The Baggage Hall: Traveller’s Purgatory

2 10 2008

Tag, you’re it!

Your flight was delayed. The cabin was too warm. The person behind you performed ‘River Dance’ on the back of your seat. You’d seen the movie. They ran out of your choice of meal and left you with the gluten-free sodium-free minced soy-substitute spinach stew, and your bladder is exploding because you couldn’t climb over your slumbering neighbour. All you want is to collect your bag and get home.

 

Remarkably, you breezed through Immigration in record time and you’re so close to a nice shower and bed that you can almost taste it.

 

You sprint for the baggage hall. You find your carousel, grab a baggage cart and stake out the prime position that provides you with maximum warning of your approaching bag and direct access to retrieve it.

 

As others crowd around, you position your trolley as a perfect buffer between yourself and the hordes. The buzzer sounds, the light flashes, the conveyor starts to turn and the first bag bounces down. You eye the tags as they rotate by to confirm that it’s your flight. The first bags have ‘Priority’ tags but you are confident yours will soon follow.

 

You happily watch the cases with rainbow straps, the large cardboard boxes and the items wrapped in industrial cling-film. You notice cases that have been torn-asunder and which drag trains of formerly-white unrecognisable garments behind them. You read the addresses on the boxes to distract your growing impatience.

 

You start to count the pieces. Your bag will be the 20th one down, the 25th one, the 35th one…

 

The crowd around you thins. The person before you at Immigration is long gone. Your palms grow sweaty. The seed of doubt germinates. Will you ever see your bag again? You begin to recognise the same items going around and around and around. You fidget and pace from side to side. The others have the same apprehensive expression. You are united in your forthcoming loss. There’s a baggage bonding between you.

 

The carousel stops.

 

There’s an audible gasp. You feel compelled to hurdle the belt, climb the ramp, dive through the rubber curtain and retrieve your bag yourself. Then it dawns on you there’s a very real chance that your bag is indeed lost. Self pity descends. Why you? You only want to go home. It’s not asking so much. There are half-a-dozen people around you. You try to remember if they sat near you, if you saw them check-in, you grasp for any logical explanation for the unlawful separation from your possessions.

 

Your shoulders slump. You start to prepare a mental description of your bag and its contents and steel yourself to complete endless paperwork. You should have bought insurance.

 

The buzzer sounds, the carousel starts. Everyone perks up. No new bags appear. Shoulders sag. The same boxes pivot past, their owners evidently sitting in some netherworld along with your case. There’s a swish from the rubber curtain and a bag tumbles down. Someone to your right grabs it. Then a second…and a third. Your fingers are crossed. Your breath is held.

 

And then it appears.

 

As if in slow motion it tumbles down. You run towards it and embrace like Heathcliff and Catherine on the moors. You take it in your arms and hoist it skyward like a father playing with his toddler. You kiss it, twice, continental-style, and place it on your trolley, all the while caressing it tenderly and wiping a tear from the corner of your eye. You race towards the exit, eyeing your bag tenderly, its strap looped flirtatiously around your wrist.

 

You no longer care about the bed or the shower. You have forgotten the torment of your journey.

 

You are complete.

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan

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