It’s Monday AM at the now too familiar Delta crown room of the Atlanta airport. My connection appears to be on time, my bags have been scrutinized, my shoes scoped, and no doubt by dossier double checked. Well with my looks, who could blame them? I typically check my bags due to do size constraints, but often smile inside at the prospect of them being searched to find my costume—biblical garb, make up kit, fake beard and the accouterments of my profession—expecting lots of perplexed looks. Of course, loosing luggage with my costumes is a not well suppressed fear. In fact this trip to Columbia, SC that fear was realized, up close and personal. At first I had a quiet confidence upon arriving in Columbia, until becoming the last one staring at the near empty baggage carousel. The last bag was a dead ringer to be owned by Freddy the Freeloader. I wasn’t too surprised having barely made connections with a delay out of Ft.Lauderdale due to the annual Air and Sea Show extravaganza
In fact, as we sat delayed on the runway watching the landing/takeoff of the scheduled Blue Angels two thing occurred to me at that time. 1. Since the Blue Angels act was scheduled months in advance, how had this caught Delta, and air traffic control off guard? 2. Only a miracle would guarantee my connection. No real sweat, there were surely other flights, and my performance wasn’t today. Then weather forced a holding pattern at Atlanta. No connection for sure. But, then “where is your faith” echoed in my ear. To that I reply, “not in Delta, or the banking system, or the weather, or in anything that is not completely in my control....and yes, of course only in my GOD! Did that sound defensive? Probably. Truth is that question usually comes from someone that drags out “where is your faith” only when they want to challenge someone else’s.
Well, I do shoot up a prayer to make my connection, just in case. As it turns out, most flights in Atlanta were also delayed, and with two whole minutes to spare I plopped in my usual seat, 10C, the first row behind first class on the isle. Almost first class, but without the $$$.$$. Works for me, you know, it’s a ministry thing. But upon arrival, did I forget to pray for the luggage to make the flight? Yep.
The luggage carousel in ColumbiaInternationalAirport was working just fine. Around and around it went with lots of luggage. Slowly and efficiently the people retrieved their luggage and left until there was just one bag left. There was one other soul also looking at the last piece of luggage, which was ugly, and no one would want anyone to see them claim it. I went to the end to look down the shut of the carousel, as if my luggage would miraculously appear, but no luggage miracle today. The baggage claim office was occupied so I stepped quickly to be the next in line. The young man looked at my claim ticket, compared it to his computer screen, printed out a sheet of brown paper from the printer and tore it off and handed it to me. I looked at it studiously, thinking I would feel much better with something more official than a torn off piece of paper with type so light it is hard to read.
“Now what.” I asked.
“It’s all right there.” He said pointing to the paper, “the phone numbers and the tracking number and the claim number and the procedure, it is all right there. Next.”
I walked back out to the carousel area reading my brown paper. It was all right there, but not at all comforting.
“Mr. McConnell?” It was my ride, my host for the weekend, Dr. Osterlund, no light weight, a professor at Columbia with a stack of credentials, and a warm hand shake.
“How was your flight Mr. McConnell?” He said
“Just Mac, please, it was uneventful until now, luggage lost.” I said
This is no small matter for most, but for me it could ruin the whole weekend, because without luggage, I am out of work.
Quiet contentment gave way to quiet concern by 7:00PM as the computer voice non-chilantly proclaimed, “your luggage has NOT been located at this time.” Not been located? Not good news. Now quiet concern became quiet frustration. Since I was a guest for dinner with the music director and wife, the frustration must be kept quiet, at least to a minimum. They understood of course, and acknowledge that the show could not go on without costume. Everyone agreed that surely this would be remedied. But there was a haunting thought of no costume as a lame excuse for canceling a performance, and a plan B was non-existent. Oh well, dinner was served with stimulating conversation offering sufficient distraction to the problem. After all, it was early. Now, back at the hotel another call to the highlighted number on my lost baggage claim, thinking out loud (now that I was alone), “I would be happier with something a little more official in my hand than this half sheet of torn brown recycled paper.” The computerized voice again un-assured me, “your luggage has NOT been located at this time.” Quiet frustration was becoming quite audible, if not heard by the next room. I determinedly punched “0” believing that a real live person might answer; she did.
“May I help you.”
Duh was my first thought, then Yeaah!, my luggage is missing, I’m a performer, this is my living, my ministry, it’s a GOD THING!!! But, what came out was,
“Yes, thank you very much, I was hoping to gain some information about my lost luggage.”
Since I had punched in my claim number at the proper inquiry previous to her picking up, she greatly encouraged me with,
“of course Mr. McConnell I’ll be happy to.”
She knew my name, and obviously I was in the system, excellent. I heard her tapping away, and assumed the desired answer was coming forthwith (a little King James language for flavor).
“Mr. McConnell, I don’t show the location of your luggage at this time.”
I paused for effect, or was I simply dumbfounded.
“I don’t understand, no location.”
I assumed with all the 911 security measures, and that matched luggage to passenger thing, luggage was always locatable.
“Well Mr. McConnell Atlanta doesn’t scan luggage for connecting flights.”
All manner of things zip through my thinking... Atlanta doesn’t scan? HUGE security risk, my luggage could be on the way to San Fran, no show tomorrow. Hey, what about my medicines, clean underwear, toothbrush, DEODORANT. All very legitimate concerns. So, I says...
“You really don’t have any idea where my luggage will be, or IF it will ever get to Columbia?”
this lady is good, very polite, not a hint of agitation, perfect for this job.
“there are 5 more flights coming to Columbia tonight, two have already arrive, and most likely your luggage is there now, and simply has not been scanned. If you could call back in 30 to 40 minutes we should have more information at that time.”
More information at that time would not be a stretch from “we have NOT located your luggage.” Frustration was becoming more like indignation, all the while praying determinedly and convincingly, that luggage would arrive before 2 AM. Another dramatic pause from me, then,
“Thank you” click. Pretty innovative.
Calmness now Mac let’s be reasonable, this is not the end of the world, only a minor test, a little inconvenience, think of some scriptures, like... I couldn’t remember any scriptures close to lost luggage. Lost souls maybe, but not luggage. Wait. How ‘bout that lost sheep thing. I remember the question well; “would not a man with a hundred sheep, losing one, leave the 99 and seek the one lost.” Yeah, that’s it! Leave all that found luggage and GO FIND MINE! Just as this escaped my lips, the phone rang. Could it be? The luggage indeed miraculously materialized downstairs? This must be the front desk with that expected proclamation. Wrong.
“Mr. McConnell, this is Bridget with Delta claims, we have just received notice that your luggage has been scanned in Columbia, is on the truck to your hotel, and should arrive in 20 to 30 minutes”
Never a doubt! My alter ego Simon is showing. Well that was at 9 PM, so I popped my popcorn and relaxed to a Sean Conery flick, back when he had hair, or a very good make up artist. By 10:00 some queasiness returned. What if that info was bogus? what if that was not my luggage. Mine could still be on the way to California.
Ring! Ah the call.
“Mr. McConnell, Delta just dropped your luggage at the front desk.”
It was a long drop from the 5th floor. But, upon exiting the elevator and turning the corner, there it was. Like I said, never a doubt. OK a little.