I was complaining to one of the scientists here about my recent travel, and she shared her recent family vacation experience. It involved 6 hours in a bus trying to cross the Israel-Palestine border, losing luggage, and threats of imprisonment. I stopped complaining to her at that point, as my problems sounded really lame. Instead, I’ll share them with everyone else 🙂
Returning from OKC to Riyadh, I was delayed in DFW; it was not because the 6-pack of bar soap in my bag resembled a bomb (which evidently it did), but due to mechanical problems with the plane. After missing a connecting flight in London, I was rerouted to Istanbul. Delirious with fatigue, two thoughts kept repeating in my mind; first was that I don’t know any Turkish, so I hope I don’t have to ask where the restrooms are. The second was the song “Istanbul not Constantinople” by They Might Be Giants. Great song the first few times you play it back in your mind, but the romance fades after 20 hours of air travel. Upon landing, an American gentleman who had a very tight connection made his way to the front of the plane, hoping to be the first person to leap through the door and dash to his gate. After 15 minutes, we realized that the front exit was malfunctioning, and everyone was deplaning from the back of the plane, where he had started; due to his new position at the very front, he was the last one off the plane. There’s probably a lesson there somewhere.
Luckily the restrooms had adequate signage, and I didn’t accidentally get on the plane to Tehran at the next gate. I was given a special red card that signified my status as a business class traveler. This means I was allowed to get on the bus first, then wait while everyone else boarded the same bus to take us out on the tarmac to the waiting plane. We then elbowed our way up the stairs and found our seats. Turkish Airlines defines customer service as “the plane landed and you walked away from it in one piece, shut up.” I enjoyed a little sleep on the flight, and beat the mad rush through immigration, no red card required. Watching a baggage carousel for 20 minutes after 30 hours of travel induces vertigo. Not finding your luggage is even more nauseating. Evidently my bag had decided to spend the weekend in Istanbul, drinking coffee and smoking Shisha by the Bosporus.
When the airline called to let me know my luggage had been found, I rushed to the airport for our reunion. I stumbled through the door, a father looking for his prodigal bag. The map legend revealed an icon for “baggage services”, but that icon was not anywhere else on the map ($@#*&!). After giving me two separate sets of bad instructions, the manager of the Turkish Airlines desk grudgingly walks me to the hidden entrance to customs; it was a door placed at a perpendicular angle to the hallway, with a small sign that said “customs”. It was like finding the entrance to Rivendell. I endured a thorough security check, and was then released to the land of lost luggage.
I was prepared to describe my bag and its contents, bringing all of the ID that had been required to get through the secret door of customs. Instead, the disinterested guy says “Oh, you have a bag?”, opens the door, and motions me into the storage area. I grabbed my bag and left. I could’ve grabbed any bag or three. I suppose nobody wants to take a chance with going through customs with someone else’s bag. I’m just relieved my suitcase didn’t come home with any contraband or social diseases; all is forgiven.