I knew it. Sooner or later something was going to happen. It was meant to be. You just can’t travel that much and expect everything to be always ok. Still, the feeling I got the exact moment I realized I lost my luggage, was something I’m not going to forget easily. I mean, ever. I think the closest word to describe that sensation is panick. That’s what happened. I fucking panicked.
And it was all my fault. I’d better tell you how it all happened, so you can maybe undertstand where was my mistake, and try not to do what I did. But the truth is, even if it was one of the things I feared the most while traveling, hence I always paid an awful lot of attention to my luggage, it did happen nonetheless.
I was in Los Angeles last August. It was the end of my trip, so I got in LAX Airport to return my rental car. I’d had an issue at the rental company and I got mad because they charged me a lot more ’cause I didn’t fill up the tank of the car before giving it back. The employee who sold me the service didn’t tell me specifically that I had to return the car with the tank full, which I know has to be specified at least verbally at the delivery of the rental car. Therefore, I figured I wasn’t obliged to do that. Apparently I was wrong and that’s why I got mad.
Turned out to solve the problem I had to speak directly with the manager in San Diego who gave me the car. And that’s what I was thinking about on the rental car company shuttle that took me to the terminal. During that ten minutes trip, I was rehearsing what I had to say to the manager, hoping he would refund me the money I thought I wouldn’t have had to pay.
Once I got to my terminal, since it was still early, I sat down on a bench and decided it was the perfect moment to eat the cupcake I had bought before. I started eating my sweet cupcake, enjoying its taste, feeling like I was on heaven, not aware of the nightmare I was going to go through.
Had you looked at me that moment, you’d have seen a very self assured guy, seated at the airport like he knew how it is that you have to move in this world. Sunglasses on. Reflecting confidence and a bit of a pretentiousness. A real smartass as I always like to consider myself. The reality was instead, I was living a drama I didn’t have any idea I was. Until half an hour later.
I thought it was time to go checking in, then I stand up, walked more or less ten meters towards the desks, then froze the precise moment I realized what the hell I was going to check in, since I didn’t have any luggage with me. That was the moment I panicked. Imagine this. Me, standing in the middle of the check in area, just the hand luggage over my shoulder. Hands in my hair. Mouth and eyes wide open, and a frightened look in my face. You know the famous painting by Munch? The Scream? That was me that very moment. In a matter of nanoseconds, I realized one of the worst nightmares a traveler could experience, just got true. I lost my luggage.
I guess that wasn’t one of my best smartass day. It was more like a dumbass day, you know? But I got lucky. I immediately realized I had left the luggage on the shuttle, apparently too mad and focused rehearsing the phone call I was going to make, to remember what was my priority. So I went right away to the bus stop and spoke with the next shuttle driver who called by radio her colleagues and verified that indeed there was a black suitcase aboard one of the shuttles that ride every thirty minutes from the rental company to the terminals. And it was coming again in five minutes. I thanked the driver who made that call like she had saved my life. Five minutes later I got my luggage back from the other driver, who I tipped so gratefully like it probably won’t happen again. I mean, the gratefully part.
Bottom line, I got my luggage back, but now I know. No matter how much attention you pay usually, you need more.
For the record, I got my money back from the rental company. I have to say the manager in San Diego was very kind and sympathetic. After all, it was the best travel of my life.