I have just strapped myself into my seat for my first flight home from Seattle on Southwest when a flight attendant calls for our attention.
"Is anyone missing a brown leather jacket. Looks like it's worth a few hundred dollars. We'll start the bidding at five bucks."
This inspires chuckles but no claimant.
"Let me read the label and see if that rings a bell," the flight attendant carries on. "Raiders by Peter Botwright."
I know that name. I sit very still in my seat, wondering whether he is on a plane with me, again. Nobody claims the jacket. I relax a little, but my mind is back in a scene from ten years ago, when I met Indiana Jones on a plane.
The details are almost incredibly specific, and personal.
Back then, I was playing with an idea for a thriller that would involve time travel and jumping between parallel universes. A key plot line would unfold in Churchill's time, and would involve a group of magicians with access to him. The whole thing would be fast-paced and humorous, with Indiana Jones touches.
Before I set off for the airport one morning, I put a question to the world. I wrote it down like this: "Should I write a thriller with Indiana Jones elements, involving Churchill?"
My game was to receive anything unusual the world gave me, during my trip, as a commentary on my theme.
My first flight was uneventful. But when I located the departure gate for my connecting flight, reality tilted. There he was, at the counter. Indiana Jones, in full rig - hat and jacket and Sam Browne belt and boots. This was really too much.
I was almost ready to pretend I had not seen him - until he took the seat next to me on board the plane. I put down the book I was reading, a memoir by one of Churchill's bodyguards.
"Do you have the whip?" I asked Indiana Jones.
"I've got it at home," he responded. "Listen, this is the real thing. It's authentic."
"What do you mean, authentic?"
"This is the genuine-article Indiana Jones outfit, as worn in Raiders. It was made by Peter Botwright. He creates costumes for the movies. He's a former bodyguard of Winston Churchill. Here's his card."
Not the same former Churchill bodyguard who wrote the book I was reading. But another rhyme,
Did I get a response to the question I had put to the world? You bet. What astonished me was how specific the response proved to be. I got the feeling that a production crew behind the scenes had crafted and custom-tailored this special moment with Indiana Jones, dressed by Churchill's bodyguard, on the plane.
Did I follow the message and write that reality-bending thriller? Not yet, though I do have some drafts and files.
I am not feeling pressure about this today, since Indiana Jones was not actually on my flight last night. Still, he left a marker. I was here.
After recent grueling travels, I was not looking for new adventures in yesterday's journey. Instead, I received winks and hints and subtle magic. A priest who took the seat next to me gave me his drink vouchers. Truly, life is a dream.
Indiana Jones jacket created by Peter Botwright's Wested Leather Company