Friday, January 31, 2003

From The Brain of The Giant Head

Flying: Pack Spare Underwear
Part 1

I have a pretty strong fear of flying. Sure, I’m like everyone else once we’re in the air -- I close my eyes, throw on the headphones, and crank up some Ricky Martin on my Discman. Ah, if the actual flight was only as sweet as Ricky shaking his "Bon Bon."

I’ve only flown 6 times in my life, yet I’ve wet my pants 8. One extra time involved a giant grizzly bear with enormous fangs and the other dealt with me mistaking my My Buddy doll for a burglar. And I made My Buddy wear my soiled draws for two days as punishment for scaring me.

My hatred of flying doesn’t begin when I get on the plane; it begins when I check in and get my ticket. Usually I wait in line for 45 minutes, but each minute feels longer than watching an episode of Full House. And when I finally arrive at the counter and receive my ticket, I watch the luggage taker toss my suitcase onto the conveyer belt like it’s made out of foam rubber and impenetrable to damage. Then it gets whisked away down the magical shoot and sent to Los Angeles while the plane I’m boarding is heading for Pittsburgh.

Note To Self: Always pack a spare pair of socks and underwear in your carry-on.

The worst part is after the flight. Recently I traveled to New Orleans. While arriving at the luggage terminal, I watched the sticky black merry-go-round spinning round and round taunting me with luggage that I can only assume was intended to arrive in Guam. I’m not sure how many airports they have in Guam, but I’m sure an unusually large part of the population owns "I Love New York" souvenir t-shirts they found in American luggage. And to no avail, my luggage was nowhere in sight.

Now I’m convinced that the airline industry has formed a multi-million dollar committee whose sole responsibility is to determine the most strategic location to hide the "Report Lost Luggage Here Booth." I learned that most people become so lost in the airport trying to find it that they are never heard from again. This happened to Jimmy Hoffa and my imaginary friend Mark.

After three hours of trudging through the airport, in which I saw one man begging for change and another man selling the naming rights of his first born child to American Airlines for cab fare, I finally found the Lost Baggage Claim Desk. A small man that looked like the love child of Gary Coleman and Doogie Howser greeted me with a giant smile and an accent that made every word out of his mouth sound like "Osh-Kosh-Bigosh." To make it easier for you, I will do the translation.

Lost Baggage Man: How can I help you today sir?
Me: Well, I lost my luggage.
Lost Baggage Man: Did you check the baggage terminal for your flight?
Me: No, I did cartwheels around the airport for 4 hours assuming that my bag would magically land at my feet.
Lost Baggage Man: Well sir, you are in for a treat as we have just installed a new luggage-tracking device and it will be able to determine exactly where your luggage is.
Me: Perfect.
Lost Baggage Man: Let’s see. According to the system your luggage went to Los Angeles, made a quick stop in San Fransisco, visited the giant arch in St. Louis and then finally made it to South Dakota.
Me: Glad to hear it. My luggage had never seen the Arch before. Hope it enjoyed the trip. Will my luggage make its way home anytime soon?
Lost Baggage Man: Of course sir.
Me: How long?
Lost Baggage Man: About six weeks.
Me: Six weeks?!
Lost Baggage Man: Well sir, I know it will be hard to believe, but South Dakota isn’t one of our most popular destinations and the next flight in isn’t for six weeks.
Me: I’m never flying this airline again!
Lost Baggage Man: Most people don’t. Have a good day sir.

As I walked away from the baggage claim I noticed that the computer Doogie Coleman was looking at wasn’t even plugged into the wall. So he made everything up, much like my imaginary friend Mark used to do. Boy I miss Mark.

So as you can see, claiming luggage at the airport isn’t the easy task that you young blokes of the world may think. And I can take solace in the fact that somewhere deep in the heart of Guam, someone is enjoying my "I Love New York" shirt. I just hope they send back my Spiderman Underwear.

Come back next week for part two of The Brain’s series on Always Pack Spare Underwear.