the baggage we carry

In ALL, TRAVEL by Stephanie Klein19 Comments

I’d checked in my bag, curbside, at 11am for a 12:30pm flight from Miami International Airport (MIA) to LaGuardia Airport in New York (LGA). I had time to kill before my flight, but instead of buying five magazines and a bottled water, I headed straight to the gate hoping to get some work done. Besides, my carry on felt as if it were too tired and heavy to carry on with our journey.

At noon, a bald man with a curiously castrato voice switched on a microphone behind a desk and pressed his lips into it. “I have some very bad news for you all,” he said as if he were asking the crowd who’d be the first to try on one of his twisted balloon crowns. “Your flight has been canceled due to thunderstorms in New York. What’s more, the flight after yours has been canceled, as well as the flight after that.” At least it was Saturday and I wasn’t missing any scheduled events… you know, aside from TIME WITH MY CHILDREN!

I would, as it turns out, be missing just one additional thing: my luggage. I should’ve known it was called M.I.A. for a reason. My bag, complete with all my shoes, hemmed jeans, perfectly-suited bras for each dress, my toiletries (namely, my antiperspirant), and jewelry—yes, I know, you should always keep your jewelry on you, but I’m on the road for two weeks, and I have different jewels for each outfit, so adding it to my carry on bag is like adding a saucepan. There’s just no room for it all.

I finally arrived in New York, but my luggage did not. “It’ll be on the next flight in.” But it’s 10PM, and I gave you guys my bags at 11AM. “These things happen,” the woman in the missing luggage room said.

*Here* This is what it comes down to. Want to know what someone is really like? Want to cut your relationship to the quick? Stick someone in the baggage claim area, and drive them to inspect each and every bag on that conveyor belt, and just see what their actions convey. I’ve often said that you cannot really know a person until the shit comes down. Well, when your shit doesn’t come down on that loopy belt–if you’re paying attention to the body language, the perspiration, the huffing–you’ll get a crash course in how a person handles stress.

I don’t know how the “bag lady” with the tag weighing between her breasts performs her job. She stands behind a podium and computer screen, searching for lost luggage. She’s the messenger everyone wants to pound into the ground. And I cannot imagine how many days she tolerates people screaming at her due to their frustrations. I have never been one of those people. As pissed, frizzed, frazzled, or hungry as I might be, I also realize it’s not her fault. How though, does a person manage with the daily abuse of strangers? How does she go home smiling at the end of the day, thinking happy thoughts about humanity? I’d lose it completely, which I suppose might be appropriate in the lost luggage department.

My bag was ultimately spotted, and I was able to pick it up THE NEXT DAY. The entire night without my things, I assumed the worst: that it was stolen. How could I ever replace all those clothes, those special items collected on my travels, the shoes that matched just so? It’s only stuff, but it’s stuff I’d miss. There’s no one preventing you from walking into the baggage claim area and rolling off with someone else’s belongings. In fact, if caught, you could always feign surprise, certain the Tumi luggage set in your hand really was yours. “My mistake,” you could cough up. And no one would think you were a thief. They’d speak with you in a softer tone, the one they should have used with the “bag lady.”

Comments

  1. Now that I am travelling one week each month for work, losing my luggage is my worst nightmare. I don't want to be the girl at the conference in the exact same slouchy thing she grumped onto the plane in.

    Of course, I could carry a spare outfit in my carry on, but then I couldn't fit in all the books I need to have to read when stranded in the airport.

  2. My husband sends things by fedex (suits/documents etc.) a day ahead when on business trips and things absolutely cannot be delayed or lost. It takes the stress out of flying when you don't have to worry about your luggage.

  3. Returning from a loooong X-country (made even longer by endless airline delays) husband I finally returned home where we, along with our plane full of similarly exhausted passengers, waited for our bags. I saw one giant suitcase go by that looked like mine, realized it wasn't, and continued waiting. I then, out of the corner of my eye, saw a man walk out the door with what I knew was my bag. Either I was too tired to register or my instinct was, "No, that can't be…" Either way, by the time I ran outside, he was gone. We waited until all the other luggage had been picked up and there was that almost-the-same bag, floating around. (Yes, mine did have a tag with all my current info on it. But apparently no one looks at those.) We grabbed it, went into the lost luggage and explained what happened. The luggage people opened it (not ours, full of suits, obviously a businessman's of some sort) and said that he wouldn't get his bag back until he drove ours back to the airport, at which point the airline would deliver it to us.
    Long story short – the man called that night, apologized profusely (eh – we were all tired. No real harm done.) and we had our bag back the next day.
    Best part is that my husband's father is a caterer who had given us these spices and aprons that say, "Have you had your butt rubbed today?" They were on top – can't imagine what this business guy must have thought when he opened up the suitcase. :)

  4. My husband and I traveled to St. Lucia for our honeymoon in December 06. And low and behold our luggage didn't make the flight along with us after changing flights in Puerto Rico. Apparently, this happens all the time. Try sitting in 90 degree weather in a pair of jeans. It definitely was an experience but we made the best of it with our dirty bananas. We finally received our luggage 24 hours later. I've learned to always bring clothes (or a bathing suit) in my carry on from now on.

  5. For a while, my luggage got 'lost' so frequently that I started expecting it. But you're right — there's a weird kind of panic that goes along with it, despite understanding that stuff, no matter how valuable, is just stuff.

  6. I'm probably jinxing myself and it is completely superstitious, but I find that my luggage does not get lost if I plan that it will be and bring what I need in my carry on.

    My biggest issue is the new poundage restriction on checked bags! And now some carriers only allow one carry on! I cannot keep it to the 50 lbs in winter months. I like the idea about FedExing in advance. The overnight carriers may profit from the new weight restrictions.

  7. I just went to SD this week to run a race and after the fear of missing my flight subsided, the paranoia of lost luggage took its place. All I could think about was the pants I'd *prefer*( to wear during my race being in my checked luggage while the pants with the holes in the crotch were the ones I'd accidentally packed in my carryon. That and I loved that I'd pack my fuel belt in my carry-on but the bottles were in my luggage. Man. The things we worry about. And you're right; in the end, it's just stuff.

  8. It happens, and it happened to me at LaGuardia a few years back – I didn't have a fat pink yarn bow or whatever on my bag, and someone took my bag. And the proceeded to drive it way upstate. The next day I got a call from the lady who snagged the bag too quickly. Based on the hassle that ensued it was definitely an accident. The funny part is that my mom had packed lots of food, so here I am yelling "but there's smoked trout in there!!!" That might have helped expedite the return haha…

  9. Miami Intl is the worst airport in the world. Every flight, especially American Airlines, is always delayed. They lose your luggage, they are rude and they don't care if you have to make a connecting flight or about anything else for that matter. The only redeeming quality of that airport is that you can get a Cuban Sandwich at La Carreta. That's it.

  10. I have said the same things about finding out who someone really is by watching how they react under less than ideal circumstances. One of the times that my luggage was missing along with a dozen or so other people, was when I landed in Ft. Lauderdale at around midnight. The poor man that had to deal with the screaming, swearing and insults from people that you would least expect it from. I was also shocked how most of the people were not only rude to him but to one another…each thinking they should be dealt with first because somehow they were more important than the rest of us.

    I was exhausted and hungry myself but after a long day of traveling, found the whole ordeal humorous. When it was my turn, which was last, the elderly gentleman, thanked me for my patience and for my smile. I actually asked him how he handles this part of his job every day and his answer was "people like you and I just don't take it personal."

  11. The process of picking up luggage always boggled my mind. Anyone could take anyone's luggage!
    There is no way to know if some stranger just wandered into luggage claim and grabbed a bag.
    It seems odd.

    My luggage was lost on Christmas eve when I flew home from being on tour 3 months. That meant all my Christmas gifts, clothes and make-up for church, everything.
    I felt worse for the poor man, who on Christmas evening had to drive my bag to my home, 2 hours away from the airport. What a sad Christmas day for him.

  12. i dont have children, but whenever i stand there waiting for my luggage i always think that this must be what it feels like when a parent waits for their child to get off of the bus after the first day of kindergarten.
    trying to maintain a cool exterior with all of that nervous anticipation inside.

    by the way, i can't understand the people who wait all the way at the end of the loopy belt. i, for one, get as close to that little hole in the wall as possible.

  13. Been there, done that so many times I thought I was lost on my own blog there for a minute. Glad you got your stuff back and you're so right about the stress factor.

  14. sorry to hear about your luggage – i pack my jewelery too & my fiancee hates when i do that

  15. Hmm picture this. New Years. Sandals resort in the bahamas. 5 days of couples only bliss in a gorgeous suite.
    Clothes never arrive, ever. We didn't get them back until AFTER we got home. At least I had 7 pairs of shoes, makeup and jewelry in my carry on – I could accesorize my nudity well.

  16. Losing my luggage is one of my worst nightmares. It's the reason I don't pack my favourite things with me when I travel by plane. I won't risk losing my favourite pair of boots (the perfect classic chocolate brown high pair which go with everything), even if it's only 'stuff' it's special to me.
    I carry clean underwear and my medication in my hand luggage. But thanks to the 'no liquids' laws I can't have my contacts kit with me, so I'd be in trouble without my luggage anyway.
    If my stuff got lost I'd probably start crying on the spot :/. But I would never get rude with the personel, it's not their fault. I don't understand people who do that, it's not ok to treat people that way.

    I once saw a lady walking off with my suitcase, I ran down the hall to stop her and she didn't even believe me. Uhm, why else would I make that fuss? I had to force her to open my bag to prove that it was mine. So now I always make sure there are coloured ribbons attached to the handles.

  17. Lost husband: I couldn't find my husband at the Fiumicino airport in Rome last week. I was completely spastic and lost any semblance of composure. I tried to breach security to figure out where he was, thinking he may be in lost luggage. Security turned me around and let me go through the boarding area, I think they felt sorry for me. Standing in the lost luggage counter a guy and I started talking. He was back on his second day to the airport waiting for luggage that he really needed as he had a dinner party that evening. He asked when and what I lost; my husband I cried. Luckily, the ladies told me he had never made his flight and I found out after a 3am call to my mother-in-law that he would be flying the next day.

  18. "I felt worse for the poor man, who on Christmas evening had to drive my bag to my home, 2 hours away from the airport. What a sad Christmas day for him."

    On the positive side, maybe he was Jewish.

    I've taken to just fitting everything in a bag that can be carried on. It eliminates my peppering my luggage with totally useless crap (two eyelash curlers in case one breaks? five bras for a weekend?) and lets me breeze through customs and connecting flights.

    Last straw was when I flew from Europe back to the States and had to connect in D.C. to get to New York. F-cking Expedia gave me a reservation with about 45 minutes in between my flight from Rome (also Fiumicino which, Melissa, is one of the worst airports in Europe in my opinion) landing and my flight to JFK taking off. Which would have been fine if they weren't on opposite sides of Dulles AND Expedia had taken into account that I'd have to claim my baggage and re-check it (thank you, Homeland Security). And, of course, my bag was the last to come out. So I had a back and forth with a Continental employee who said she'd get me on the next flight to New York, then told me that next flight would be in 8 hours. She charged me for re-checking my bags and a bunch of other fees, leaving me with enough to get drunk in some Bennigan's type place. By the time I got to JFK, I couldn't find my luggage, went to the lost luggage room, and saw it there already. When I asked how it was already in the room when I'd been at the carousel, another Continental lady said it had come on an earlier flight and said she wondered why I hadn't been on that flight as well.

    I said "You and me both," and poured myself into a cab.

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