You know that old movie with John Candy and Steve Martin? Yeah, it's like that…
This should have been simple. Fly from San Jose (SJC) to San Diego (SAN), have nearly a four hour layover to connect with the little people at the airport, all fly to St. Louis (STL) together, then drive the last few hours to the family gathering in Podunk, Missouri.
SJC to SAN, a one-hour flight, departs 10 minutes early. En-route the pilot informs us of a weather problem in San Diego—1/4 mile visibility. In San Diego?! Well how long can that last; I was tanning on the beach there just a few weeks ago. So we circle Catalina island until we run low on go-juice, and the pilot says we're diverting to Los Angeles (LAX). Which in my mind makes no sense since Orange County (SNA) is a lot closer to SAN, just a quick drive, but I suppose there are rules and regulations and guidelines to follow.
So we land in LAX. I call the kids' chauffeur (mom), who had just left the house, go home and wait, no telling what's going to happen or when we'll get to San Diego. We sit in the American Eagle commuter terminal at LAX, getting shuffled from 44A to 44J to 44E waiting for decisions to be made. We'll be re-boarding your flight soon, or eventually, whichever comes first, so please sit tight. Obviously I'm on the phone with Executive Platinum services from the moment we touch down, and the only alternative routing is to take a 5:30p flight from LAX to STL. Since it's only 10:30 in the morning, that would be plenty of time to drive from LAX to the kids' house and back to LAX. Except of course the airline won't pay for the rental car. Hmm decisions decisions. We hold the seats to be safe.
So we wait, and wait, and wait a little longer. I'm back on the phone with AA, getting nervous as we're really cutting it close to make the connection in San Diego. Moments from making the decision to rent a car and make the drive, they call boarding for our flight. I'm still on the phone with Executive Platinum services, they can hear the announcement, sounds like you'll make it, run Forest run!, I hang up, hurry up and board so we can hurry up and wait. We sit on the ground for another half-hour, wait-wait-waiting for the OK to go-go-go. Finally we go, we're up and flying and landing before you know it, and we're the first off the plane rushing to the commuter terminal and flagging down the little Red shuttle to take us to the main terminal to check in the kids and board a flight and off to grandmothers house we go. We get to the terminal and run in and there're the kids in line to check in, push past them, bodies flying everywhere, throw their bags at the check-in agent and… we're too late.
So now. The ONLY way to get to STL at this point is to catch the 5:30 flight. The flight. Out. Of. Los Angeles. Naturally there's no flight we can get on from SAN to LAX, so that means… it's time to get in a shuttle-van for a 2+ hour drive back to the airport we were just stranded in barely an hour before!!
The shuttle shuttles us, we arrived to LAX with over an hour to spare, actually have time to dine in the lounge and board the flight to STL.
Now, that should be the end of this adventure, but no… of course… it's not. You see, back in San Diego, I tried arguing with the agent, you may as well let us on the flight because our bags are already on that plane, so either they can put my kids' bags on and let us on, and delay the fight, or they can dig through the hold and find our bags and pull them off, since FAA regulations say that bags can't fly without their owners, and delay the flight. Either way, this flight is going to be delayed. She gave me a look, that look, how do you know your bags are on there, but she calls and verifies and they really are on the plane and we hope hope hope at last… but NO. The supervisor determines that the plane is going to fly with our bags; without us. Damn. Hence the shuttle.
So this meant that our bags were arriving in STL hours before us, which shouldn't be a problem. Bags don't usually get bored or cold or lonely. In baggage claim we get the kids' bags, where do we collect luggage that came in on an earlier flight please sir? and walk into the lost bags room. A room 20º or 30º warmer than the rest of the airport, a room devoid of happiness and joy, a room occupied by a single agent behind a long linoleum desk on a cold quiet night in Missouri who, after several minutes of my heavy breathing a foot away from her, finally acknowledges me, what can I do for you. More of a statement than a question. I explain the situation. That our bags are here waiting for us. Hand her the claim checks. Listen patiently while she never once raises her eyes from her screen and determines your bags are not here sir. Please look at the chart and tell me what your bags look like, and what's inside of them. Where are you staying? Here's a claim form, call this number if your bags aren't delivered in 24 hours. I'm shocked. But I *know* they were on that flight. There's no way they're not here! Tell me their last known location. Where were they last scanned? She tippity-tappity-taps on her screen, scowls, grimaces, and insists she doesn't know where they are. They haven't been scanned, there is no known location in the system. That's not possible ma'am, these bags are scanned at every destination, I know they were in San Diego, I know they were on that flight, and if you don't know where they are, how do you know they're not here? That touches a nerve. Her face tightens. She tries even harder to look unpleasant (spoiler alert: she succeeds). Dottie can you come look at this screen I don't understand this then oh I don't understand that system at all either, y'all were all trained on that but I'm not so I'll look it up in the older system and finally no sir, your bags aren't here but we don't know where they are.
I'm feeling like a beaten man at this point. The travel gods have been good to me this year; I've flown an awful lot of miles, to Europe and Asia and Australia and not had a single missing bag, have had all inconveniences well accommodated for (it's amazing what a first class upgrade will do for your mood to temper the disappointment of a five hour delay on a flight home from Hong Kong), and so perhaps it's just my time. But, one more thing before I'm willing to leave. Do you mind if I go back there and look myself? Well if that'll put your mind at rest sweetie you just go right ahead and look but they're not back there.
I step over the pedestal, walk into the storage room, sidestep a refrigerator of a man, and without breaking stride pick up two of my bags, circle around the human obstacle and slam my bags on the front desk counter. I walk back in, pause to glance around, and spot bag number three a few seconds later.
Now aren't you glad I told you to go back there and look?
The rest of this story involves a lot of yelling between the desk agents and the men in the back. I politely make my exit if there's nothing else, I'll be leaving now.
At 7:30 the following morning, the phone rings and wakes me from a deep sleep, Sir we're calling to see if you've received your bags yet. Sadly, oh-so-very sadly, having been rudely awaken I don't have the foresight to say no they haven't and see what happens next, which would have been fun, but that's OK.
There's always next Thanksgiving.