Monday, January 14, 2008

A Cautionary Tale of Carry-on Luggage

I love my carry-on bag. Its purchase was the culmination of a long and rigorous selection process that was initiated by the determination that I was slowly listing to port due to carrying tons of stuff in my messenger bag, slung over my left shoulder. These long trips require so much gear that it simply is not feasible to lug it all around without suffering permanent skeletal damage. And so I began the search.

Actually the search didn't last very long. It ended the moment I walked into the Tumi Boutique on the international concourse at SFO. Sitting there on the shelf, was the bag to end all bags. Chic, solid, stylish, it simply said "check me out, I'm a big time international traveler type guy and you'd better get used to it." It was like getting invited to a special club. The one thing that stopped me from buying it on the spot was the fact that I was on the way out already burdened with my tree-frog-green shoulder bag. So I waited and plotted and the moment I got back to ABQ I went out and bought it, fate speaking to me by having it in stock, in a local store.

I brought it home and opened it up and slowly and steadily discovered all its inner secrets. Stowed inside one pocket was a beautiful computer case, fully removable so that you are further unencumbered once you set up housekeeping at your destination. Pockets upon pockets presented themselves, even sections that expanded well beyond their visible range. I measured it and compared the dimensions against all the known free-world airline's carry-on regulations. In short, I was smitten. I had led my entire life to arrive at this moment.

On my first trip with it I discovered its one fault - it was a bit too fat to fit in the overhead of the now too common regional jets. But I rearranged items and it worked out. Suffice it to say, it changed my life for the positive. I was a lucky man.

Until today.

The connecting flight out of ABQ departs at the glorious hour of 6:17AM, a time fit for man nor beast. The dog didn't want breakfast, the horses didn't even appear in their doors to yell at the house. No living thing on our drive this morning was interested in anything by sleep. Except me and my chauffeur - my lovely wife. The airport was easy and the only near catastrophe was avoided when I realized I had left my laptop sitting in the pile of available bins. So much for planning ahead.
Sometimes when traveling I think I organize myself to the point of disorganization.

The woman behind me in line was very friendly and asked me how I was doing. I thought I was special, at least until I realized she was asking every man within shouting distance how they were. Even the security agents. I later saw her sitting in the lounge holding hands with yet another man. I think quick romances are fascinating.

All was well until I boarded and tried to place my faithful Tumi in the overhead bin. Apparently they had further shrunk them because it wasn't going. I struggled for a moment and then told the guys behind me to go ahead. One of them commented that it would surely fit if I simply ripped the pockets off. Ha ha.

I waited for a break in the boarders and tried again, this time opening up the the front pockets and moving their contents to the back. A brief riot ensued when the handful of 5 Euro coins I had stowed in one of the tiny bins scattered on the floor. The man across the aisle handed me one, and a Chinese gentleman made one of those insect-like buzzing noises that I can never pronounce to point me towards another. I said "xie xie", my first Chinese language usage of the trip and I wasn't even off the ground in New Mexico.

Finally accepting the fact that it wasn't going, I jammed it under my seat and accepted the fact that I would have to fly over with my legs tucked up against my chest.

After freezing for 2 hours, we arrived, almost 30 minutes early. Outside the window, the plane at the next gate was being photographed by a mechanic in a cherry-picker. The tail had two large dents in it, apparently caused when the pilot tried to drive under an overpass on the way in. Interesting to see a plane with collision damage.

Recall now from my post of Saturday that I am here without assigned seats. So now I wait at the Singapore Air aisle in the international terminal for their service to commence at 9:15. They do it here like they do in all of the other international terminals I've visited - a big hall with many positions and check-in starting at some planned time. Not unlike Southwest



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