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Personal essays

Dongles - Essay from Newsletter 185

Keeping track of the extra stuff we need

On leaving

I’m compulsive about checking behind me when leaving a hotel room.

I mean ridiculously compulsive.

I pat my pocket to check that I have my passport.

That’s not enough.

I take the passport out of my pocket and open it up to confirm that it’s mine.

Like who else’s could it be.

I have a routine where I move my things progressively to my suitcase and my backpack.

After I brush my teeth, shave, and shower, I clear everything out of the bathroom and pack them and close the bathroom door.

I will open it half a dozen times before checking out to glance and make sure I haven’t missed anything.

I haven’t.

I had a friend who had quite an expensive first year with the iPhone when it first came out. He would regularly check out and leave the charger in the wall.

A few $50 chargers later he was cured of this habit.

Wait where is it

As careful and compulsive as I am, you can imagine my surprise when I returned to my airline seat after a bathroom visit and my sweatshirt was gone.

When I stood up I’d folded my sweatshirt and left it in my seat. I was sure of it.

Or was I.

The cabin lights were out as we were somewhere over the Atlantic on our flight from Frankfurt to Chicago.

I took out my phone and turned on the flashlight. The sweatshirt wasn’t on the seat and it wasn’t on the floor around my seat.

I looked in the overhead compartment. Maybe I’d put it in my backpack after I folded it up.

Nope. Not there.

It was gone.

I sat down and the man next to me, who’d been watching me for a while, asked me what was wrong.

I told him I couldn’t find my sweatshirt.

“Well,” he said, “while you were gone some other guy came and sat in your seat and then realized he was in the wrong place and left. Maybe he took it.”


I napped until the lights came on and the flight attendants came down the aisle with the drinks cart. I told one of them what had happened in case someone found the sweatshirt.

She was very nice but clearly didn’t believe me. “It’s probably on the floor somewhere around your seat.”

It’s the flight attendant version of, “have you tried turning it off then on again.” So many of the issues they hear are user caused that that’s probably a good first response.

The missing dongle

I was flying home from a trip on which I’d delivered two workshops and two conference talks at three conferences and I’d forgotten to pack the dongle that connects USB-C to HDMI.

If those letters mean nothing to you, I’d forgotten the little thing that plugs into my Mac that allows me to connect to video.

I’d left it on my desk at home.

Usually conferences have these so I sometimes don’t bring it with me as it’s one more thing to keep track of on the road.

So I went to the front of the room at the NSSpain workshop and discovered there was no dongle.

Uh oh.

Fortunately, Dave was sitting in the back and he lent me his so the workshop went off without a hitch.

A little over a week later in Paris I emailed the organizers to make sure there would be a dongle for my workshop at Swift Connection. One of them found me in the elevator on my way down to breakfast and provided me with the dongle I needed.

(Narrator: We’ll revisit that word “needed”)

A couple of weeks later I was in Bologna preparing for my workshop at Pragma Conference and I asked Klaus if he had a dongle for the video.

One of the other organizers heard me ask and rushed out of the room to get one.

Klaus said, “but you don’t need one.”

I looked confused so he gestured at my MacBook Pro and told me it had an HDMI port built in.

The video cable could plug directly into the Mac with no dongle needed.

I felt awfully stupid.

And it’s why I didn’t talk back to the flight attendant when she suggested that the missing sweatshirt could have been because I’d dropped it somewhere.

I sat back in my seat a little sad that I’d lost my favorite travel sweatshirt.

Just before landing an older gentleman tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up.

Without a word he handed my sweatshirt back to me and shrugged.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 185. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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