A horribly distressing thing happened on the way to Toronto the other day.
August 2nd, 2013

A horribly distressing thing happened on the way to Toronto the other day. It was a hideously early flight and I kept drifting asleep on the flight. When we landed at Pearson and were waiting for the signal to disembark, I spotted a colleague across the aisle. We started yakking away and continued the conversation all the way through to the baggage claim area. Following that distraction I was soon in a cab to the hotel, still punchy sleepy. After settling in my room I reached into my purse for my iPad, only to realize in one crushingly vivid moment that I had left it on the plane in the seat pocket. You can imagine how quickly I jolted myself into full wakefulness at that moment.

When something like this happens I tend to go through the five stages of loss and grieving in about three minutes. First denial and isolation: a stage of not fully believing the iPad has been taken from me. Then follows anger: rage against myself, of course, for having been so stupidly tired and forgetful, and anger against the Universe for conspiring against me. The third stage is bargaining: if only I hadn’t talked to that colleague, if only I had taken more caffeine, if only I could have my time back. Fourth stage is depression: a sinking feeling that all is irretrievable, that replacing the iPad will cost me a lot of coin, that all my notes and notes on my Pages app are gone forever. Finally, inevitably, I faced acceptance: worn out by moving through the preceding four stages there was nothing to do but surrender to the reality of loss.

And so I did. But, but… I needed to play out the arguably futile exercise of filing a claim with Air Canada. Without the iPad to direct me to the Web I had to ask the hotel concierge to do so for me. She promptly filled out the claim on line, as requested by the airline, and pressed Send. There was no automatic reply, no indication that the claim form had been received by anyone. I had little hope anyone would be paying attention, but this gesture was morally, practically, and professionally necessary.

For the next three days in Toronto I sulked during meetings. Every time I had the impulse to check my email or browse the news sites I felt that kick in the gut. My iPad had been with me for several years. I had been one of the first adapters, having bought the first iteration of the device and was still loyal to its magical properties, even if those properties did not include a camera or phone line capacity. I could no more trade it in for an upgrade than I could give away a pet.

Now I was forced to consider the loss and consequences. After returning home I called the Air Canada Lost and Found line. A distinctively non-Canadian voice was on the other end of the line, working through all the distinguishing details of the lost object, reviewing markers or notable features for easy identification. By the end of the call he admitted he was nowhere near Pearson or any other Canadian airport. The whole lost and found business had been outsourced by Air Canada and the connection between this guy sitting somewhere at a call centre in India and my missing iPad seemed even more remote and hopeless than ever.

Despairing all over again I decided to give myself a week. If the iPad didn’t show up by then I would buy a new one. Who was I kidding? After I tweeted about the experience a friend replied that the same thing had happened to him and it had taken 6 weeks until his old iPad was returned. When you consider that it should have taken no more than 48 hours to do so you realize that you are dealing with one of those modern-day atrocities—an entire level of bureaucracy and paper-trailing interfering with the simple act of finding, identifying, and returning a device found in seat 13C on a routine flight from YYT to YYZ. I mean, how many cell phones and iPads and laptops do they find daily? I bet there are tons of them, but the system just somehow can’t cope with a more efficient way of handling this common occurrence. Certainly the guy sitting in Bangalore wouldn’t and didn’t have a clue about where the object was, or, indeed, if it had been found at all.

I waited two more days before getting an email from some automatic generator in god-knows-where informing me that the object in question had not yet been found.

That did it. I was off to the Apple Store as fast as you can say iPad 4. That’s what you see above, my new hi-res, picture-taking, gorgeous, speedy, wonderful, red-leather bound tablet. I am in love all over again. As for my old one, when and if it ever does show up I will clear it of clutter and happily donate it to the School of Graduate Studies for the multiple purposes it will surely serve. I now have less respect for Air Canada, but a lot of newfound admiration for Apple. And so it goes.


Dr. Faye Murrin is Dean pro tempore of the School of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Biology. She completed her B.Sc. (Hons.) at Memorial University, her M.Sc. at Acadia University, and her Ph.D. at Queen's University. Her research interests have always been focused on fungi, in particular the cell biology of insect pathogenic fungi and, more recently, the ecology of mycorrhizal mushrooms in the boreal forest. Dr. Murrin has served in a number of positions on the Council of the Mycological Society of America and was awarded the title of MSA Fellow for her contributions. She was awarded the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Membership Award as founding co-director of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Summer Program. Dr. Murrin participates in public lectures and workshops, and is a Director on the board of Newfoundland Foray, Inc.

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