Baggage claim at Schiphol. Image: kevingessner, via Wikimedia Commons.

(This really does apply to Hague Service.  I promise.)

I flew into this mess on July 24th at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.  We sat on the tarmac for two hours waiting for a gate to clear for us, and another half hour at the gate waiting for a qualified jetway driver to provide a means of egress.  Then the real fun started.  Three more hours in the baggage claim area, before coming to the unfortunate conclusion that Icelandair had somehow misplaced my gear.  No worries, I thought.  They’ll get this mess sorted out and bring my suitcase to my hotel in The Hague tomorrow.  My most important meeting isn’t until the next day.

Whoa, was I wrong.  I went to my most important meeting in cargo shorts and hiking shoes that I’d been wearing for three days.  Thank goodness for quick dry fabric and the clean undershirt the airline gave me in a nice toiletry kit.  To this day, they still can’t tell me if my bag was still in Kansas City or if it got misdirected in Reykjavik or if, in the most logical scenario, it was caught up in The Great Schiphol Airplane Gas Station Fiasco of 2019.  (Further research dictates that you must identify a year on such an event, because it seems to happen regularly there.)  It wasn’t until six days later that my bag was finally delivered to me… in England, where I’d ventured for a CLE seminar at Oxford University.

As I was grousing to my wife about the inconvenience– it really wasn’t tragic, as my newly formed Zen Self* had concluded– she mentioned that waiting for my lost luggage sounded a lot like the conversation I often have with my clients from time to time.  Clients who are highly agitated that they haven’t received word that their defendant had been served, and who are beside themselves with stress because procedures are going far more slowly than they thought they should.**

Absolutely, I thought.  That’s an apt analogy.

When a U.S. or Canadian litigator tries to have a defendant served here in North America, things usually go pretty smoothly, in a matter of days, if not hours.  But when the defendant is overseas, things just don’t move as quickly, so patience is not only a virtue– it’s a critical part of staying sane.  Especially in Latin America and the Far East, the wheels of justice grind slowly, and given the mandatory nature of the Hague Service Convention, those same U.S. and Canadian litigators can only just sit and deal with it.  Be Zen, just as if they’re waiting for the airline to get a lost piece of luggage to them.


Because there’s nothing to be done about it.

Pestering the foreign Central Authority isn’t going to make them move any faster and, truth be told, it might actually make them slow the process down even further.

So a bit of Zen is in order.  Just relax, and have a little faith that it’s coming.

Even the judge is just going to have to chill a bit.

(For more perspective, see Things take longer overseas. Get used to it.)

* I recommend this book by a great Glaswegian named Gary John Bishop.  The greatest lesson in that book landed on my head just days before my fateful landing in the Netherlands, providing an excellent opportunity to implement the theory.  In short… when a crummy situation happens, we don’t truly get angry that it happened (it doesn’t help anyway).  We get angry because the situation conflicts violently with our expectations.  Modify your expectations, and the crummy situation is revealed to be not so bad after all.

** I try really hard to advise clients in advance that this is going to take forever.  The advice doesn’t always stick.