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Not all who wander lost their bags on the way

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Server 50057, assigned to Table 17 at the Ballard Brew Hall on Concourse A of the Seattle Tacoma International Airport, had a simple, yet deceptively difficult, question: “Why?”

She hadn’t, however, asked it of the party sitting in the wooden chairs of Table 17. Rather, she posed her query to the host who had sat the disheveled, disoriented and — at shortly before 1 p.m. Dec. 23 — borderline deranged couple hoping to order lunch.

Ordering … aye, there’s the rub.

By this point, the hungrier of the twosome … that would be me … already had asked the same question — “Why?” — to a power with far more authority than the host inside the Ballard Brew Hall at Sea-Tac.

“Why,” I had asked, on more than one occasion, “why did I send my thoughts about flying … to Florida … for the holidays … into the universe?”

Anyone with half a brain knows you don’t do what I had done a month earlier — tempt the fickle finger of fate by bemoaning the trip ahead.

By the time we had touched down back home at Rog-Vall-Int-Med, we had been through five airports, had three flights canceled, had a plane but no crew and a crew but no plane, spent a night in a Seattle hotel, worn the same underwear for three days (my brother-in-law offered a pair of his ... I politely declined) while our luggage was in a van operated by wheresmysuitcase.com — whose driver, Charlie from Louisiana, was understandably befuddled by Florida’s highway system — and had pretty much brought to fruition every torment a certain less-than-half-brained columnist foolishly had rambled on about for 800 or so words.

I hadn’t asked the universe to explain itself this often (and without response) about a misstep I had taken since we had opened a bottle of sparkling cider Oct. 25, 1986, with the Red Sox one strike away from defeating the Mets for the World Series title … not that that transgression still keeps me awake at night.

Back at Table 17, we had been through most of the worst of the travel.

Sure, we were still in the Northwest, and had an entire country to cross before getting to the suburbs of Tampa.

And, yes, we were working on little sleep (with or without the help of the Red Sox) since we had arrived at Rog-Vall-Int-Med at 3:30 the previous morning, my travel companion’s birthday, only to discover that we hadn’t seen the 2 a.m. email telling us that the 5:15 a.m. flight had been canceled due to fog.

The airline had gotten us to Seattle, but that meant an overnight stay, in a hotel which itself had an Arrivals/Departures board which, the next morning had but one canceled flight listed.

You have to ask?

That required being rerouted to Orlando instead of Tampa and folks, let me tell you, if you’ve never gone through the Orlando airport … Orl-Int-Mic-Mou … during the holiday season, you saved yourself three years of your life.

So, there we were, hoping that we could get on a 3 p.m. flight as standby passengers instead of waiting for the red-eye on which we’d been booked … and which would have meant another seven hours trudging through gate changes before boarding a plane which might or might not have departed — given the number of flight personnel COVID-calling that particular week.

The Ballard Brew Hall, as fate would have it (kicking us in the shins under Table 17) has no menus … save for the one posted on a placard by the Please Wait To Be Seated sign.

The host kindly informed us that we were to use our cellphone to scan the barcode affixed to the table, from which we would then order our lunch.

Faithful readers are no doubt guffawing at the thought of our being able to properly carry out this procedure. For the rest of you, suffice to say that when our luggage was invariably lost in this travel through The Twilight Zone, we were unable to give the Great Pumpkin & Godot Lost Luggage attendant our contact info … since neither of us could remember our cellphone number.

That’s not quite true. It’s not that we couldn’t remember it … we didn’t know it. Still don’t. You could be holding our luggage over a volcano at this very moment, and we couldn’t save it by telling you our phone number.

So, if we were to spend $48.67 on a hummus wrap and a BBQ bacon cheeseburger, we would need to speak to one of those … what do you call them again? … oh, yes, human beings.

“Table 17,” the host informed Server 50057, “wants to order the old-fashioned way.”

“Why?”

The universe, as Stephen Crane told us and we all should know by now, has no sense of moral obligation. We had begun this Medford-to-Tampa odyssey at 3 a.m. Wednesday and would end it at 3 a.m. Friday. So the impulse I squelched to spontaneously combust at that moment would have been a futile gesture.

Instead, I went full-Nicholson and told her to hold the tomato. And the pickles. And the “special sauce.” … And the cheese.

And if for just that one brief shining moment, I was happy.

Mai-Trib-Col-Rob-Galv can be reached at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com