We’re back in Lisbon, more or less in one piece, although the past 24 hours has felt much like a bad country song, played first forward and then in reverse. Many comically bad things happened, life was a litany of sorrows this morning, then first one thing the next fell into place, until by late this afternoon, normality has more or less been restored.

Or rather it will be, once I get a full night’s sleep. Right now I am still the kind of tired where it feels like you’re physically sinking into the ground. Even so, between one thing and the next, sleep has proven difficult today. Isn’t that always the way?

Our flights back from Tel Aviv were both smooth and simple, the layover in Madrid not too short but not too long. We slept for most of the hour long hop from Madrid to Lisbon, as by the time we landed, it was 11 PM Lisbon time, 1 AM Israel time. Remembering the long line we got stuck in through immigration last time, we hustled through the airport to get ahead of the rest of the passengers, only to find that since it was an inter-EU flight, we didn’t need to go through passport control. We felt rather silly for having hurried, especially when we got to the designated luggage carousel and found it not even moving yet. Sigh.

When it eventually did start turning, we were delighted when Gabe’s was one of the first suitcases off the line, as were those of another couple who had been on both planes with us from Tel Aviv. Mine, however, proved more reticent to make its grand return to Lisbon. So we waited, and waited. And waited. Person after person got their bags: the two American businessmen who had immediately whipped out their Blackberries on landing; the pair of well-dressed American girls on a weekend break; the stylish young woman with blunt bangs and blue Sergeant Pepper-style jacket who had sat in front of me on the plane. Unwilling to give up on my poor little suitcase, I watched the last lonely bag on the belt get claimed by a young Portuguese mother, whom I had seen feeding her dark-haired toddler peach juice through a straw in the Madrid airport.

After a desultory tour of the other carousels, we finally admitted the ugly truth: my bag was not there. It was by then nearly 11:30 PM. With a sigh of resignation, we took the inevitable number to wait in line for the Lost and Found office, which somehow managed to have a long queue even at that late hour. Welcome back to Portugal — nothing like a long line and inefficient service to make you feel right at home.

We were joined in our waiting by a gaggle of noisy Portuguese teens and their middle-aged mothers, who it appeared had lost multiple bags, as each one of the kids had to go in separately and give a description. Their compatriots, totally undaunted by the late hour, sat on the empty carousel nearby, giggling, shouting, eating ice cream, and generally making an already miserable situation even worse.

Finally they all cleared out, and the Canadian father and daughter pair whose nicely packed and very expensive bike had been way-laid en route from London claimed their spot at the desk. Our turn was next, and midnight was fast approaching. That ungodly hour (2 AM in Israel) came and went, and finally we went in to make our claim. The man entered my bag number into the system, and immediately said, “It’s still in Madrid. They’ll put it on the first flight out and deliver it tomorrow afternoon.”

He said it so matter of factly, as if it were no big deal. It really wasn’t, because obviously we live here and I have other clothing, although I did regret having decided to put my computer’s power cord in my checked luggage. Still, I have to ask: How the hell does a bag just get left behind? How do you just forget about someone’s possessions? More importantly, how did it get separated from Gabe’s bag, which was checked in at the exact same same time and place? Ridiculous. I will admit that this is the first time in many years of traveling that I’ve lost a bag though, so all in all, I’ve been lucky to go this long. But really, could it not have been any other flight than the one that arrived at 11 PM?!

After waiting for nearly an hour, the entire exchange took us less than five minutes, after which we practically ran through the deserted airport, so eager were we to get a cab and get home. We arrived here without further mishap, went to bed even later, and slept not as late as I would’ve liked this morning.

When I woke up, I had to laugh at the overall situation. I had gone to sleep close to 4 in the morning Israel time, and even after two cups of coffee, I could barely see straight. Even if I had been functioning, I didn’t really have anything to do other than spin my wheels. I had no luggage, so I couldn’t unpack, and no power cord for my quickly dying computer, so I couldn’t work or write. I couldn’t go anywhere, as both my phone and house keys had gone with my mom in case she needed to get back into our flat if her flight was canceled yet again. Our water heater hasn’t been working properly since after we came back from Morocco, which meant I couldn’t start on the piles of laundry that were overflowing onto the floor.

Knowing that there was all of this remaining to be done, I couldn’t just relax or go back to sleep, especially since the handyman, who had been unsuccessful at fixing the water heater this morning, had threatened to come back around lunch time. (And in Portugal, that could mean anywhere from noon until about 3 PM, thereby guaranteeing that he’d show up right as I drifted off.)

So I did what any normal person would do: I went to the gym. Can’t work, can’t sleep, can’t unpack or do laundry — what else am I gonna do? By the time I’d saunaed, showered, and come home to eat, the handyman had showed up again, and — miracle of miracles — actually fixed the water heater. Yippee! While he was doing that, the postman showed up with a package containing my phone and keys, sent by my wonderfully efficient sister in law from England. Phone: check. Hot water: check. Things were looking up.

Now for the bag. When we’d phoned earlier in the morning, we’d been told that it would be on the 3 PM transport, which in Portuguese reality meant it would arrive anywhere from 2:00 to 6:00 — thereby guaranteeing that I still couldn’t take a nap. Sigh. But it eventually did come, allowing me to finally unpack, replenish the now-diminished pile of laundry, and plug in my computer to write and check email. I still haven’t taken a nap, but that’s a minor issue.

Suddenly, life seems a whole lot more friendly.

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