Pick up hefty carry-on bag. Grab suitcase handle and align wheels for forward motion. Shuffle two steps. Realign suitcase wheels for no forward motion. Set hefty carry-on bag down to relieve shoulder. Watch gap open up ahead of me in check-in line. Sigh. And repeat.
With my brain in neutral, it’s just a routine check-in experience. Until it isn’t.
Flipping through my stack of cards for a photo ID, I pass my bank cards and come to my healthcare card. That’s odd. Where’s my driver’s license?
Flipping more slowly through the stack, I pass bank cards, healthcare card, and frequent-flier cards—Air Canada, Eddie Bauer, Shoppers Drug Mart—in increasing agitation. There is no driver’s license.
Flipping through my cards a little faster produces the same result. Flipping through my cards back to front? The same.
Now at the front of the line, I’m breathing fast and shallow. I try to get a grip. This is ridiculous. My license must be loose in my purse somewhere. But as I wait for the next agent, a shaky-hands check of my purse pockets turns up . . . nothing. Yikes: This isn’t good.
My ears aren’t working quite right: Everything is echoey, and when I get up to the counter I have to ask the airline checker-inner to repeat things. Clutching my boarding pass so I don’t lose that, too, I move to a blue vinyl armchair where a complete emptying of my purse turns up . . . nothing. Dagnab it.
A frantic examination of my entire carry-on bag turns up . . . nothing. Shit.
A call to the Big Guy and his roadside search of our rental car in Calgary turns up . . . nothing. Oh. My. God.
My head is buzzing. This can’t be happening.
But it is. I’m en route from Calgary to Vancouver, and I have no driver’s license. With my healthcare card I can board the plane, all right, but I can’t pick up my rental at the far end. Without wheels, how will I manage the logistics of my visit to my mother, or my subsequent stopover in Edmonton?
The next few hours are surreal. My eyes join my ears on strike: Everything is a little out of focus.
Unable to let it go (“Maybe if I look just one more time . . .”), I undertake several more searches of my belongings and pockets, turning up . . . nothing.
The last time I remember having my driver’s license in my hand, the Big Guy was handing it back to me when we picked up the rental car in Calgary, all of four days previously.
I put it away in its accustomed spot, right? I check that stack of cards again.
Finally landing in Vancouver, I check my phone for messages. Nothing. I call the Big Guy anyway.
Against any reasonable expectation, I had put my license in the glove compartment along with the rental agreement, where said license then hid at the bottom, yielding only to a meticulous search. A day later, I have it in my hands again and breathe easy. After all, we’re done, right?
Over the next few weeks I find myself giving my driver’s license unaccustomed love, checking for it in its accustomed spot every few days, just because.
Because I no longer take its presence for granted.
Because I no longer take my habits for granted.
“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?”