Long Strange Trip

After the festivities, of which more later, I set off on Sunday to San Francisco. First leg is Okinawa to Narita. It is an unusual flight as the passengers are a mix of young US military and Nobel prizewinners returning from the Graduation Ceremony.

Half way to Tokyo, I realize that I have left my flute at home. This plunges me into gloom as I was looking forward to playing a lot in California. I am amazed how forgetful I can be. We get to Narita and something happens to me that has never happened to me before. As I get on the bus to the terminal, a very polite young marine gets up from his seat and says, “Here you are Sir, there’s a seat for you right here.” He clearly sees me as a very old man. Troubling.

I arrive at SFO and wait for James to pick me up in the truck. However, after some confusion I get a text saying the truck’s battery is flat and I will have to find my own way home. During this wait my much beloved Google Timbuktu bag is on the sidewalk.  I then go over to the shuttle stop and in no time at all I am en route to SF.

Just as we are entering downtown I get this cold clammy feeling. Where is my bag? It was strange as I suddenly became aware that my bag was not with me. Perhaps the driver, the estimable Alejandro, had  put it in the back with my suitcase.  He stops in the middle of traffic, scoots round the back to look and comes back shaking his head.

I have left my bag containing laptop, IPad, house keys and all kinds of documents somewhere in the airport. I had no idea where.


The bag itself has sentimental value as Larry Page gave it to me in 2006

How can I be so forgetful? I have to consult a Gerontologist.  Who is going to hand in a nice bag full of Mac goodies? Gey few. I am feeling pretty bad when Alejandro phones back to the pick up station, turns around and grins,”They have your bag!”

Despair to elation over a very short time. Alejandro says, “Look man, I will go back to the airport and on my next trip into the city I will drop the bag off at your place. Would that work?”


Alejandro – mention him in your prayers.

Sure enough, a couple of hours later he brings me my bag. This is what is known as a life affirming experience.

I check my email and there is a message from Officer Lucas, SFO Police, very politely informing that my bag had been found and I should not worry.  He had found a business card in the bag and had mailed my OIST address.  Thank you Officer Lucas. I then get a Facebook message from the wonderful Laura, who had spent six months at OIST as a Science Writing Fellow. “So they recently paged a Neil Calder over the intercom at SFO… I thought it can’t be you since you’d be in Japan for the grad ceremony. But how many Neil Calders are flying through SFO?”  Amazing, she just happened to be in the airport when they started paging me.

Long strange trip.


Comfort food.


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4 Responses to Long Strange Trip

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    You see, there is a god.

  2. Leglu says:

    I remember leaving my bag in the metro in the most hectic area of Paris (my son was very young and he was the center of my attention) to realize some time later that I forgot it. I was shocked (computer + notepad etc.) and my son…. terrified (I suppose I looked very very bad). Guess what ? I found it 3/4 h later where… I had left it, which is the last thing I could expect ! I suspect that everybody was rushing around, and nobody saw it 🙄

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