue seat, peeled my banana, and watched as passengers tumbled out of the arriving airplane. Couples in matching black peacoats. Students with books in their arms and pens in hand. A small child clutching his mother’s hand as they walked along the tall windows overlooking the tarmac.

Suddenly, my mind shuddered as I heard the announcement.

“Jennifer Ng, please return to security to retrieve your lost item,” a voice boomed over the loudspeaker.

My name. Thrusting my hands through my bags, confusion settled through me as I searched for the missing item.

Wallet. Check. Phone. Check. Camera. Check. Scarf. Hat. Sunglasses. Check. Check. Check.

The laptop.

I spotted the empty padded space where it typically inhabited. As I grumbled, I asked the Southwest representative at the counter about timing.

“You have less than twenty minutes,” she said.

I spun around and grabbed my bags. Sprinting down the long corridor with dazzling diamonds from Swarovski and proud displays of Steelers regalia, I shot down the escalator to the tram. Here, my eyes pleaded with the arrival signs. “Next train: 5 minutes.” 

Please come, please come, please be early, I’ll never do this again, please!

When the tram arrived, I shot laser glares at slow-moving, weary travelers. In my head, I calculated the next 20 minutes. Five minutes until the tram. Two minutes to security from the tram. One minute for communication. Two minutes back to the tram. Five minutes from the tram to my gate. If all goes well, I will be back at the gate with five minutes to spare.

Once the doors opened, I bolted out to security, dodging around families, businessmen, and black rollaways. Breathless, I ran up to the security line where I had trudged through only 30 minutes prior.

“My name is Jennifer Ng, and I think I left my laptop here,” I said, pulling out my driver’s license.

 “You are lucky,” said the TSA officer as he pulled out the 15” Macbook Pro.

“Thank you!” I exclaimed and ran back to the tram.

It was true. I was lucky. I got the laptop back (fortunately, my name was on the login screen). I made it to my gate with five minutes to spare as I had envisioned. No weather delays. No unruly or annoying passengers on the plane. The flight arrived at Oakland International Airport without incident.

The following Monday, my luck followed me to an early morning meeting where my manager said, “We are sorry to inform you that your position will be eliminated.”

Without hesitation, I returned the laptop.


Jennifer Ng is a writer in San Francisco. She is traveling the world to chronicle ice cream destinations for an Ice Cream Travel Guide.

Categories: Airports, Security

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