Turning Trouble into Triumph

UPDATED: March 13, 2012
PUBLISHED: March 13, 2012

“You lost your iPhone?!” my husband, Chris, exclaimed. “You just had it.”

And then, suddenly, I didn’t. I emptied my purse. I checked my pockets. I looked in the kids’ backpacks. I searched my purse again. I checked under our chairs. It was 10:45 p.m. and my phone was lost in JFK Airport’s Terminal 7 with about an hour before we’d board our flight.

I ran. No sign of it in the bathroom or the store where I bought water. I passed a guy wearing a crescent-shaped pillow around his neck. Bingo! I bought one of those pillows 10 minutes earlier. I returned to the store and there was my iPhone sitting near the register… behind locked doors. The shopkeeper left two minutes earlier, according to the staff at a nearby store.

I stopped a janitor for help, but he said only store managers have keys. I felt defeated—and panicky, because I left my laptop at home and planned to rely on the phone. Then I thought, “I have 40 minutes to get that store open.”

Glancing around, I saw the “British Airways—Concorde Club” sign. I wasn’t a British Airways passenger or club member, but people in clubs and hotels are resourceful, and I had nothing to lose.

My plan: I’d turn the problem into a game by repeatedly saying “we” and showing lots of enthusiasm. Then I’d make my helpers feel like rock stars with super powers.

At the club, I explained I needed an angel’s help and “we” had just 30 minutes. Urged on by my chorus of “Thank you, thank you, thank you! I knew you could help,” an employee radioed airport facilities. Someone would meet me in front of the store. I thanked her again and exclaimed, “You are genius! I love you!” and ran out.

I greeted the head of facilities with a double thank-you and pointed out the phone. “You’ve got a problem,” he said with a thick Grenada accent and shook his head. I pulled him into the game. “Yes, I do, Sinclair. Thank God you are here! We have 30 minutes to work a miracle!”

He smiled widely and said, “No problem, no problem.” I peppered him with personal questions while he placed calls. (I learned Sinclair was born in Ghana and spent 30 years in Grenada as a police officer. He immigrated to the United States six years ago.)

He reached the store supervisor at home. “Sinclair, you are amazing!” That supervisor reached the employee—Ivan—who sold me the pillow. “Sinclair, you are a miracle worker!”

Then Ivan played hero. He turned around, parked, boarded the terminal shuttle and reopened the store at 11:45 p.m. I ran to him yelling, “I love you!” I gave him a huge hug and shoved cash in his hand for the extra effort.

I thanked Sinclair from the bottom of my heart. He wouldn’t accept any money.

I ran past our seats raising the phone in triumph and re-entered the Concord Club. “I want to hug you—thank you so much!” The helpful employee smiled and said, “It’s nice to have a passenger hug you once in a while.”

You may think I got lucky, but the reality is I know how to get help (a frequent need, given what a birdbrain I am). Here are the keys: Make a high-energy game of solving the problem and then go long on the high-fives, thanks, hugs and pats on the back.

No one ever receives too much thanks or too many hugs.

Mel Robbins is a contributing editor to SUCCESS magazine, best-selling author, CNN commentator, creator of the “5 Second Rule” and the busiest female motivational speaker in the world. To find out more, visit her website: MelRobbins.com. To follow her on Twitter: Twitter.com/melrobbins