Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mine's the Black One

By Mark W. Danielson

It had been a superb trip to Sacramento. The weather was perfect for my flights out and back. By airline standards, my twenty-four hour layover there was quite long. My first officer was excellent, and we even arrived back in Memphis a little early – one AM on Thanksgiving morning. The only down side was I was stuck there until my next trip started 35 hours later. Actually, things soon got worse.

When I got on the crew bus that takes us to the parking lot, I ran into an old friend who had been one of my back seaters in the F-4 Phantom. He later became a pilot and has been with FedEx a few years less than I. My suitcase was in the repair shop so I took the one my step son had last used. Since the ride to the parking lot takes a few minutes, my buddy and I used the time to catch up on things.

I hadn’t driven my truck in a couple of months, so I wasn’t exactly sure where it was among the hundreds of vehicles, but knowing that I parked in the first two rows narrowed it down. My plan was to get off at the second bus stop and start walking, but apparently the bus driver had other plans. In spite of my repeated requests to stop, he kept going, and when he finally did stop, I grabbed what looked like my borrowed bag and started searching for my truck. Thankfully it was fairly close, so I tossed the bag in and took off.

My crash pad is thirty minutes away, and when I arrived, I immediately discovered I had grabbed the wrong bag. To make matters worse, my cell phone was dead and my charger was in my bag. To top that, there was no name on the bag I had, and my step son’s name was on mine. Clearly, it was going to be a long night.

Thankfully, I found a rental car receipt in the bag I had with a name that matched one of our crewmembers. Using the company’s web site, I found his e-mail address and phone number, but since my landlady doesn’t have a house phone, I sent him an e-mail explaining the situation, and planned to find a pay phone soon after. To my amazement, I received a prompt e-mail response saying his keys were in his bag so he was stuck in the flight operations building, and “if I was so inclined,” would I mind brining it there. I felt horrible about my stupidity, but at least we had found a way to swap bags. I sent another message saying I was on my way. Two minutes later, my wheels were spinning.

The gods were watching over me, giving me green lights most of the way. I immediately went to the desk and had his name paged, but no one showed up. After searching for him, I borrowed a cell phone and we finally linked up. He was a true gentleman, and I owe him a dinner. He got home a little later than planned, but at least he was there for the holiday. For me, time was irrelevant and I got to bed about 4:30 AM, which is actually pretty good in this job.

In all my years of traveling, I’ve never before made this mistake. The odds of my phone dying and his being stranded because his keys were in his bag made this event rather extraordinary, and the fact that we were even able to communicate made it that much more amazing. But all’s well that ends well, right? And now that my real bag has been repaired, I shouldn’t make this mistake again because after all, mine’s the black one.


Anonymous said...

Mark, one of the little nightmares life throws at us from time to time. Glad it all worked out. (-:
Pat Browning

Mark W. Danielson said...

Thanks, Pat. When you're as sleep deprived as I am, you do good to remember to grab your bag:)

It could be worse, though. My first officer told me Delta lost his bag when he was starting a trip. He ended up flying in a polo shirt and jeans for two days before claiming his bag from a lost luggage room. Did I mention there were 500 other black bags in that room? Thankfully, he found it.

I'm happy to report I have had no problems since I got my own bag back:)

Helen Ginger said...

The black bag comment is cute, Mark. Maybe you should take a cue from airline passengers and tie a big pink ribbon onto the handle.

Straight From Hel

Mark W. Danielson said...

Pink -- maybe not. Red, white, and blue -- perhaps. Lyne's always telling me to do that, too:)

Jean Henry Mead said...

I can certainly sympathize, Mark.
Some years ago, I flew to the Washington coast to visit my brother on Tatoosh, a coast guard island in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The airlines lost my luggage and I had to wear coast guard uniforms for a week, and borrowed a pair of tennis shoes. A week later a coast guard cutter delivered my bags. It actually was a fun vacation.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Look at the bright side, Jean -- at least YOUR clothes never got dirty:) Nice of the Coast Guard to come to the rescue.