Check Your Suitcase

Entering the tiny airplane from gate B71 at Dulles International outside Washington DC, I was slightly annoyed. I get attached to my luggage, having had a weird affinity to bags and suitcases ever since I started flying business in what seems likes decades ago. Oh waitaminute, it has been decades. When the gate agent tells me to check it in at the bottom of the gate, my mood changes ever so slightly. Nonetheless, I did not put up a fight. She slapped a red ticket onto my suitcase, and I left it by the door as I made my way to seat 14A. I slept the entire flight, not because I was tired, but because that’s what I do on most flights. Thoughts of a weekend filled with one poignant moment after another filled my thoughts on my way from Washington, DC to Charlotte to San Francisco. I really missed my family. My niece and nephew were sources of constant love and entertainment, and I could never get enough of them, not to mention their mom — my sister — and dad were two of my closest friends.

The golden streams from the evening skies lent an ephemeral quality to my current mood, making my way down the steps to solid ground. I had just landed in Charlotte, and had exactly thirty minutes before my connecting flight back home to San Francisco. As I waited with the other passengers, carry-on suitcases were being given to them one-by-one by two load-handlers, one a tall, bearded, powerful man and the other a shorter, thick but quick woman. At first I gave it no thought, until eventually I began to wonder where my suitcase was. When everything had been unloaded, she asked me what kind of bag I had.

“Black TUMI suitcase.”

“I cannot give it to you, because it had no tags.”

“Of course it did, the gate agent put it on herself. I watched her do it.”

“The suitcase has no tags.”

“How could it not have tags?”

“I don’t know, but it has none; and I cannot give it back to you.”

“What do you mean, you ‘cannot give it back to’ me? I want my suitcase!”

“Sir, it had no tags.”

“Listen, I don’t know what’s going on, but I want my suitcase! I saw the gate agent put on the tags. How could my suitcase even be loaded onto the plane if it didn’t have a tag? It must be lying on the ground somewhere.”

“I cannot give you your suitcase.”

“I have a connecting flight to San Francisco in less than thirty minutes! I want my suitcase!”

“I’m sorry, I cannot give it to you. Goto BSO and you can get it back.”

“What the fuck is BSO? I don’t have time to mess with this!”

“BSO is Baggage Claim —”

“My flight is in thirty minutes.”

“I’m sorry but I cannot give it back to you. I will be charged a $5000 penalty.”

“I cannot fucking believe this!”

And so I bolted for Baggage Claims to find American Airlines Baggage Claims Services. Once I made my way past the gates, noting that my flight to San Francisco was in another terminal and gate, it dawned on me that upon entering baggage claim, I would have to go thru security again. Time was not on my side. Besides myself, I pleaded with the security clerk, sharing with her my plight.

“I’m sorry sir, there is nothing I can do for you. You’ll need to go to baggage claims, and reenter security to make your flight.”

“There’s no way I’m going to make my flight! And I don’t want to spend the night in Charlotte!”

Goodness, I was thinking to myself, I could have spent another evening with my family instead. Knowing I wasn’t getting anywhere but wasting time, I left the security clerk behind while she was mid-sentence. I raced down two escalators, passed several baggage turnstiles, and ran into American Airlines Baggage Services. I’m not much of a runner; it’s not a good look on me.

“I really need your help. I think there’s been some sort of mistake where my luggage was tagged and checked outside the door to my flight at Dulles. Arriving here just now, the tag was not on the suitcase, so she wouldn’t give it back to me. I have a flight now in about twenty minutes.”

“Describe your suitcase?”

“It’s a black TUMI carry-on.”

“And your name?”

I gave her my name as she opened the door to a room, bringing out my suitcase. “Thank you so much! Is there anything you can do to help me expedite my way to the gate? My flight’s in twenty minutes.”

“You’ll have to go to the ticketing agent upstairs and they can help you. If you don’t make the flight, maybe they can make other arrangements.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. I only have twenty minutes! There’s no time! And I don’t want to spend the night in Charlotte!!”

“I’m sorry sir, there’s nothing we can do!”

“You’ve got be fucking kidding me!!!!!!” as I ran away…

“Sir!! Your language!”

F-ck her, I was thinking in my head. I couldn’t believe myself. I’m not one for throwing f-bombs at anyone, let alone strangers. Luckily, because I had checked in at Dulles with my AA app, I was able to also download (while yelling in mid-expletive) my boarding pass onto my phone for my connecting flight as well. I raced upstairs to security. As I entered Checkpoint C, a heavy-set woman instructed me, “Sir, may I direct you to checkpoint E instead?”

“My flight is in fifteen minutes. Is there any way you can get me through this line?”

“No sir, but you can go to checkpoint E.”

“I don’t have time! My flight is boarding right now!”

“Sir, checkpoint E will be faster.”

Arguing with this bitch was getting me nowhere. I ran down to checkpoint E. Luckily, as she had promised, there was no one ahead of me. I took off my shoes, my belt, my jacket, my ball cap, everything in my pockets, unloaded my laptop and went through the body scanner.

“Sir, you have all sorts of things in your pockets.”

Fuck me. “No I don’t!”

“Yes you do sir.”

“Ah dang it!”

I had a receipt from last night left in my front left pocket. I would need to be patted down. However, there was an older couple in front of me. Those next thirty seconds seemed like an eternity. After the pat down, I put my shoes, ball cap and jacket back on. And ran to terminal C. My shins and my hips were betraying every bit of my age, and I was in serious pain. With five minutes left to spare, I made it to the gate.

“Sir, we are going to need to check your suitcase.”

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