Friday, December 22, 2006

The First Noel

For some inexplicable reason, while packing this morning for my Holiday trip, I thought it wise to deviate from tried and true traditions of including a change of clothes in my carry on, in search of spontaneity and adventure I suppose. I ended up getting both, and in more unforgiving quantities than I could have expected.

When the day started, and it did so at a time that most people aren’t even aware exists (I usually refer to it as the bootycrack of dawn), I was actually giddy and fraught with excitement. Not only was I going to visit family during the holidays, but I was also going to fly First Class for the first time ever. (I quickly learned why those that travel in this manner become snooty.) Ah yes, when I first arrived at the airport, I immediately basked in true First class glory. I was able to approach the ticket counter without waiting and bypass snaking lines of hundreds of sleepy passengers waiting to check in, as they fumbled to locate their passports and travel itineraries and simultaneously herd their restless children. After checking in my luggage and receiving my boarding pass, I followed the drones of travelers towards the “Security Checkpoint”. The first security screener glanced over my documents, then lifted the retractable nylon divider and guided me towards an alternate line, which was much shorter. It didn’t take me long to notice that I was now in line with flight crew, airport personnel, and the handicap. “Okay, now this is pretty cool,” I remember thinking. I had somehow become a part of the travel elite and circumvented yet another endless line of voyagers preparing for the inevitable inspections of their carry on luggage and their potentially exploding footwear (somehow I think the thirteen year old girl wearing flip flops and pink pajamas that read ‘princess’ in glittery letters across her ass, was not a threat to national security. But I suppose I’ve been wrong before.) I quickly made it through the labyrinth of machines and was off to my gate.

I was amongst the first to board the plane, but not without a few discerning glances from some passengers that had stayed on the aircraft. The flight attendant eagerly offered to take my coat and retrieve a tasty beverage as I situated myself in the large, plush leather seat located just two paces away from the lavatory. I was pleased to discover that there was already a pillow and blanket on my seat, as though they were little mint chocolates carefully placed on a pillow of a luxurious hotel bed. There was also ample leg room, an amenity I’m unaccustomed to when flying economy. Before I could even hear the snap of my seatbelt fastening into place, the perky hostess had returned with my drink. “Man, I could really get used to this.” I thought, as I eventually dozed off into a completely uninterrupted and heavenly slumber amongst the clouds.

When I finally arrived at my destination however, I was soon to realize a nightmare whose undiscriminating grasp seems to have no boundaries or limits, even to those wearing the honored badge of “First Class”. I waited at the baggage claim carousel for what seemed like an eternity, watching the various types of bags pass by in multitudes of sizes and shapes and displaying fresh scars from their journey. I began to observe two commonalities developing, 1) The number of bags on the conveyer belt was diminishing, and 2) My suitcase had yet to be seen. Shortly after my epiphanous moment, a swarthy airport employee, (who had obviously eaten too much turkey at thanksgiving,) appeared out of no where to make an announcement. He appeared bothered as he grabbed the microphone, wearing his pilot-like hat slightly off his head and tilted to one side (indicating that he had just taken another swig from his flask,) and announced that there was no more luggage coming out. The last few of us “distressed passengers”, quickly rushed towards him like a swarm of reporters looking for an interview with Britney, in hopes of finding her panties. As I’m sure he’d done a thousand time before, his hand was already pointing towards a little glass room at the end of the airport’s long corridor as he grumpily projected, “I’m sorry, but you will all have to fill out lost baggage claims over there” (while I go have another sandwich and a drink no doubt.) “Damn it, are you serious?” I thought. “This can’t be happening!” I scuttled towards the interrogation room in disbelief, through the recesses of the airport with my sister Fels (who came to pick me up,) and my carry on in tow. As we waited outside the room we took a moment to scan the sea of orphan bags scattered across the vast marble floor (For a moment I pondered how long they had been there and what was inside them, and if their contents might even fit me.) Unfortunately, my effects were no where to be found. The tinted glass door flew open and a disgruntled customer ran out mumbling profanities. “Shit, this doesn’t look good,” I thought. I was hurriedly greeted by a flustered member of the mysterious glass room who handed me a form and an extremely dull pencil. With a forced smile, she instructed me to fill out the form and wait in line. I completed the redundant paper work, and I was finally ushered into the little suana where 3 employees stood before me, sweating profusely and frustratingly pounding their keyboards from behind the tall counter decorated with pictures of all kinds of baggage (in case you forgot what yours looked like.) The rotund lady to my left (with painfully enormous flotation devices,) proclaimed in a defeated tone, “The system is down! My computer is down, nothing’s working!” “Just perfect”, I thought. Debbie does Dallas over here has lost it and this is exactly what I needed to top off my luxurious plane ride. “Larry” took my form and proceeded to confirm the information. His politeness was quickly overlooked as he continued to mispronounce my name over and over again (a ritual I’ve grown accustomed to over the years, just not to that extent by one person at any given time.) I suppose it wouldn’t have bothered me as much had I not needed to be in that hot ass incubator to begin with. After some impressive key stroking Larry handed me a new set of papers with a phone number on it. He nonchalantly explained that my suitcase was “probably” on the next flight in, and that I could either wait, or that it would be delivered later that evening. In retrospect, I should have waited. All this transpired around 11:30am. By the time 5:30 rolled around, I started what would prove to be the ultimate test of patience. After two hours of hearing busy tones and ringing (no one ever did answer that damn number Larry,) it was obviously time for a new game plan. I conducted some internet sleuthing and successfully tracked down my luggage and even produced a number through which I would eventually talk to a live person. By 9:30pm I had successfully reached the delivery vendor, but had to endure being transferred four times by a degenerate, who appeared to be eating. I was surprisingly able to refrain from screaming at the third person who asked who I was, what my bag looked like, and where it was being delivered. After my headache inducing conversation with Captain Retardo, I was informed that my bag was in their custody and that it would be delivered in a two to four hour window. Merry Freakn’ Christmas! The knock at the door came right before midnight, just in time for me to take out my contacts, (which by now had fused to my corneas,) change into something more comfortable, and finally get some sleep. All in all, I guess it wasn't that bad, besides I was visiting family. I just wasn’t a fan of the lost and found game. I’m even looking forward to the return flight home. Of course I won’t be forgetting to pack a change of clothes this time, and some contact solution . . . . . . . just in case.

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