CHICAGO, IL -- We’ve all been there once in our life: the baggage claim. A place known to boast high hopes and also dreaded despair. A place where tensions run high and time seems to move slower than ever. A place where each person carefully eyes everyone else and wonders who will get to make the first move. 90% of the time, you leave the airport baggage claim with exactly what you came for and faith renewed in society. I, however, ended up as part of the 10% my last trip so I decided to write this tragic memoir in honor of my trusty suitcase.
It was just a regular day in mid January, and I happened to be traveling into Chicago O’Hare for a work trip. With an important business meeting at 10:00AM, I decided to snag some shut-eye on the quick plane ride from New York. Plus, I couldn’t do any work as I checked my luggage which had my laptop in it. Standard routine for me as I travel so frequently that I didn’t even think anything about it. 90 minutes later, we had touched down and we’re taxiing on the runway for a bit as Monday mornings in Chicago’s busiest airport are no joke. I was okay though, still had plenty of time to make it to my meeting.
Upon deboarding our bird, I got excited thinking about the trail mix and Pop Tart I had stored in my suitcase – yes I’m 43 and still eat Pop Tarts. The pilot had relayed over the flight intercom that bags were at Baggage Claim 15 so I was booking it there. I like to be there as soon as possible to scope out the bags as they hit the conveyor belt. When I arrived, there was a notice saying all bags from our flight were rerouted to Baggage Claim 13. No sweat, just one aisle over and they hadn’t started unloading them yet. I found a good spot near the end of the claim that was open and settled in for the moment everyone was waiting for: spotting your bag.
Suitcases started rolling out… GAME TIME. That Pop Tart was on my mind and I needed to change into my business shoes. 1 minute passed, then 3 went by; by 5 minutes in, the bags were really flowing and they added another flight from Arizona to our claim. Still no dice though! “Where’s she at..?” is all that was running through my mind. As the bags were rolling around, I saw a family of five walk up next to me and grab 4 bags right away that seemed to have some kind of designs on them. I asked the parents what they were and they mentioned they got luggage covers for their family suitcases to make traveling more fun for their kiddos. Genius.
But back to business, I had gotten distracted by those luggage covers and the kid’s exuberance in finding their suitcase that I need to scope the belt for my bag. My suitcase was old school: normal size, black, and blends in so I have to really keep an eye out. With plenty of suitcases going around I was determined to stay alert, snag this bad-boy and get out of there.
10 minutes passed, 13 minutes passed, and then 15 minutes after I had arrived and was just beginning to feel the first nervous pangs set in, I saw it! I walked into a new position and wiggled my way in between some people and grabbed it! BOOM! Wait… this was nearly the same bag but NOT my luggage. As I was going to put it back down, some guy walked up and yelled out, “hey there buddy, paws off my suitcase.”
Without hesitation I handed it over to him and apologized. Another 5 minutes passed and still no luck. This is when I realized something was wrong. Almost everyone from my flight had their bags and was gone. After 30 minutes of standing at the baggage claim, there were 3 bags circling: a pink bag, a large duffle, and an older black bag that was similar to mine. I checked with the customer service rep and she said my bag made it on the plane and made it to Chicago. Its whereabouts other than that were unbeknownst to everyone.
I left the airport heartbroken, suitcase-less, in my loafers, without my computer, and most important without my Pop Tarts. Let’s just say my business meeting did not go that well either. As I am still working to figure out what happened to my bag or whom may have mistakenly snagged it from the belt, I can’t help thinking about that family with the luggage covers. I also wonder if baggage claim 13 is just naturally unlucky.