The Baggage We Carried

Sitting on an airport bench in days-old clothes guarding our luggage and watching the United front desk lady try to gaslight my mom, I marveled at the ways in which torture manages to reinvent itself. Every year my flight experience is a reimagined nightmare. Not that I can really say I’ve done anything to better my circumstances year to year, like sleep earlier or finally begin meditating or stop flying United.

And I guess the days-old clothes is also misleading because I hadn’t been waiting at the DFW Airport for more than three hours. I just hadn’t felt like doing laundry.

(In my defense… I’d already packed, had been basically sedentary in the clothes I’d been wearing, and am a gross person.)


Mom and I were stuck in airport limbo and we hadn’t even checked in yet. Thursday night, we were scheduled for a flight to Houston, where we’d have a three-hour layover before a 17-hour flight to Taiwan. The Houston flight was delayed a couple hours due to tornado warnings that morning, so Mom was trying to get us onto an earlier flight.

Mom: We’d only have an hour between flights. That’s not enough time, especially if there are more delays.

United Lady: That’s enough time. I can’t move your flight.

Mom: But—

United Lady: I can help the next person.

We reluctantly left the line. I sat on the bench across the room, arms spread across our luggage, alternately trying to establish shaming eye contact and refreshing the flight status of our delayed plane. Mom found out the next flight to Taiwan from Dallas would be in three days and held off checking in, still hoping we might be able to get on an earlier flight if our plane got delayed further.

Mom got back in line. I refreshed. Our flight’s ETA extended five minutes. Ten.

She reached the front, only to find that a couple who’d been behind us in line the first time had called the manager and gotten the last two tickets to an earlier flight to Houston.

Mom: You said there weren’t any more spots. You didn’t even check for us. Those tickets should’ve been ours and now we’re going to miss our flight.

United Lady, suddenly polite: Ma’am, those people were in front of you.

Let me just say it’s disconcerting watching people who aren’t me having to defend themselves on increasingly flimsy grounds to Mom.

Our flight finally landed, having been delayed nearly an hour, giving us no buffer. We checked in our luggage anyway because we had no other choice. The next hour was a flurry of security checkpoints and strangers’ deadened expressions as we boarded to Houston and hoped the plane would make it there in time. Upon our landing, my carryon suitcase, containing our jackets, camera, and a pair of socks, flew across tile as we tried to reach the opposite side of the Houston Intercontinental Airport.



There were dark moments. The SkyLink train was under maintenance. Mom mentally prepared to book a hotel in Houston. I considered buying Panda Express.

The turning point came when I managed to accost an officer in the practically empty airport. He told us that both platforms actually took you to the same terminals, despite the signs and that there was a discreet white button to the side to call the SkyLink.

Me: How were we supposed to know this?


Me: Must be one of those things you’re born with.

Incredibly, we made it to the second flight with half an hour to spare. I spent the flight recovering by sinking into a catatonic state in front of four consecutive movies. Seventeen hours later, rolling my carry-on out of the tunnel into Taipei’s airport, we made a mistake.

Mom: Thank God we made that flight. Otherwise we’d have had to wait until Sunday.

Me: Thank God I can finally change into a clean set of clothes.

We jinxed our good fortune.

In baggage claim, airport authorities notified us that, while we’d managed to get on the flight, our luggage, unfortunately, had not traveled with us. If they could locate our baggage, they would send it over in a couple of days. Now only possessing a camera and the now really old clothes on my back, I sighed and acknowledged I’d had it coming.

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Last year’s post: My 12 Defining Moments of 2018

18 thoughts on “The Baggage We Carried

  1. And my family says *I* have bad airport karma?! OK, we’re not talking about that 13 hour delay in an overseas airport or even the super delayed flight to the wedding party my in-laws to-be were hosting where I had the whole back half of the plane sitting in their seats so I could sprint off. Somehow it’s comforting to know I’m not alone. Hope you still had a good trip and your luggage caught up with you before you got too desperate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oof. 13 hours… And did you get up to make an announcement for everyone to stay back, or did a flight attendant do that for you? It did show up, but desperation is my state of being, so… sort of.


      1. 13 hours–read an entire chapter book to my two kids. I was hoarse by the time we finally got on the plane. No need to make an announcement for the wedding party–by then we had all spent so much time on the plane together that we knew each other’s stories. Makes for a good wedding story at least : – ) Maybe you picked up some cute outfits while you were waiting for your luggage? Sounds rough.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Flying sucks. I think we should just be tucked into a pod full of nitrous oxide upon arrival at the airport, sent down a shute like luggage, stacked on the jet like torpedos in a submarine, and stay put until we reach our final destination, where we emerge and can once again feel like human beings.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Airline travel these days leaves us longing for a good old-fashioned reliable bus or train trip. It took me 18 hrs to get back to Phoenix from Cincinnati (Covington, KY airport) after a delayed flight to Chicago meant I’d miss my flight to Phoenix. I could get a flight from Denver to Phoenix, but the flight to Denver was booked. The next itinerary to Phoenix being offered would be 2 days later. The whole convoluted process of booking the flight itself was aggravating enough (it took about an hour and a half and required customer support intervention to get the ticketing done correctly). Eventually I did make it back, at midnight (instead of 4pm).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yikes, that sounds awful. My mom tells me she used to book flights with several connections that’d take her in wild directions across the States so that she’d save money. Now she doesn’t do that because she’s learned to love herself.


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