Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Baggage Claim and Other Tales

Being able to see airport baggage handlers do their job has to be THE most frustrating thing about air travel. Can anyone empathize?

I step off the plane at San Jose del Cabo airport and into the baggage claim terminal, a crazed New Yorker all in a tizzy to get going and get to the business of relaxing. The walls that separate inside from out are made of glass, which means I can watch the bags come off the plane and make their way to the conveyor belt. And there it is. My bag. Buried deep under about 50 other bags on the third of 3 piled-high luggage carts. I am relieved it wasn't lost in transit, but dismayed when I see what's going on out there. It seems one lone baggage handler is responsible for sorting through that pile of mess. Under a blazing afternoon sun, I can almost smell the sweat pouring into his eyes as he works, slowly sorting through hundreds of overstuffed suitcases. One by one, each bag is gently, deliberately, almost lovingly placed on the belt and sent off to meet its master. Two colleagues sit idly nearby, and just watch.

Are you kidding me? This could take all day! It takes everything in me not to climb onto that conveyor belt, crawl through that little window, grab my suitcase and go. Instead, I take a deep breath and recall that meditation experience I had just days ago. How quickly these lessons fade from our memory.

Along these lines, I have created some of my own New Rules for Air Travel:

1. Getting stuck in a middle seat does not entitle you to take up both armrests with your oddly-large elbows. Don't make your neighbors suffer because you do. Next time, go online and request an aisle or window seat like the rest of us.

2. If the flight attendant asks you to shut off your phone and stop talking, shut it off and stop talking. The rest of us want to take off. Your call cannot be that important. And if it is, you should have thought of that before you scheduled this flight.

3. If you are brave enough to use the airplane toilet, please lock the door. It's not difficult: just slide that little thingy all the way until it clicks and the light comes on. Outside, the door will read "occupied", and I won't walk in on you while you are doing your thing. It's really getting old.

4. Please don't ask the flight attendant to list out all the beverage options when he/she finally comes around. I am thirsty and you are taking too long to decide. You had plenty of time to peruse your choices in the in-flight magazine. Soda, juice, coffee, water... why is this so hard?

5. Regarding baggage claim: if you are a family of three or more, there is absolutely no reason you plus mom plus dad plus grandma plus your 10 kids plus your crated dog need to all wait by the conveyor belt for your luggage. Seriously folks, step back. Make room for others. And pull that luggage cart out of the way while you are at it. Try sending a willing representative from your own Brady Bunch to collect the bags instead. (Dad is usually a good one).

6. If the wall between outside and the baggage claim terminal is made of glass, please, draw the shades. This is one impatient traveler who doesn't want to know why it takes an hour for her bag to finally come around.

7. Savvy travelers: send me your own rules via comments below. I know you have some!

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