Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Bags go missing

Installment the first [janinsanfran narrating]

It all began with two intrepid voyagers seeking to fly from Boston to San Francisco in the afternoon in winter. Not a good idea. No timely one-way non-stop flight was available; we could only achieve this plan, without spending a fortune, by changing planes somewhere on the way.

As I said, it was winter. We arrived at Logan Airport by ferry and bus in good time and checked our luggage with U.S. Airways. We passed through security and proceeded to our boarding area. We sat. And then, we heard that our plane would be delayed at least one hour on the ground and perhaps another on the tarmac.

Naturally we joined the scrum at the agent's desk. This change, caused by snow in Philadelphia, meant that we'd miss our flight to the West Coast. Could we be re-routed? Why yes, said the agent, we could fly to San Francisco via Las Vegas and get home no later than 2 am the next day. What would happen to our checked luggage? After all, though our first flight was on U.S. Airways, our original second flight was to have been on United. Nobody knew, but all personnel were reassuring.

We decided getting home in this protracted fashion was a better bet than chasing after our luggage and getting snowed in at Philadelphia, so accepted the new itinerary. Eleven hours later we stumbled off a plane in San Francisco and -- not to our surprise -- discovered our luggage was not among the pieces that tumbled off the conveyor belt.

And so, we lurched over to the "Office of Property Irregularities," described our Bags and were assured by a confident agent that they would be sent along the next day. A quick cab ride home and eight hours sleep later, we telephoned U.S. Airways. Well, no, our Bags had not arrived -- but surely they'd come in sometime that day.

They didn't. By evening, still no Bags.

The next morning, still no Bags. We patiently explained to the agent at "Property Irregularities" that most likely our Bags had disappeared somewhere in the clutches of United Air since we had been originally ticketed to fly their route from Philly to San Francisco. Finally, in late morning, we were assured that the luggage was in possession of the Courier. Perhaps the saga was coming to an end ...

Installment the second [rebeccag narrating]

You may recall that when last we left our intrepid two-wheeled heroines, they had fallen into the clutches of The Courier. Or so we had been informed by the mysterious minions of U.S. Airways employed by the department they call "Property Irregularities." This Courier, these minions (perhaps we should refer to them as the Irregulars) assured us, was a force for good, and would shortly appear on our doorstep, The Bags in tow.

Secure in the knowledge that we would soon be reunited with our beloved Bags and the books, underwear and knitting paraphernalia they contained, we set our minds to other matters. Hours passed in useful activity, uninterrupted however by the appearance of anything resembling a Courier. Growing concerned - and aware that we had an engagement for dinner some hours hence - we attempted further contact with the minions of US Airways. We did not wish The Bags to arrive only to find the house darkened and silent, save for the occasional piercing howls of Fester the Cat.

Reader, we phoned again. Alas, the minions of the Department of Property Irregularities had disappeared, leaving behind only their infernal Message Machine, whose mechanical voice cheerfully assured us that their concern for our missing Bags was nearly as deep as our own. Skeptical, but undaunted, we considered a change in tactics. Our original flight plan involved a switch in Philadelphia to United Airlines. Although we had never actually traveled to Philadelphia due to untoward inclemency there, you may recall from an earlier episode that The Bags had indeed made that journey. Perhaps the good people of United Airlines would know something of their fate?

A call to United Airlines (answered, we suspect, in Lahore) revealed that indeed The Bags were in their possession. They were, in fact, repining at the San Francisco Airport at that very moment. Could we ourselves retrieve them? Indeed we could.

In high good humor we set out for the airport. We improvised a ditty:
Do not fly on US Air.
Do not fly on US Air.
They take your luggage
And throw it in the air
The Homeland Security Alert Level being set at "Orange" we elected to leave one of us in the car, while the other parlayed with the good people of United. This task fell to janinsanfran. Just as a helpful policeman was urging me in the nicest possible way to remove my potential car bomb from the curb, janinsanfran emerged from the baggage claim area. One look at her crestfallen face - and her Bag-less hands) was sufficient to communicate the Awful Truth. The Bags were no longer in the possession of United Airlines. Indeed, we had missed them by a mere 15 minutes. You may well imagine our consternation upon hearing that they had been seized by the sinister personnel of US Airways.

But the trail was a mere quarter hour old. Surely with a bit of courage and ingenuity we could close the gap. We circled back to the now-familiar Department of Property Irregularities at the U.S. Airways terminal. I hovered while janinsanfran went in. There she encountered the kindly Clifford, who offered to fortify her with a cup of Coffee while he related to her his part of the Tale. Declining the coffee on grounds of concern for her hovering partner, janinsanfran urged Clifford to make haste and tell her what he knew.

Clifford, it appeared, did not work alone in the Department of Property Irregularities. Indeed, he was much plagued by a co-worker, known only as The Girl, who drove him near distraction. In order to attain for himself a moment's peace, he had lately dispatched her to United Airlines, to retrieve our Bags. It was indeed odd, he mused, that he had not seen her since. We could be sure, however, that she had conveyed The Bags into the hands of The Couriers, who would shortly deliver them to our doorstep.

At once disappointed to have been within a quarter hour of success, and elated at the prospect of a grand reunion, we rushed home to prepare a proper welcome for The Bags.

Some hours later, no Courier having appeared, and the hour of our engagement growing dangerously near, we hazarded another call to the Irregulars at US Airways. The kindly Clifford had finished for the day, but his successor, a lovely woman, assured us that The Bags had been transferred to the Couriers. She provided a telephone number.

Reader, I called that number. "Did we call you?" asked the voice at the other end of the telephone.

"No," I replied, a bit startled, "I called you."

"Well, you can't call us until we call you. You have to call the airline."

"But they told me to call you. They said you have our Bags."

A deep sigh greeted this news. "Well, what address are they supposed to go to?"

I told her our address. After a bit of searching, she informed us that the Bags were indeed in her possession. "They should be there by 7:00 tonight."

Alarmed, because our Engagement was to begin at 6:30, and we did not relish the thought of The Bags languishing unprotected on the porch of our house, I asked whether we might instead retrieve the bags ourselves.

Our informant was dubious, but at length agreed that we might do so. A complex set of driving directions followed. which in the event would prove inaccurate and lead us on a merry adventure among the warrens of warehouses of Trans-Freeway South San Francisco.

We knew better, after so many near misses to set our hopes too high, but we set out in good spirits. Once it dawned upon us that our informant's directions were in cypher, and must be interpreted inside out and backwards, we at length arrived at a warehouse set at the back of a dark and empty parking lot. We discerned in the distance the welcome glow of an open door.

On approaching, we were greeted by a number of singing Couriers, young men of the Tribe of Hip-Hop. They were a bit surprised to find two aging women in their midst, but once having understood the nature of our errand, they proved most helpful. Indeed, of all the people we had come across throughout our quest, these were the most helpful of all, for once learning that our Bags were bound for San Francisco, they led us to a small corral.

And there, dear Reader, amidst a sad assortment of suitcases and knapsacks, looking forlorn, but none the worse for wear, we saw them!

With great jubilation on all sides, we effected our reunion. As we were leaving, I offered the assembled Couriers a bit of advice:

"Never fly US Airways."

This suggestion was greeted with great hilarity. "Look around you," said leader of the Couriers, gesturing at the room full of bags. "Do you really think any other airline would be any better?"


Jane R said...

Oh geez, and I thought I had the airline story of all stories in early December. Hope you get some sleep after all this.

Philadelphia, by the way, is the U.S.'s worst airport. Give me Atlanta any day. Never thought I'd say that!

And the courier princes are right.

Welcome home.

bjohanna said...

I wish I could write so cleverly about the misdirected extra principal payment I made on our WAMU mortgage. Have been trying since December 16 to get that straightened out. I'm considering your story to be a bit of solidarity. Thanks.

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