I smile to the woman who was at the counter. She looks at me cheerfully.
—May I help you?
I give her my passport.
—Do you want it all the way to your final destination?
—Yes, I don’t want to see it again!…Well, what I meant to say is that I don’t want to see it in between. Only when I arrive in DC.
I cross my fingers that it didn’t weight more than 23 kilos. The scale shows 24.5. As I usually do when I am nervous, I start to talk non-stop just if my words could distract the flight attendant from looking at the scale.
—Celeste, that’s a pretty name. I am visiting my daughter in the US. I am very excited. Tomorrow is her birthday.
My husband, sensing this was going to be a long chat, decides to step aside and checks his emails on his phone.
— Here are your boarding cards, and the ticket for your luggage.
I glance my suitcase while she sticks the tag around the handle.
—Wait. It doesn’t say DCA on the tag. That’s my final destination, and I don’t see it on my suitcase.
—Oh. Ok. I will check again.
I watch painfully as the attendant punches the computer, and prints a new tag.
—Now. Here is your tag.
—But it’s only to Detroit.
—The thing is that the system is not letting me check your suitcase all the way to DCA. You might have to collect it in Detroit and check it in again.
—No, no, no. I am not. You should try to check it in all the way to DCA, please.
—I am new. This is my first day.
She whispers the last sentence as she is confiding me a great secret, and waves to her supervisor.
I smile genuinely happy that she has a new job but damning my bad luck. A sixty something man shows up on the counter and starts swearing in front of the computer, in a way that only Spaniards can swear, that makes you smile.
—Este vuelo de los cojones me tiene harto. Qué mañanita llevamos. Excuse my language, but we are having a hard time this morning.
—Don´t worry. Take your time. Breathe in, breathe out. As long as you can send my suitcase to my final destination, I am OK.
I give my best cheerful encouragement. The new girl observes from behind her boss ‘shoulders with a beatific smile.
—I am very lucky to have such an understanding supervisor— she confides me while understanding supervisor was having a personal war with the system. Pretty soon there are four people staring at the computer. Login out, login in, shaking it, unplugging it, whispering into the screen, throw some magic powder, special spell, praying hard, sweating, jumping…
—No sé qué coños pasa. Excuse me again. I will have to do it manually.
I even surprised myself on how good I handle the stress. I wave to my husband giving him the thumbs up.
I rush into security after giving solid hug and kiss to my husband who waits for me to pass the gate. I am surprised. He is the type of guy that as soon as the good byes are given turns his back and return to his car.
I unload all my gadgets in three different trays. Only two of them made it. Where is my carry-on?
They opened it. Two of the heaviest Harry Potter books show up. They were the only books my daughter wanted me to bring her from all the things she has left behind in Spain. Then the security guard pulls out something that looks like a long blue snake.
—What is this?
—Oh, no! My bicycle lock!
—Señora, you can´t travel with this on the plane.
—Oh shit! I thought about it, but it was so heavy, I didn´t want to check it in my already heavy bag…
—Was anybody with you at the airport? We can give it to him. Otherwise, what you can do is go outside, tie the lock on a pole, and then when you come back, you can retrieve it.
—Really? Do you think I can do that? But where do I lock it? Maybe, juts let me call my husband and see if he is still here…
Steve? Are you still at the airport? Can you keep my lock?
I watch the guard giving my husband the chain. I move my lips to say thank you and blow him a kiss.
—Well, I really appreciate your understanding and the fact you gave me some options. Have a great day!
I enter in the waiting room at my gate searching for a sit. Not even five minutes later, I hear on the speaker that the weather in Amsterdam is really bad, and we won´t be able to take off until 2:20 pm. I looked at my watch. It´s 10:30 am. I check at my Amsterdam connection. I approach the counter.
—Excuse me, sir. I have a connection at 3:30 pm in Amsterdam. I will miss it!
—Yes, you will!
No more help whatsoever. I won´t arrive on time to my daughter´s birthday. I start crying and all my politeness is gone.
Two days later…
—Thank you for calling Delta Airlines Baggage Claim Service. We are sorry you didn´t receive your luggage. Please say your claim code…
I hate this taped help. The machine doesn´t understand my accent. I need to get a real person.
—Hello. My name is Wilbur. What can I do for you today?
—Yes, could you please check if it´s any news about my suitcase? It never made it to the final destination last Monday.
—May I have your claim number?
—Yes, T as an David, C as in California, T as an dog, B as an Vincent, eight, four, three, one.
I am almost sure that this is how it sounds. I hate to spell in English.
—Good news, mam. Your suitcase is in Detroit, and tomorrow it will be drop off at the address you provided when you submitted the claim.
I was a little tired to wear my daughter´s underwear.