Friday, June 16, 2006

big yellow taxi

I'm sure Joni Mitchell wasn't thinking about lost luggage when she sang Big Yellow Taxi.

But that's the song that's running through my head as I jump through US Airways' Missing Baggage Recovery Service hoops, trying to locate my poor scummy lost bag.

Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

The bit about paradise and parking lots doesn't apply, of course, but it is true that you don't remember what you packed until you arrive home without it.

My bag is a Type 22 (small) according to the luggage identification chart. I told that to the Asian woman who managed to look simultaneously bored, harrassed, and exhausted as she filled out the Official Luggage Incident Report for me. I was the last victim in line. She'd taken down the other travelers' information, and now she was left with bedraggled me and my missing scummy Type 22 (small) bag. Not black. Beige. One of the other missing luggage reports in front of me in line was the result of a switched bag: these nice people thought they were going to a wedding, and now they've ended up with madras plaid golf shorts and hot pink Izod shirts. I say, wear 'em with aplomb! You'll start a trend.

But me, I don't even have the wrong bag to use as fodder for a swap. I came up empty-handed.

All I know is that I checked it in with plenty of time to spare on Wednesday afternoon at the Raleigh-Durham airport and that's the last I've seen of it. And my brief interaction with the woman who filled out my Official Luggage Incident Report was the last time I talked to a human.

US Airways has the nerve to name its automated phone baggage service system. Alex. Alex is the name of the automated voice recognition 'tard (auto-'tard, for short). Alex can't understand a word I say, no matter how clearly I think I'm enunciating my File Reference Number. He's been trained on a voice other than mine with an accent other than mine. The esses are possibly less silibant. Or more.

"Let's try this again. Arrival airport?"

"S-F-O, for fuck's sake! S-F-O!"

"I think your arrival airport is Florence, South Carolina. Is this correct?"

"NO! NO!"

"Say the name of your arrival city."


I don't like to shout into the phone. But by the time we are done, I'm sure I'm audible all over the neighborhood.

The simple truth is that auto-'tard Alex is US Airways' way of saying Fuck Off. We don't know what happened to your luggage. We don't care what happened to your luggage. We haven't gotten raises for the last four years. The company is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. You think we care about your goddamned luggage? We have to push credit card applications when we serve beverages. We have to sell Fun Snack Boxes to people who don't have a bill smaller than a twenty. We have to clean the filthy planes ourselves. Bus drivers have more dignity.

Your type 22 beige wheelie bag (small) means NOTHING TO US. NOTHING!

Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

I suppose the advice is: don't pack anything you care about in your checked bag. Just fill it with recycling, lint, and half-eaten sandwiches, and then you won't care when it goes missing. Actually, I thought I'd more or less done that, but it's not 'til your bag's gone that you realize how little redundancy you have in your life. That was my only roll of dental floss, darn it. And my comments on Megan's dissertation? The ones I promised to send her when I got back home? Gone. All of my presentable warm-weather clothes -- gone. My favorite University of Arkansas Razorbacks t-shirt. Gone. The power cord for my laptop? Gone, daddy, gone.

For most people, a small bag like mine doesn't make that much of a dent in their wardrobe, but I'm not much of a shopper: that overhead-bin sized Type 22 bag represents at least half of my clothes.

I bet they detonated it at RDU. They x-rayed it and some darned thing looked exactly -- but exactly -- like a nuclear (or is that nucular?) weapon. So they blew it up.

I can't think of any other reason it's not trackable. I mean, it's not like my bag has a mind of its own and thought, "I see a flight to Paris -- think I'll just pull up stakes and go. June is a swell time to go to Paris if you're a smallish piece of beat-up beige luggage. Discounts galore. Special tours of the Louvre. Let me just put on this beret, upgrade to the Business Class overhead bin, and I'll be on my way." No, my bag has no whims, no flights of fancy.

But you'd think that if they'd detonated it, it would've been on Fox News. They like to show suspected bombs exploding. A guy makes a joke about a car bomb and they blow up his car. You don't joke about this stuff around Brit Hume: those Fox News guys'll blow up your suitcase in a heartbeat.

Want to know something troubling? There's apparently a whole operation devoted to selling stuff found in "unclaimed" luggage. Sure there's some weird stuff, but there's also a depressing array of other peoples' clothes and belongings. And a number of hard cover books about grilling: I think those books have been abandoned, tucked in the seat back as bachelor sons return to their Beverly Hills cribs after a visit home to see Mom in Lubbock.

Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

It's been 48 hours. Should I go to Walgreen's and spring for a new dispenser of Wal-Floss? Even if I get my bag back, I doubt the floss survived the explosion.


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