Next to me is a seat empty but for a book. I wait for its owner to return.
Time passes, and the book remains in the seat. Finally, I become curious. The book is People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author according to the cover. I read the blurb, and it looks interesting. There is a leaf a little over half of the way through, marking the owner's place.
The Borders sticker is still on the back, implying the person just bought it.
On the inside of the front cover is a woman's name and number. This could be an artifact of a used book purchase, but the Borders sticker argues against that theory. I call the number; maybe the woman is in the airport and will come back. I reach a machine. I don't leave a message, as I am yet unsure what I am going to do.
Maybe it was abandoned on purpose. Hey, free book. But there is a leaf! A leaf! She did not even finish reading.
I Google the area code. The number hails from...St. Louis. Oh, balls.
The flight before mine was going to St. Louis. She totally forgot her book here.
I Google her name and St. Louis and hit upon what appears to be her Facebook page. The profile picture is of an elderly couple. I could send her a Facebook message, but I have her phone number anyway. If this is indeed her book and she did indeed forget it.
I want to confirm for sure, not wanting to take the book in case the owner came back after a very long bathroom break. But the woman at the counter, as I expect, is not allowed to tell me whether a particular passenger was on that flight.
I see a woman appear to examine the empty seat where the book lay and then turn around, and I don't remember exactly what the woman on Facebook looked like. Maybe that's her? I ask her if it's her book and it isn't. Okay, back to the original plan.
I call the number to leave a message, but this time the phone keeps ringing! Maybe the line is busy? But they weren't home just a few minutes before. They are on a plane!
I wait a few minutes and try again, and this time a man picks up. I ask him if this is the residence of The Woman. Yes, he is a man with her last name. I ask him if his wife is flying from San Francisco to St. Louis today. Yes, from California to St. Louis. I tell him I found a book with her name and number in it. She forgot it at the gate. Oh no, he says, she'll probably be looking all over the plane for it. I tell him I'd be happy to mail it. He asks if the address is in there, and it is not, so he gives it to me. He says it's very nice of me, and I tell him that I am a book lover as well, and if I lost a book, I would be freaking out. Besides, she hasn't even finished it yet.
I wonder what would have happened if someone else had found it.