on time warps and broken suitcase handles

I wrote the following on the Delta flight from Detroit, MI to Las Vegas, NV a week ago and did not have time to post it until now.  Enjoy:

Travelling always yields its share of stories and mishaps.  All too frequently we can find ourselves waiting out delays in the crowded solitude of an airport while friends and family send us encouraging words.  We’re used to the pat downs, the lines, the lousy food, the cramped quarters.  Really, everything there is about travel tends to have a negative spin.  This story is not much different.

This morning I departed our homestead for the wonders of Las Vegas.  Or at least as many wonders as I’ll be able to see since my itinerary is rather full from the time I land until I return with work related tasks.  Departing Rochester, NY is never all that difficult except that you have to connect out of a real airport somewhere along the line; mine today was Detroit, MI via Delta airlines.

The first thing that struck me upon my arrival was the security line at the airport, it stretched from the center security checkpoint all the way to one end of the terminal and looped back around.  I joined the line with little trepidation since I had plenty of time to make my flight.  Sleep had been rough the night before due to an ongoing nervous habit of missing my flight because of a faulty alarm clock.  My freshman year of college I was an Air Force ROTC cadet at RIT.  We used to have a class called Leadership Lab at 6:30 AM every Tuesday.  The very first Lead Lab found me waking up at 6:45 and running across campus.  I stood outside the room contemplating my next move before walking in confidently and sitting in an empty seat.  The seat was for the cadet commander (our highest ranking student officer) who was doing a presentation at the time.  Since then, I’ve had a bit of a phobia.  So this means whenever I have a flight the next morning (which thankfully isn’t often) I tend to sleep fitfully at best combining waking moments of brain surfing with dreams of missing my flight. 

Back in line, we were moving rather smoothly forward and then time stopped.  Or at least it seemed to.  There was a woman shouting “Roberts…we have six minutes to board the flight, six minutes.  Hurry up.”  This was referring to group of students from Robert’s Wesleyan College who were headed somewhere on an AirTran flight.  Using my incredible powers of 5:30 AM deduction, I figured out their flight was going to take off soon and this woman was hurrying them along.  Those of us in line wondered how they were going to pull of this feat.  “Roberts…we have six minutes to board!”  My fellow line people exchanged looks, I wondered if someone was going to wager on the potential for them to make their flight.  “Roberts, we have six minutes.”  Wait a second, didn’t she say six minutes two minutes ago?  Once again came the call:  “Roberts, six minutes”.  What was going on?  Were we in a time warp?  Had time frozen for the Robert’s kids?  I know some of the religious schools answer to a higher power, but one that could stop time? 

I thought this through as I made it into the security section.  I added two laptops, a digital video camera, my coat, shoes, belt, coat of armor and sword to the pile of things to slide through security.  The person working the security belt asked how my morning was going.  I told her rather well considering the hole in the space time continuum.  She smiled and wished me a nice day.  Next it was on to the body scanner.

“Please take everything out of your pockets, face that direction and hold your hands up” came the order.  “Now step outside and wait until you’re given the go ahead.”  I stepped out, the guy with the ear piece told me to stay put, and then he got the call in his ear.  “You’re all set.”  So no pat down, that did not find me disappointed.

All was progressing smoothly, perhaps too smoothly.  We boarded the tiny jet plane for Detroit, were airborne and arrived on time.  “Your carry on luggage will be plane side in the breezeway for you to get.”  I sort of like leaving my luggage there instead of finding room in the overhead bin.  Of course, as I approached the luggage rack, my attitude shifted.  Gone was my eye catching blue luggage tag.  In fact, gone was one side of the metal holding my top handle on the bag.  Gone!  This is metal.  What sort of monster had given that a mighty tug?  I was fuming.  What sort of person breaks luggage for sport?  Well, at least I have the side handle…the thought kept me cruising through Detroit’s airport labyrinth.  I arrived at the new gate on time, exchanging text messages with my wife back home who had put our daughter on the bus.  She couldn’t believe the handle was broken either.  Then came the clincher.  I rolled down the new breezeway, put my luggage on its side and grabbed the side handle.  Looking down I noticed that this too had a broken piece and I was now without either handle!  One flight, one trip, one simple task: move bag from one spot and put it another, could not be accomplished without someone breaking my bag in two places.  Was it someone in Rochester or Detroit?  A combination?  Do they mark specific bags for breaking and take care of each handle at the departing city and arriving city?  These are mysteries that will baffle me through the remainder of the trip.

 For now, I’ll sign off though.  I spent part of the flight fighting sleep to finish a work related book then cut up a live recording from a show my band played this past Saturday.  The guy in front of me keeps smacking his head against the headrest and another person keeps farting.  Airline travel continues to rock.  Like these six pretzels I’m going to eat.

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