I won’t pretend that, after the whole United Airlines fiasco, I wasn’t anticipating using my own hellish travel experience for blog content. Flying is so notoriously horrible that documenting my suffering almost seemed like low-hanging fruit, which I guess would mean more if I actually thought myself above easy pickings. Sitting in the terminal across my gate, one hour before boarding, I ate my breakfast of leftover sautéed vegetables from Maggiano’s and brainstormed all the possible ways my flight could go wrong.
A Comprehensive List of Possibilities
- I could get questioned for acting suspiciously around security, given how nervous I get when I have nothing to hide.
- I could actually become a security threat by pulling out something dangerous I’d unknowingly left in my backpack and somehow had gotten through security.
- The plane could crash.
- I could accidentally become a security threat, try to talk myself out of it by upending the contents of my bag, and actually become a security risk, thereby inciting mass panic and causing the plane to nosedive thousands of miles and instantaneously incinerate us all.
- Or, even worse, I could sit next to an extremely talkative person.
Having gone through the possibilities, I felt adequately prepared for anything, which, as I’ve found, is usually the surest sign that I’m not. I finished the butter-soaked vegetables (the best kind of healthy food is the negated kind) and got up to throw the to-go box away in the bathroom. I briefly considered taking my carry-on, backpack, and paper bag of snacks with me but thought better of it. The bathroom was right across the gate. There were plenty of potential witnesses seated around me. And no one would be stupid enough to steal an obnoxiously purple suitcase.
But when I made my way back to the row of seats one minute later, my suitcase was gone.
I glanced around, my panic a slow burn. My backpack and snacks were on the center seat exactly as I’d left them. None of my “witnesses” looked like they’d seen anything out of the ordinary. I asked the lady sitting next to me if she’d seen what happened to my suitcase. She looked at me like she couldn’t comprehend why I was questioning her and asked me if I was sure I had one.
I didn’t even know how to respond to that, so I waited in line to speak to someone at the boarding gate counter. Once the man in front of me finished screaming at the lady about his ridiculous treatment, I stepped up, thinking civility would get me somewhere.
Me: Hi ma’am, have you seen my purple carry-on suitcase? I went to throw—
Lady: YOU NEVER LEAVE YOUR BAGGAGE UNATTENDED.
Me: *nods*… Yes. I shouldn’t have done that. But—
Lady: YOU NEVER LEAVE YOUR BAGGAGE UNATTENDED.
Me: Yes, I won’t do it again. I take it you haven’t seen—
Lady: *already shaking her head* There are strict protocols for this. Security probably saw that it was unattended, which is a security threat, and picked it up, so I have no idea where it is. You hear warnings all the time over the intercoms. That’s why you NEVER LEAVE YOUR BAGGAGE UNATTENDED.
While I appreciated her efforts to impart this lesson, and I did truly internalize how very unattended my suitcase had been, I really thought there was a better time for this lecture, namely after she at least tried to help me search. Like, if she’d been a lifeguard and I was drowning right in front of her, I imagine she’d have continuously screamed “this is why you don’t swallow water” until I asphyxiated.
I wheedled her until she gave me the number of the airport’s lost and found. The office was closed, because people are especially careful not to lose things on Saturdays.
I’d been fairly sure no one would be stupid enough to steal such a flashy suitcase, but now that I thought about it, thievery wasn’t exactly an exclusive profession. Entertaining for the first time the possibility of never seeing my luggage again, I mentally reviewed its contents. I didn’t remember anything particularly valuable. I was flying back from a leadership conference, so the bag just had company freebies, business casual attire, toiletries, and five unused copies of my resume that I regretted printing. While losing the suitcase would mean I wouldn’t have to do laundry, I still would rather not have been that girl who got her suitcase stolen while throwing away trash. Just the girl who almost got her suitcase stolen while throwing away trash.
Me: Is there a number I can call for security?
Counter lady: If security had taken it, it would’ve shown up on the log. Someone must have walked off with it.
Counter lady: You just can’t leave your bags unattended.
She stood there expectantly and offered nothing further, waiting for me to walk away. I stood my ground, widened my eyes, and amped up the politeness. Oh, she didn’t even know how pleasant I could be under duress.
Me: Okay, thank you. I understand. But could we please make an announcement over the intercom? I would appreciate that so much.
My fellow plane passengers, who now had chosen to pay attention, watched the unfolding drama.
Counter lady: … I suppose I could… But—
The crackle of an intercom interrupted her mid-sentence. To our consternation, the name that began reverberating around the sleepy terminal was none other than my own. Nicole ___, a lady said, please report to the security checkpoint. Again, Nicole ___, please report to the security checkpoint.
I was halfway there by the third message. I raced around the corner, made eye contact with a TSA officer, and started babbling about my purple suitcase until I saw it, opened, on the table. An officer was packing my Froot Loops pajama shorts back inside. She pointed out that without a luggage tag, I’d been lucky there were papers inside the suitcase with my name on them.
Walking back to my gate and thanking Counter Lady, I thought about what I could draw from this ordeal. Not only had I learned, obviously, never to leave my baggage unattended, but also I finally had evidence that resumes were good for something, after all. Maybe not so much landing me a job but more as in identifying lost belongings, which, if you think about both in terms of mitigating the aftermath of my stupidity, are essentially the same thing.
Can you believe this is my 100th post? I have to say, I really thought I would’ve flaked out on this blog by now, but I’m so thankful that I (and you!) haven’t.
Those of you who haven’t heard from my Facebook page, I wrote a guest post entitled “Finally, Proof That Thinking Is Bad for You” on Mindfump’s blog. Check it out and please like my page for updates on what I’m up to!
(Finally, points to whoever noticed the irony in my coming full circle with unattended baggage.)