Just when I think I’m a good and savvy traveler another travel surprise comes along and bites me in the rear. There I was, at the airport Fastpark a bit late due to a 5 mile back up on I-95. I breathed a big sigh of relief knowing I’d make my flight to Denver with 30 minutes to spare. On the 10 seat shuttle bus were two other passengers as I boarded. We drove on to the other side of the lot where we picked the last of 4 before speeding off to BWI (Baltimore-Washington Intl Airport). Two of us were to get off at Southwest Airlines, our first stop, and me and another guy got off at United.
I watched the first two get off at Southwest and we drove the last hundred yards or so to the United drop-off point. Imagine my surprise as I stood up and surveyed the baggage shelf and observed one bag on the shelf! I had watched the driver load my suitcase and I carried my rolling briefcase onto the shuttle. I told the driver, “Someone getting off at Southwest took my bag.” But we both couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a bag in place of mine, as you would expect in a case of mistaken bag identity. The driver said he would go back for a look and I went to the Southwest security area to see if a confused passenger ended up with my bag. No luck at the security area so I went to the Southwest counter. Again no luck, but they said to go to the police station at the lower level and file a report.
Off I zoomed with only about ten minutes to spare to chat with the police, then clear security. I had taken mental inventory of what I’d be missing if my bag didn’t show up soon. Clothing, camera tripod, zoom lens, fishing pole, and spare camera battery was all that came to mind. The good thing was I had my camera and laptop in the rolling backpack. I would have been much more frantic if my coveted laptop and Canon Rebel camera were in the missing suitcase. As a full-time travel writer I need both the camera and laptop when on a trip. This trip would take me to Grand Junction, then Evergreen, and back to Denver. I needed the camera gear more than the clothing. At the police station they said, “What are you doing here? You should go to the United bag claim office.” Great!Another dead end. Off to the United office I went and they said, since they hadn’t laid hands on my bag they couldn’t help.
It was time to go through security and prepare for boarding. I called the number on the back of my Mileage Plus Explorer Visa card to see if one of the many free services, i.e. lost baggage insurance would be of any use. “No”, they said. “Since your bag was not lost after the airline took charge of it we don’t cover that loss.” So much for free insurance. I called Fastpark and said I thought the last guy on the shuttle grabbed my bag. I explained where he was parked and asked for the license plate number of his black SUV in case I needed to track him down. They got that license plate number and texted it to me. That scored Fastpark points for customer service.
I boarded the plane and let fate take my bag wherever for the next four hours I was flying. When I reached Denver I had no messages and left the situation take its course. When I got to my destination in Denver I called my wife who said, “What’s this message about a lost bag on our home phone?” I told her what happened and said I was glad someone confessed to having my bag. She gave me the phone number and I called but no one answered. I left a message and waited for a call back. No call back happened. I waited until three days later I called again and got Brian on the phone in Philadelphia.
It turns out to be a strange tale from there. Brian was just getting in from a two week trip to Las Vegas and called an Uber driver to pick him up at the airport. The Uber driver said he would pick up at the arrival area instead of departing area due to less traffic. Brian had seen a suitcase sitting by the curb as he waited for the driver but didn’t pay much attention. When the Uber driver showed up Brian got in the car and the driver loaded not just the 4 suitcase Brian had, but mine too not knowing it wasn’t his. Brian didn’t discover this until he got home in Philly that night. He thought, “I only had 4 suitcases, now I have 5!” Yet another travel surprise, but for Brian, more than me.
Well, you see my suitcase went on a strange detour against all odds. I told Brian I could drive up and get it, but he said his son was coming to visit from DC that next Sunday and could drop it off on his return south. Since I live just off I-95 it would be a breeze to meet with his son. That Sunday I was re-united with my missing suitcase and was grateful an honest person ended up with it. There was over $600 worth of clothing and gear in that suitcase I would have needed to replace. I travel a lot and rarely take my eye off my suitcase. In this one instance I let my guard down and lucked out in the end. I don’t make many mistakes while traveling but am amazed at the things that can go wrong. It seems when we leave home on a trip we sometimes leave our brains behind.
Moral to the story is, “Always keep an eye on your bags!” You may not be as lucky as I was. Travel has a way of unravelling our grasp of the present. Stay focused until you sit your butt down in the plane: then relax and enjoy the trip. You don’t want another travel surprise like I had. If in doubt, you can get up and count your bags in the overhead compartment later to confirm your carry-ons made it on the plane too.