We all have unconscious moments, whether it’s realizing we have driven home instead of the grocery store, washed our hair twice or forgotten all together, or misplaced our keys. These are all examples of unconscious moments, times that we were not present and aware enough to be able to remember what we did or didn’t do.
Most of our unconscious moments have little to no consequences – perhaps they are inconvenient or make us late for work. Other unconscious moments however can have more serious consequences, like leaving the stove on, forgetting to lock the door or getting arrested!
How can unconsciousness get you arrested you ask? Well let me tell you a little story about how being exhausted, distracted and emotionally triggered ended up getting me arrested!
My family and I recently went on a trip to Europe. My mother and our 8 year old twins were with my husband and me. We flew into Zurich on the overnight flight from Toronto. I am usually able to sleep on the plane but this time I couldn’t sleep at all. When we arrived in Zurich we were all tired and with the time change it was about two o’clock in the morning for our bodies. I was very excited and a little nervous the night before too so I didn’t sleep well then either.
And there we were, in a new country, unfamiliar airport and new surroundings trying to figure out where to go and what to do to get to our next flight. We were guided to go through customs and then another security screening and then off to our terminal and gate.
The security screening was busy and noisy – many business travelers were catching an early flight and others like us were in transit. You could feel that the travelers were in a hurry and feeling anxious. The security officer was barking orders at everyone and the general mood of the place was stressful.
My family and I removed our coats, sweaters, and electronics and emptied our pockets; I even had to take off my boots. In the end we had 10 bins of stuff that went through the x-ray machine.
Once we had all gone through the screening we started packing things up again. I was looking at my watch trying to figure out what time it was and trying to remember when our next flight was. I was looking to make sure all our things were together and if my children needed attending to.
And then there was a little toddler in the other line that was having a full out meltdown – she was screaming at the top of her lungs and I felt every scream inside my body. I looked over and tried to assess the situation and see if I could offer help. I looked around and I wasn’t the only one who was distressed by the girl’s screams. I felt sorry for the little girl as she was clearly experiencing something difficult but it was not possible or appropriate for me to help her.
And so there I was trying to manage multiple tasks, doing mental calculations and feeling an emotional reaction to this screaming. This is what is known as multi-tasking and the latest research tells us that we don’t do it well – our brain isn’t good at it and it doesn’t actually save us time or serve our needs.
We managed to pack up all our knapsacks, got onto the train to the next terminal, grabbed a bite to eat and then made our way to the gate for our final flight to Germany. We were sitting in the gate lounge, feeling exhausted from the flight and the whole in transit process. I looked at my watch and our next flight was to start boarding in about 30 minutes.
Suddenly I was approached by an undercover police officer. He briefly flashed his badge at me and asked me if I had a laptop. I looked around and noticed that I was actually swarmed by five officers. I wasn’t sure who they all were but I knew this was not good.
I said yes I have a laptop. He asked to see it and so I went into my knapsack. As I opened my bag I saw the laptop but it wasn’t zipped in its black padded carrier. I took it out and put it down. I then opened the black carrier and all of a sudden I realized what was going on. There in the black carrier was my MacBook Pro!
Right away I said that this was a mistake and that I must have taken the other, almost identical laptop, by accident. It was in that moment that the police officer looked at me and told me I was under arrest for the theft of the laptop. I said again that this was a mistake, that I took it by accident and that I was very sorry for the misunderstanding.
In that moment our flight was being called. I explained that we were on a family holiday and that we were on our way to Germany and that my flight was boarding. The police officer told me that I needed to stay with him, go to the police station to be processed. I stood there with tears starting to well up in my eyes and explained again how sorry I was, that this was a horrible mistake and was not intentional.
I watched as my family lined up to board the plane and I was escorted to the police station. I was crying of course and so were my children. It was a horrible moment. As I walked through the airport I was grounded in the fact that this was a mistake – but how? I replayed the moments at the security screening in my mind and I tried to figure out how that laptop had gotten into my knapsack. The incredible thing was that I could not remember. I had no idea.
Even during the interrogation process I could not fully answer some of the questions. I did not know when or why I had taken the laptop – I could not recall the moment that I picked it up! I realized that in those few seconds – maybe even longer – I was unconscious. My fatigued brain was trying to process too much information as well as emotional and sensory input and it was unable to recall those crucial few moments.
After the interrogation an official report was produced and sent to the Magistrates office for a judgement. As I sat waiting for the decision I decided to meditate and ground myself. I did not know what was going to happen but I knew I needed all my resources, strength and presence to get me through the day; whatever the outcome was.
I was completely exhausted at this point, both physically and emotionally – probably the most tired I have ever felt, but I knew the best thing to do was to calm my mind and just be with what was. I asked the universe to support me and guide me and then I sat quiet, closed my eyes and was present in that room in the police station. As I sat there a thought came to me – what is the lesson in all of this?
I am a big believer that there is a lesson, something we can learn or gain from every moment. I often consciously ask myself “what is the lesson in this?” especially in difficult or challenging situations. I always get an answer that is wise and sometimes life changing. The answer in this case was simple – the lesson is that I was unconscious in that moment – I was distracted, not paying attention and overwhelmed. That is not the state of mind you want to have when going through airport security!
After some time the officer came back into the room and told me that the Magistrate had agreed that this was a mistake and that no official charges would be laid – I was set free. I was overjoyed and relieved! I was actually glad that they had ‘caught’ me as I would have felt horrible arriving in Germany to find someone else’s laptop in my backpack.
We are all unconscious and distracted at times and most of us don’t even know we are functioning that way because many times there are no consequences. I now appreciate much more that there are consequences – potentially life changing consequences.
So that is the story about how my unconsciousness got me arrested. In the end it was an inconvenience, an emotional rollercoaster for me and my family, and a very expense taxi ride from the airport in Germany to my final destination. But more importantly it was a reminder of the importance of presence and awareness in our daily lives.
P.S. During the four flights home I was very conscious, aware and present when we went through security and customs! We all agreed not to talk to each other, focus on our belongings and stay present with the process and to double check our knapsacks! It was a lesson for the whole family.
What about you?
Have you had an unconscious moment that you would like to share? Would love to hear your stories!