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Bowling Balls and Breakfasts

August 24, 2014

I’m sure that everybody has a few stories to tell about air travel.  Most of mine are amusing, rather than annoying or an inconvenience.  I suppose I’ve been fortunate.  More likely, my experiences are quite normal.

Some time ago, I went on a vacation trip to Mazatlan, along with three people from work.  There was a long wait when we arrived in Mexico.  Nobody was attending the security area at all.  One of our group told us that the agent was watching a soccer game on TV.  I don’t know if this was true, but he eventually did show up and started the conveyer belt for our luggage.  When it went by him, he only felt each bag.  I saw it as a “laying on of hands”, but others said he was hefting each bag.  They suggested that he was looking for smuggled bowling balls.  Finally, we left the airport and boarded our bus to the hotel.  This was my first winter vacation.  All of us brought winter coats.  Even after dark, the warm mild air felt like springtime.  It was wonderful.  We did need the winter coats when we got home again.

Every year for some time, I attended a computer networking conference in June.  Each one was held at a different university.  One year, it was in St Johns, Newfoundland.  I stayed at the university residence.  The conference was on a Thursday and Friday, but my employer wanted me to stay past the weekend to get a lower rate on the flight.  It was Monday morning when I flew home, with two stop overs.  Because of those and the time change, the airline served us three breakfasts on that trip.  I only ate two, declining the third one.  I liked airline food.  When I recently told this story to a professor who used to teach in St Johns, he told me “you won’t have that problem anymore”.

My only European trip was one to Portugal in 2001.  We were travelling as a group, with two guides.  Of course, I arrived at the airport good and early, before the guides.  I waited a bit, didn’t see anybody I knew, so I bought my ticket and proceeded into the secure area.  Somehow, I checked my bag only as far as Toronto, the first stop on our trip.  The guides and the other people of our group soon joined us in the secure area.  Still, I didn’t realize that my bag was only checked part way.  It was only when we arrived at Toronto and one of the guides looked at my tickets, that I realized the error.  By then we were on our way from one terminal to the other.  The guide told me that I had time to go back and retreive my bag, but I had a better idea.  There was a wicket for the airline just in front of me.  I told the airline agent there what had happened.  He investigated, and assured me that he had rerouted my bag so that it would be checked all the way through to Lisbon.  I was pleased with that, and greately relieved.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work.  At Lisbon, my bag never appeared on the luggage carousel.  I had to fill out a lost luggage report.  The fellow there was astonished when he saw my claim ticket.  Sure enough, my luggage was still in Toronto.  It arrived at my hotel three days later, just when I had given up expecting to see it ever again.  I learned a valuable lesson from that one.

It was only a few years ago that I went on a tour of the Yukon.  I put all of my electronics and camera equipment in my carry-on bag.  Most of it was cords and power supplies, all in separate plastic bags so they wouldn’t get tangled.  At the very bottom was a portable tripod.  The main part of it was a metal tube with a camera mount on one end and a cap on the other, with three metal legs under the cap.  It also had the two arms of a clamp attached to one side of the metal tube.  When they put my bag through the X-ray at Whitehorse, one of the security agents said to the other one “I think we’ve got something here”.  No doubt it looked like a gun on the X-ray, but I knew immediately what it was.  She asked me if she could remove all the contents of my bag.  After she had unpacked all of it, and discovered the tripod on the bottom, she told me that that was the best packed bag she had ever seen.  I agreed, but I’m not bringing that tripod along on any more trips.  I didn’t even use it that time.  They found it again on my return flight.

More recently, I went on a trip to southern Utah.  At Vancouver airport, I had a long walk between the Canadian arrivals area and the US departures area, with a stop at US customs along the way.  They sent me to a waiting room that was filled with people.  I was going to be there a long time, I assumed, so I took out a book and settled down to read it.  Just then, I heard my name being called.  “Is this your bag?”, they asked.  They pointed to a video monitor showing a picture of my bag.  I’d never seen it like that before, but it sort of looked like mine.  I said “yes”, and signed my name.  That was all.  I was off to the departure area, still with lots of time to catch my flight to Las Vegas.


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