Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Baggage Claim - The Great Class Equalizer

This is one of those posts that has more to do with humanity than parenting or my kid’s funny anecdotes. Please indulge this diversion for a moment. For those of you who’ve never had the experience of picking someone up from a New York airport at midnight, this is for you…

It’s midnight at New York’s LaGuardia Airport in Flushing, Queens. I’m here to pick up my friend coming in from Palm Springs, by way of Dallas. Her flight has been delayed from 12:10 a.m. to 12:41 a.m. Not bad when you consider an hour delay at LaGuardia is the norm. I’ve been to this airport many times and know my way around quite well. Although, I was a little concerned when it took me forty minutes to get into the airport due to some traffic back-up. But I have left plenty of time and it is not a problem. I find the gate where my friend will be arriving and check the monitor for an update…still due in at 12:41 a.m. It's 12:20 a.m., so I find a good vantage point and armed with my cell phone and iPod I wait. While lost in some music, I notice quite a commotion going on over at the baggage claim area. Hmmm… I think, this could be interesting. I glance over to find approximately 700-1000 people crammed into baggage claim. Uh oh, this is not good. It seems 3 or 4 plane loads of luggage has not arrived. I gather from nearby conversations that some people have been waiting over three hours for their flight’s luggage. The situation is deteriorating fast.

The thing that struck me was that differences in culture, class, race, social and economic status seemed to melt away when everyone was faced with the same problem. It didn’t matter if you were just in from Palm Beach wearing your Ralph Lauren cable knit and carrying your Prada backpack or from St. Louis using plastic shopping bags as carry-on (nothing against St. Louis). Everyone was the same. Aires of affluency and poverty disappeared, if only for that moment. Annoyed, angry, frustrated, tired, and fed-up, people were talking, laughing, and commiserating with each other. People who would never give each other a second look were bonding over the issues at hand. The first and foremost issue; execute any airline representative who dared to venture into the mêlée. The airline (who shall remain nameless) seemed to be content making inaudible announcements that just added to the frenzied atmosphere.

My friend’s flight finally landed at 1 a.m. and I meet her at the gate… so much for the updates on the monitors. I tell her of the situation in baggage claim. We put on our armor and venture into the battlefield. To my surprise delight relief, her flight’s bags are presently being circulated. It takes me about 4 minutes to find her bag, I grab it and we make a move toward the exit, just then a group of guys turn around and say, “Congratulations!” I smiled and high tail it to the door. No need being here any longer than we have to – when things hit rock bottom I don’t want to have to be interrogated by the police or deposed by the lawyers.

Whoever said that New Yorker’s aren’t friendly has never met us when we’re pursuing a common cause. Psychologists might call it "mob mentality." I call it resolve for a common cause. The ugly situation made me see again that we’re not all that different from one another. If we could only get together on matters that are more serious than lost luggage, humanity would certainly be a force to be reckoned with.


NOT Bagless at La Guardia said...

Since we don't tell our friends how much we appreciate them... thanks for pet sitting and the Limo service and other acts of friendship ... although Tango, LI stay at home dog, thinks that except for the cat's thinking outside the box he had the situation under control. I guess I've retained the toddler "I'm bored" mentality because that's how I found my test drive "retirement" in Palm Springs. As for you, my good friend, you'll never be boring!

Anonymous said...

As soon as I read 'NY Airport'...I knew you'd have a baggage claim story. I'm glad it wasn't yours though.

I always find it amazing how people from all walks of life bond in those situations...It's wonderful really.

I thought I was the only one with a dang inflated LIPA bill this month...Holy Crapoly!