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McCallum: Luggage Lost And Found

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“This is the classic traveler’s nightmare,” I thought, as I stood beside the airline baggage claim carousel in a rapidly thinning crowd. The same three suitcases had gone round and round, unclaimed, when the conveyor abruptly stopped and a bell rang out, as if to say, “That’s all folks!”

Tired and forlorn, a half dozen of us looked at one another in horror as we trudged to the cramped baggage office to fill out forms and embark on a byzantine journey that we never signed up for - the locating, tracking and return of our misplaced luggage. And we were not alone.

Every year, more than twenty million pieces of baggage worldwide are mishandled or misdirected, and industry statistics suggest that a mere seven percent of them are truly and irretrievably lost. In fact, nearly 85% of these so-called lost bags are returned by courier within forty-eight hours. But some few stragglers may enter a kind of No Man’s Land where they’re located, tracked, and misdirected again – only to turn up and be sent on to spend a few days or even weeks in an office waiting for the proper paperwork to be completed.

Now, I do get it that this is more or less a privileged person’s problem, but it was upsetting nonetheless.

While my suitcase journeyed across an ocean, through airports and consolidation points in Connecticut and New Jersey, I made repeated calls to airline baggage customer service personnel. Their accents suggested Dubai, but as days unfolded they began to recognize my voice. None could confirm where the item was but assured me I would be receiving a phone call “very soon” and all would be well.

Discouraged, I began to detach from everything I could live without. The exception was a favorite pair of earrings – I know: a privileged person’s problem. But still.

Then just when I’d about decided I had too much excess baggage in my life, the suitcase showed up at the Fedex office in Rutland, where it spent four days waiting for a special tracking number that eluded the authorities. Of course, the bag couldn’t be released without it, so I forged new phone friendships with Fedex staff until finally – after four more days - the bulging little suitcase showed up on my doorstep, festooned with all manner of tags, and none the worse for wear.