A tiger was on the loose at the Tampa Airport… and his name is Hobbes.
No, Hobbes doesn’t belong to Ben, even though his owner isn’t much younger than Ben was when he started mileage running from the very same airport. (Supposedly Ben has pared down the toys he travels with to just a flock of rubber duckies.)
It turns out that a 6-year old boy, Owen Lake, and his family were flying out of Tampa on a family trip to Houston. Owen had brought Hobbes along and had been playing with him at the gate in Tampa prior to departure. In the
controlled chaos known as boarding, Hobbes got left behind. Owen and his family didn’t realize it until they were in the air on their way to Houston.
From the Tampa Bay Times
“When Owen asked for Hobbes on the plane, my husband and I looked at each other and our hearts sunk. We knew he was left behind,” Owen’s mom, Amanda Lake, said.
Like many parents do, she explained that Hobbes was having an adventure at the Tampa airport, and it turns out that he really was.
She contacted the airport to report the missing tiger, explaining that it had been made by the boy’s aunt, and was really one-of-a-kind. The airport staff not only found Hobbes at the gate — probably still looking forlornly at the closed boarding door — but then proceeded to take him on adventures all over the airport, photographing him at every step of the way.
He rode on a luggage cart.
He visited the fire station.
He ate some gelato.
He even visited the Marriott.
Then they collected all the pictures and published them in a book which was presented to Owen upon their reunion at Lost and Found.
It was all orchestrated by Tony D’Aiuto, the airport operations manager who said he “pitched this idea a couple of months ago after I saw a similar idea where someone took a stuffed lion around a museum.”
All I can say is wow!
We read so many stories of personnel that barely want to do the job that they’re paid to do that is very refreshing to see someone go far beyond the call of duty to make a kid’s day. It really shows a love for the job.
I also understand completely what Owen’s parents were going through. My son also has a very special stuffed tiger, eponymously named “Tigey”. Tigey has accompanied us around the world and is almost like family. He rides on top of the stroller, in my son’s pack, or sometimes is pulled along by one leg.
And he is absolutely prone to adventuring.
I swear I spend 10% of my waking hours looking for that wayward tiger. He is arguably the least accountable guy I’ve ever met — he basically has one job, and that is to be there at bedtime to help my son fall asleep, yet he’s often out gallivanting around. It’s come to the point that we occasionally have to tell our son that Tigey is out adventuring and that we’re sure he’ll be back in the morning.
While we tolerate Tigey’s “adventuring” at home, my wife and I are almost paranoid about forgetting him on a trip somewhere. It’s to the point that we have instituted a “no tiger left behind” policy where one of us always throws a glance over our shoulder to make sure he’s not on the prowl.
Except it’s still not a perfect system.
During our month-long Southeast Asian Adventure, we we stayed a few nights at the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur. Tigey came to breakfast with us — the Diamond breakfast benefit includes up to one tiger, apparently — but got to distracted by the honeycomb and forgot to come back to the room with us. (Hey, it’s a really awesome spread.)
We didn’t notice for a few hours, at which point we feared for the worst and were thinking of how we would explain this to our son. But sure enough, the Grand Club staff had indeed been keeping tabs on a tiger matching the description and quickly brought him to our suite.
I know other parents that have had similar experiences.
One of our friends now has twin bears that go by “car bear” and “home bear.” It wasn’t planned this way, of course, but rather happened when the original bear was lost, then replaced, er, I mean “found”, and then found for real. As their names suggest, one of them now lives at home while the other lives permanently in the car, presumably avoiding the trauma of forgetting to bring him on a road trip.
Another of our friends’ daughter has twin elephants for a similar reason. Instead of explaining how the second elephant came to be, however, they have somehow managed to always keep the elephants in different rooms such that their daughter truly believes there is only one elephant. When we visited their home, the first thing they did was inform us of the house rule — these elephants can never ever be within sight of each other. Ah, the fun that can be had before kids develop “object permanence.”
Has your child ever lost a stuffed friend while traveling? Did you get it back?