Opinion
10:28 am
Wed February 18, 2009

Commentary: A Special Flight 3407 Story

Buffalo, NY – I am a procrastinator.

To be honest, I have always viewed my dawdling as a personal character flaw. Yet today, I have a whole new respect for my put-it-off predisposition---and it's all due to my involvement in a scavenger hunt.

The long list of items demanded in the scavenging hunt-and-seek mission included a 1964 Buffalo Bills trading card. Now while I am definitely of an age to own such an item, I never possessed the foresight to save the vintage traders. No less, undaunted, I followed the well traveled path of savvy scavengers everywhere. I sent out a blast email to family and friends, offering a detailed description of my collectible need. Remarkably, within a day, the card was delivered to me via a friend. That friend related to an avid sports card collector.

As it turned out, the card was an Elbert "Golden Wheels" Dubenion, championship edition. My friend explained that the owner, a man completely unknown to me, was happy to share it with the condition that when my scavenging ended, I would return his prize card via mail. Happily, I agreed. Yet when the time came, I decided to take my return process one step further and hand deliver the card to the kind gentleman who had so generously loaned it.

According to the address accompanying the card, the collector lived near my office. So, I tucked Elbert neatly away in my briefcase, fully intending on one of my lunch hours to deposit him into his owner's hands. And that's where my procrastination becomes part of the story.

Time passed. Papers entered and departed my briefcase. Yet the valued trading card remained, perfectly sealed in its protective plastic baggie. "I'll get to it next week," I continually promised myself as days somehow rolled into months. All the while my sainted mother's words, "You're procrastinating, ya know." kept echoing through my Irish guilt register.

Then, last Friday, just about lunch time, I received a phone call. It was my friend -- the same friend who helped me "borrow" the trading card. With a pounding heart and a knotted stomach I listened as he broached the topic. From the serious tone of his voice, I knew I was in trouble. Immediately my mind began formulating the apology and the heartfelt tone in which it needed to be offered. Then suddenly, our conversation took a turn -- a unimaginable, unexpected turn -- one of those life altering moments that comes out of nowhere and imprints your being forever.

My friend explained that his relative was the man whose home had been destroyed in the crash of Continental Flight 3407. His relative was the man who had lost his life in the devastating inferno caused by the airplane's crash directly onto his home, as fate would have it, while he was working on his trading card collection.

My mind whirred with the implications, from significant to mundane. Yet my most central thought was that I needed to admit my fault and explain that I had never returned the card. In reply, my friend graciously suggested that I keep the memento as a reminder of his relative's kind and giving nature. And in that singular moment I realized that I possessed the sole remainder of the man's valued trading card collection. I possessed a part of his life that brought him joy in a way that only hobbies can do. I possessed a part of his life that, because I had procrastinated, was not a part of the irretrievable mass of ashes and soot that now represented his home, his life.

So, Elbert Dubenion is still neatly tucked away in my briefcase. And, in a few weeks, or months perhaps, I will make that call and deliver that card, now to the family of the kind and generous man who shared it with me almost a full year ago. And in that moment, as I face his widow and his four daughters, for once in my life I will be very grateful that I am a procrastinator.

Listener-Commentator Christina Abt is a freelance writer from Eden.

Click the audio player above to hear the commentary now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.