Where’s my luggage?

I haven’t checked luggage on an airplane in about the last eight years or so. My trip to the states and back made up for all that frustration I have saved!

I do tend to travel light, luggage included. This time I checked my things…which was all of my stuff double bagged in a giant blue plastic bag within a TipTop pollo sack all tied shut bag-a-leaves style. When traveling I figure, if a thief wants to steal someone’s bag, he (or she, this is 2011 after all) would find Joe Backpacker’s giant $300 North Face more inviting than a sack of chicken. Spoiler alert: The TSA aren’t thieves.

I arrived in Managua from Houston to find my bag had been delayed. Not lost, no, the term Continental uses is delayed luggage. I filled out a form in the luggage counter, caught a quick movie before my bus was due to leave and took the long road back to Bluefields.

When I arrived the next day, I decided to redouble my efforts by contacting Continental via their website. I explained the situation and crossed my fingers that hitting this at two angles might be more fruitful. Glad I did, since repeated calls to the phone number the helpful lady at Managua’s luggage counter gave me rang unanswered.

On day three I received a call from Continental saying that it will be shipped to the airport in Bluefields. Too good to be true? La Costeña was going to bring my bag that very day! They said they would call me back with a confirmation number and it would arrive on the last flight from Managua.  I breathed a sigh of relief and hoped the chocolate inside hadn’t melted so I could celebrate when it arrived.

I was trying not to get my hopes up…one thing living in this country teaches you is patience. By the time I got to the airport after the last flight of the day, Continental still had not called me back with a confirmation number, so I was not surprised to hear that my TipTop bag of goodies had not arrived. “Oh, no problem,” the lady at the counter reassured me. “It will arrive tomorrow. Probably.”

I got home and tried again calling Continental at the Managua airport. Still no answer. So I got online and sent them another message updating the story so far. Good to keep the bases covered.

The next day I called the Continental number the baggage lady had given me. Still no luck. I tried twice every hour from 7am until noon, when someone finally answered. The guy on the other end of the phone said that they had sent my bag to La Costeña the day before and were puzzled as to why it hadn’t arrived. But it was out of their hands they said…I should head to the airport after the last flight to see if it arrived.

This got me worrying… I remember the ordeal another American visitor went through when Taca airlines had delayed her bag. It sat in a closet at MGA for four days because it wasn’t anybody’s responsibility to carry it over to the La Costeña terminal to be sent! When our friend in Managua agreed to help us by taking time out of his day to go out to the airport, get the bag from Taca and bring it to La Costeña, they wouldn’t let him because it wasn’t his bag! We called, pleaded and sent him with a faxed request signed by the bag’s owner before they reluctantly let him get it, walk 100 feet to the other terminal and drop it off. When it finally arrived in Bluefields nearly a week later, they charged her $25! Now that is service!

I was thinking about all of this as I was waiting at the airport for the second time, praying my bag had arrived. I had to sign a receipt of some sort saying my bag had arrived though I didn’t have it, then given a ticket with a number. I brought it to the gate and watched as they unloaded the incoming flight’s luggage. My TipTop bag was nowhere to be seen. With all that flight’s luggage claimed, I handed my ticket to the mystified baggage handler. He advised me to go talk to the lady who had given me the number. She sent me back to the baggage handler with the message that he should check the bodega. He brought me back to the lady so he could get the keys. I followed him to the bodega. He opened it, and there in the center of the floor, sitting there all by itself was my delayed luggage! Hooray!! “Oh, this is your bag! It has been here for two days,” the baggage handler told me.

I couldn’t wait to get home and open it. It proved to be a chore, because it had been stuffed in not one but two giant clear plastic bags, the outer one mummified with packing tape. After pulling off several yards of the tape, I pulled off the first bag. The second one had been ripped open right at the opening of my TipTop sack as if once bagged, someone decided to take a second look. And there was obviously a first look…the sack had a giant rip in the side and all of my things that I had carefully packed had obviously dumped out and thrown back in carelessly. On the top there was the tools I had packed on the bottom, and below them was the chocolate (melted around the shape of a hammer’s head) and several boxes of gumbo mix (smashed flat but unopened, thank goodness). I did a quick inventory against a list I had made. Everything seemed to be there, including one extra item. On the very bottom was a little card saying my bags had been searched by the TSA.

This is why I try to avoid checking luggage!

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