As we landed in Miami, I was looking out the window of the plane as the luggage appeared on a conveyor belt and was unloaded by two men onto various trolleys. As each item appeared, one of the men would rotate the luggage to get a look at its tag, then indicate which trolled it was to go onto – sorted, I assumed, by destination. They were as rough with the luggage as all rumours have them, tossing them carelessly, and I immediately understood why our somewhat delicate bag had arrived in Boston with its handles ripped off. Paula poked me and suggested I prepare to leave the plane, but “I want to see our bag,” I told her.
Mesmerised, I watched, and only moments later, our pack came down. The man rotated it, then rotated it again, and gestured to the other man in frustration. No tag. He set the backpack on the ground in front of him. The other man checked it too, they shrugged at each other. The luggage kept coming and they kept sorting it, but intermittently returned to our backpack. I banged on the window of the plane. “They’re wearing earmuffs,” Paula pointed out. “Our pack has no tag!” I told her, alarmed. Realising that providence would have us arrive in Guatemala and be the people whose luggage didn’t arrive. Suddenly I understood how planes can “lose” bags. “That woman who checked us in,” Paula said, and I remembered how we’d been with her about five times longer than anyone else being checked in, and she had asked us to remove the locks from our bags (we refused) and said that customs would have to break them off if they wanted to search our bags. “She never tagged our bag.” We’d wondered if it was her first day on the job – now it seemed very likely.
Paula got off the plane to search out airport personnel who might be able to identify our bag and have it sent to the right location. Against her advice, I stayed on the plane, hammering on the window. The men didn’t hear, but every time they so much as glanced about them, I waved frantically. Eventually, one of them saw me! “That pack, it’s mine!” I mouthed, gesturing and pointing. Amazement spread over his face as he pointed to the backpack – “This is yours?” I nodded. “Where ya goin?” “Guatemala.” I didn’t have to mouth it twice – he understood immediately, grinned and tossed the pack onto one of the trolleys. Obviously an “expected” destination. He gestured to the other man, who looked up at me. “Guatemala?” “Yep.” I held up my finger and thumb to make a circle, and raised my eyebrows – he understood me immediately and waved me off. I waited another few moments while he scribbled something on a piece of paper and tied it to my pack.
I found Paula in the lobby, anger rising as she begged one of the staff to do something. “If they ask me about a missing bag, I’ll tell them,” the woman told Paula. Could we take a more proactive stance on this? Paula’s eyes said. “Perhaps there’s someone we could contact…?” She was trying to be polite. ¨There´s no way a bag could even get on the plane if it wasn´t tagged,¨ the woman said. ¨But ours did get on the plane without a tag,¨ Paula protested. I waved her off – “It’s sorted.” I told her. Sure enough, our bag turned up in Guatemala – phew!