After three days in Brussels, our large group of 140 travelers had eaten breakfast, packed our bags, and was waiting for three large busses to transfer us all to Antwerp. While Brussels was magnificent, the Blooms of Holland was the featured event for the river cruise on Grand Circle’s ship, River Rhapsody, ready for our boarding in Antwerp. Our anticipation was tinged with the usual excitement before every river cruise.
The bus-loading scene is typically one of controlled chaos. The first bus, designated the blue bus, had arrived for the blue group, and the blue group’s luggage. It was parked near the sidewalk in front of the hotel on a very busy street at 8:00 in the morning. The blue group’s 40+ bags had been gathered next to the bus on the generous sidewalk for loading into the baggage compartments. The hotel workers, and Grand Circle program directors had all been engaged in the bag sorting and gathering process, while the bus driver was on his own for actually loading the baggage compartments.
Filling the street-side of the bus first, the driver selected bags one at a time and hauled them around the front of the bus and into the street for stashing into the compartments. On one of his earlier returns to select another bag for loading, he was confronted by an attractive and well-dressed lady who appeared out of nowhere.
“Will you take me to the airport?” she asked the driver in perfect English.
“I am not going to the airport,” the driver replied.
“But I need to go to the airport,” continued the lady. “Why can’t you take me there?”
“Lady, this is a privately chartered bus. We are not going to the airport.”
With this response, the lady turned from the driver, grabbed a bag, and started wheeling along the busy sidewalk away from the bus and the hotel. It was my bag she grabbed.
As it happened I was immersed in an electronic Sudoku, pondering exactly where to sprinkle all the digits from 1 to 9 in the puzzle’s grid of boxes. As usual, my wife was engaged with a group of fellow travelers seated in the hotel lobby. She was facing the loading process through the hotel’s plate glass windows and open door, and heard the conversation between the lady and the bus driver directly.
“Bob” she said “some lady just grabbed and walked off with your suitcase”.
I was still somewhere between 1 and 9, and mumbled “Oh! is that so?”
With that she got up and went out onto the sidewalk.
“That lady just took my husband’s suitcase!” she said to the bus driver.
The bus driver immediately hollered at the lady, now half a block away.
Knowing that she had been caught, she dropped the bag, and disappeared into the crowded city.
With this unexpected excitement, I extracted myself from the digits, and pondered the mind of a snitch. She was apparently dressed appropriately for church, a wedding, or the airport. The airport comment establishes a mindset with the bus driver, that any lady going to the airport must surely have a bag with her. She expected the driver was the primary target for her distraction, allowing her to grab any bag and walk away unnoticed, a fellow traveler. The distraction worked perfectly with the bus driver, who should have been alerted that she was not a part of his travel group, as the destination was a red herring.
It is possible that the snitch actually targeted the bag before she approached the bus driver. It is a fairly new Atlantic bag complete with handle and rollers appropriate for making a quick get away. While the drab color is not very feminine, the colorful décor makes the bag instantly recognizable and may have caught her attention. Clearly she was intent upon a rapid departure, and was not inclined to determine whether it was a male’s or a female’s bag by examining the many name tags. As they say on the mule farm, she grabbed the bag and hauled ass.
Had she been successful, she would have been distressed at her haul. While creating considerable inconvenience for me, she would have discovered very pedestrian and well-worn men’s casual trousers, a few nice golf shirts, two sweaters, and an abundance of soiled clothes, socks and underwear. Not a single item of any street value was included in the bag, and by many would be considered good riddance. Some of the contents might have been rejected by Goodwill Industries.
To some extent, I am disappointed she was not successful, as her desperation reveals a person who needs soiled used clothing far more than I. A distinctive bag, an alert wife, and instant recognition at precisely the right moment are all that kept my bag from disappearing into Belgium’s underbelly.
While we were quite early in Holland’s floral season, the balance of the tour through the Blooms of Holland was an unexpectedly magnificent experience as shown below by my rescuer, whose attentiveness caught the snitch in mid-snatch.