January 03, 2006

Time and Luggage

And so begins another chunk of time. 2005 seemed to be divided into discrete chunks more than most years are: there was a chunk when my mother was ill, then a chunk when we went a Costa Rica, then a chunk dominated by my mother's death and funeral, then I went to Spain, then a chunk of intensive tai chi practice, then a holiday week when my family was away. Now a new cycle begins: today is the first day of the kids' school semester, and my two grown sons are visiting us for a period. Agent 81, whose cover was long ago blown as John, is here in Austin for a week's vacation before going back to law school, and Agent 83, Chris, is moving to Austin, having just graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Chris is in Wichita this morning and will drive south today through all of Oklahoma and most of Texas, his car loaded with DVDs and a TV set and clothes. John flew in yesterday evening and his luggage was predictably lost. It's a big bright yellow suitcase, designed to be easily spottable on a baggage conveyor belt, and as four of us stood waiting in the baggage claim area like gape-mouthed chicks waiting to be fed, it became clear that no bright yellow suitcase was coming down the chute. The Northwest Airlines luggage office was closed, with a sign on it directing us to the ticket counter. At the ticket counter there was a sign saying that the ticket agent was greeting arriving flights and would be back shortly. However, the next Northwest flight was not scheduled to arrive for three hours, and there were no departing Northwest flights on the board for the evening. The small group of people in line at the ticket counter said that no one had been there for at least half an hour. It was about six o'clock; it wasn't hard to guess what the ticket agent was doing. A young man in the line was talking by phone to the airline, telling them he had been waiting for his luggage for three days. Later calls to that phone number went unanswered except by voice mail.

We realized, on checking John's itinerary, that his luggage was probably delayed because his layover time betwen flights had been extremely short, only 35 minutes. It occurred to me that when an airline gives you that short a layover time, it probably expects, without telling you, that your luggaage will not make it to your connecting flight. In fact John told us that he would have gotten to the Minneapolis-Austin flight too late for boarding if the takeoff had not been delayed.

UPDATE: The yellow suitcase has been delivered! It turns out that John got a phone call from Northwest at 12:30 a.m., a time that would have annoyed most people but not him, and an apologetic phone representative told him that two ticket agents who were supposed to have been working yesterday were out: one had called in sick (sick on New Year's, what a coincidence!) and ther other had gotten into a car accident on the way to work. The airline offered to deliver the baag between 4 and 7 a.m. without ringing our doorbell, but john chose a 9 a.m. delivery with ringing.

Labels: ,