JournalismPakistan.com March 14, 2013
There was a time when your luggage reflected your personality. It was distinctly yours. And if you got someone else's bag, it was pretty much because you were a thief. Luggage was cheerfully shabby. Even the locks were simple. You put a key and turned and it opened. You did not have bone up passwords and codes and do rain dances with scary-looking pieces of twisted metal masquerading as keys.
Get off at an airport these days, and go to the concourse and there you have this acrid commentary on the human race. The baggage carousel revolves with ticky tacky "they all look just the same" clones that are soulless and assembly lined. Everyone’s suitcase is a sort of blue-grey-tan in determinate color.
If it ever gets lost and you have to explain to some official what it looks like you’ll really be climbing a mountain without oxygen.
Is it any surprise therefore that you pick up the wrong suitcase and push off with it. A friend of mine reached home and found his piece of strangely shaped metal would not enter the slit that now passes for a keyhole. That did not disturb him very much since most of us are incapable of opening these newfangled systems. Half an hour later it struck him that his grey suitcase had a scar on the left side and this one did not have it. Since it was unlikely that it healed inflight, he finally concluded this was not his suitcase.
So back to the airport he went and he approached Customs and told them this was not his bag and had someone else been along with a similar dull grey, no special features item of baggage! The customs chap was ecstatic.
Did you open it, he asked, besides himself with glee.
No, I could not get it to open.
So you tried.
Of course, I tried, I thought it was mine.
You just said it was not yours.
I did not know that then, I believed it was my suitcase.
So who told you it wasn't?
No one told me, I found no scar on the left side of the suitcase.
You damaged the bag?
No, I did not damage the bag; I was trying to open the flipping thing.
Why would you open something that was not yours?
And so on and so on and so on.
I am not even sure if he got his luggage back. I think those people who took it drove off to the hills somewhere and may not have opened (tried to) until the next day.
You can see similar confusion a dozen times a day. One lady who picked up someone else's bag off the belt while standing by me realized a few minutes later it wasn't hers. She saw an identical bag with another lady and after staring at each other suspiciously they did a little pantomime with their hands, finally approaching each other.
Mix-up, says the first lady.
Yes, says, second lady, but please wait, I must check my bag first.
You must what!! Check my bag, you see the zips are easy to open.
I look like a thief to you?
I don’t know how a thief looks, I don’t know you, I will still check, so please wait.
I advise them to let go. Be happy, smile.
The cheapie types among us tie a ribbon on the handle or a piece of string and then we forget what we had done.
So what happens? You have everyone hopping about at the carousel, bumping shins, stamping toes, bending down and peering myopically at each of their type of bags, often getting it all wrong.
What I say is, let's get back the old days, when your luggage was truly yours and only you could recognize it.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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