Always pack clean underwear

27 Apr

My stomach is full of Mexican food and Lucky Charms, which can mean only one thing — I’m back in the USA!

I realized this trip that the “American experience” doesn’t begin when we touch down at O’Hare — it starts the minute you step on a United plane, which I’m convinced is always full of 90% Americans, many of whom speak in Chicago accents. There were these two women behind me, who by their voices I guessed were in their early 20s. They were gossiping, laughing obnoxiously loudly, and flirting with the Rugby team on board. (Yes, there was an entire Rugby team on the plane, who spent the entire flight standing in the aisles, whooping and hollering. It’s a good thing I don’t sleep on planes.) I got a glimpse of the women when I got up to use the “toilet cubicle” and was surprised that they looked in their 40s. Ah, American, where you’re never too old to talk like a Valley Girl.

I was still in London mode when the beverage cart came by. I told the flight attendant I wanted “still water with ice.” She looked at me puzzled. “So you want water, then?” Right — when you say “water” in American, still and ice are implied.

I always fly United because of their Mileage Plus program, which is probably called something else now that they merged with Continental. I used to have a high status which meant that I could check up to three bags weighing 70 lbs and got to go in the airport lounge. I didn’t fly as much last year so I lost that status, which means I got to check one bag and it had to be under 50 lbs. “Challenge accepted,” I said, and proceeded to weigh my bag using Wii Fit before I left. When it was only 48 lbs, I threw in an extra book. According to the airport scale, it was 22.6 kg, which is 49.8 lbs. I packed a lot of clothes that I want to sell or donate here, which hopefully means I will still be under 50 lbs for the flight back. I do make the same mistake every time I come back here, either from Chicago or London — I pack an outfit for almost every day, knowing full well I will go shopping and then want to wear all those new clothes. I never seem to learn.

Anyway…

When we landed in Chicago, I had to recheck my bag. It took forever to come onto the carousel because I no longer get the “priority” baggage tag. I got to speed through immigration because I had a connecting flight, but I still had to recheck the bag and go through security again, and I only had an hour before my flight to Cincinnati left. I think I burned off my in-flight meal power walking.

While on the tram to terminal 2, I overheard a United flight crew talking. “Ever since the merge, things have been a mess,” one flight attendant said. “They’re making everything Continental, and it’s so much worse.” I was surprised she was talking so opening about it in public, especially fully dressed in company uniform. Call it a coincidence or blame Continental, but when I got to Cincinnati, I found out my giant suitcase did not. I knew something was wrong when the baggage carousel shut off. I filed a delayed baggage report (I like that they use “delayed” instead of “lost”), and they told me it was on the next flight to Cincinnati and would arrive around 9 pm. I couldn’t believe that I was able to transfer terminals, queue for security, run through the airport and still make my flight, while my suitcase could not. I called the number they gave me last night and the message said “Your bag has left the airport and is out for delivery.” “Great,” I thought. “I can take a shower and put on clean clothes tonight!” But then another hour passed and there was no bag. Then another hour. Eventually it was midnight and I felt like I was going to die. When you’ve been up for almost 24 hours and just spent all day on a plane sitting next to a sick guy, the last thing you want to do is wait up for a bag that isn’t coming. So I gave up and went to sleep, hoping the doorbell would pull me out of my coma. Of course there was no doorbell and it’s now past 11 a.m. and I still don’t have my bag. And because I was so concerned about my luggage weight, I filled my carry-on with shoes, jeans and a blazer — absolutely nothing useful except for my glasses and hair brush. Luckily I had a toothbrush and some toiletries here or else I’d be really hurting. I guess there’s a reason they tell you to pack a change of clothes and necessities in your carry-on…

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