There was some excitement on my flight to Houston last night, but it all ended well — thanks to Sherlock Holmes.
I was seated in the aisle seat in row 21. Next to me was a friendly young woman who was traveling through Houston to catch a flight to Orange County. As I did some work on the flight I heard a metallic clink, and then the young woman suddenly became frantic. It turns out that she had been fiddling with a ring on her finger, and the ring dropped off and fell into the area between the seat and the window and plane’s fuselage.
That area of the plane promptly went into full search mode. Led by the young woman and using our cellphone flashlights, we scoured the plane’s floor all the way back to the rear restrooms, looked under the seat cushions, and checked that the ring hadn’t gotten snagged on someone’s carry-on luggage. Everyone in that section of the plane was cooperative and helpful during the search — which tells you that there are still a lot of nice people out there. But after 15 minutes of fruitless searching, the ring was nowhere to be found. The flight attendant said they would do a search after the plane landed and everyone had cleared out, and the young woman could fill out a form so that she would get the ring if it was found.
That was small consolation for the distraught and tearful young woman, however. She explained that the ring that dropped was her sister’s wedding ring, and the young woman had been tasked with delivering the ring from a Columbus jeweler to her sister. She was supposed to be the trusted messenger, and she was dreading the prospect of confessing to her sister that the ring was lost.
I wasn’t ready to give up, however. “I don’t know if you’ve read any Sherlock Holmes,” I told her, “but in one of the original stories he explained that when you’re trying to solve a problem and you eliminate all of the possible outcomes, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the answer. Since the ring isn’t on the floor of the plane or in the other places we’ve looked, I think it’s got to be somewhere in the slot between your armrest and the outer wall of the plane, — probably near a piece of metal since we heard a metallic sound when the ring dropped. Let’s try again, just in that area.”
She looked dubious, but the logic of the suggestion seemed to persuade her. She used her hand to grope around carefully in the nook, and sure enough the ring was there in the depths, next to an orphaned Lego piece. She was overjoyed, and I was happy that I had helped her find her ring and avoid an unwelcome conversation with her sister.
“You know, you really should read the Sherlock Holmes stories,” I said. “I will,” she promised.
The Lego piece can be retrieved through an inquiry to United Air Lines.