Monday, April 5, 2010

Tale of my Missing Suitcase...or Rather Backpack

I always go back and forth on if I believe in luck or not. Oprah says luck is "preparation meets opportunity," and then there's just plain old fashioned chance. I'm currently reading "Fooled by Randomness" by Nassim Taleb so I'm going to keep an open mind for now. What I do know for sure is that my luck (or nonluck if there is no such thing) is like a yoyo. It has been my whole life. I am both the most likely person you know to win the lottery, and most likely to be eaten by a shark. It's either high or low, I don't dabble in the middle.
I hit a snag on my trip. My flight from South Africa to London was canceled because the pilots of British Airways are apparently not being paid enough, or maybe they want more gold shiny buttons on their uniforms. Because of it, I missed my connections on to Italy. I'm not a huge crier and tend to roll with the punches. But this set me off. MELTDOWN. A complete wailing idiot. It started as I dealt with the BA team's complete indifference in JoBerg, and continued the next morning as I described my rolling backpack to the "luggage inquiries" lady at Heathrow. She told me my bag was checked in Zimbabwe on the flight that was canceled (days before it turns out) and there was no record of where my bag was at the moment (they hand-write the tags in Zimbabwe so until it made it to SA it was untrackable). I finally made it through the long terminal change at Heathrow over to where the Italy flights depart. At this point I had been traveling for nearly 30 long hours, was sad to have left my friends in Africa but excited to be meeting someone in Italy, so my tears continued. Two very nice Alitalia agents tried everything in the world to get me to Sicily, but because of the strike it was going to take a couple of days. I thanked them for their hour-long effort and moped off in search of a coffee. I was now in London with no plan, no bag, wearing shorts and flipflops and it was cold and rainy outside. 
I regrouped, booked a hotel online from the BA lounge and took the tube into London. I bought a couple light sweaters on clearance at the Gap and even had dinner at Loco Mexicano right by hotel (margaritas were delicious, the fajitas need some work). I had complete faith that my bag would soon show up and I could depart London for somewhere warmer. The next day I tried to extend my hotel a second night when it was evident my bag's arrival wasn't imminent. It was full. I figured it would eventually be delivered to that hotel so needed to stay somewhere within reasonable walking distance. 
I walked to a few nearby hotels - all full. I was near Belgrave Road, a street lined with B&Bs, that I had stayed on twice during previous trips. I went door to door - occupied. No room in the inn; I have a new appreciation for what Mary and Joseph endured. I went into one and there was a nice Indian man working who told me they too were full. I must have had a defeated expression, because he then said, "well, we have one non-regular room." I'll take it. He assured me I should see it first so I followed him through the hall, down the stairs leading to the basement and into the laundry room. There was a door with nothing but an emergency exit arrow on it that he opened and sure enough, inside there was a bed. A large closet had been re-purposed and the nearest bathroom was on a whole different floor. Too tired to haggle, I paid way too much for my closet just happy to have a pillow I could rest my head on for the night.
London is a great city, so I decided take advantage of being there. The only major tourist site I hadn't yet been to in London that I could think of was the Tate Britain museum. I spent about 15 minutes wandering around it (national museums in London are free) and thought - I really don't like contemporary/modern museum art. My favorite part of the museum was the loo -  I lingered under the warm hand dryer as long as I could without appearing homeless. So I left and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering aimlessly around London popping into shops and cafes. Somehow in my warped brain, walking around the cold wet streets in flip flops was a personal triumph over British Airways...I'll show you who's tougher you strikers! Why buy new airline reimbursable shoes when you can make such a strong statement to those who strike?
I finally retrieved my backpack around 10pm on the second night. Even though I had updated/confirmed/reconfirmed my new hotel info, it was of course still delivered to my previous hotel. I checked the weather for a few cities in Europe I had not yet visited; Lisbon looked to be sunny and nice so I booked a flight for the following morning. My backpack and I set out for our next adventure, reunited at last.

1 comment:

  1. That backpack has had quite a series of adventures itself. Glad you got it back again! Looking forward to seeing you soon, if just for a second. Stu Dawg