Please. Indulge the ranting traveler
Really. I don’t make a habit of taping my luggage shut with packing tape. Nor do I know many people who do. I really don’t. So imagine my surprise when I went to claim my luggage upon arriving home from our little Colorado training mission and found it wrapped in white plastic tape. Bless the airlines. They really do make an effort to be ridiculously out of touch with reality, don’t they?

So there I was, standing at the carousel, waiting for my dark green duffel to come out of the contraption, minding my own business when, what do I see? Why, my green duffel all wound with plastic tape, that’s what. The undergarments poking their striped bands through the split bottom was also a nice touch. All eyes were on the damaged luggage first. Then those same eyes turned to me. How nice.

I wasn’t pleased. I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. So I did neither. Four hours on an airplane has a tendency to rob me of emotions. Come to think of it, four hours on an airplane in coach has a tendency to rob me of humanity.

So I pulled my damaged bag over to the United Airlines claims office. Oh, did I mention it was Untied Airlines? No? Well let me just state now that it was United Airlines that damaged my luggage.

It is my opinion that the airlines staff their claim’s offices with pod people from the planet Insania. This is true. Trust me. Aliens live among us and they work as claims representatives for the major airlines. I know this. How? Let me explain.

I dragged my tattered bag into the claims office. Now granted, I may not have been wearing my peppy smiley face, but I wasn’t an ogre either. So I was taken by surprise when a woman greeted me with a look of disdain. “Yes?” she inquired. “My bag was damaged, and I’d like to make a claim.” I replied.

Now get this next part. She looked at my bag and asked, “Where was it damaged.” Okay I admit I stood there dumbfounded. “Well, I don’t normally travel with luggage TAPED shut,” I stammered. Then I added, “And believe it or not, I really don’t like having my underwear flapping about the airport!”

She just stared at me. Okay. So I thought maybe the trip to Colorado’s high altitude had somehow changed my voice. Maybe that ozone hole was bigger than anyone thought. Maybe the atmosphere at 12,000 feet was saturated with helium, and all that gasping and sucking for O2 had left me sounding like an overgrown munchkin. But I digress.

So she looks over the bag. Closer this time. Where the seam was ripped open (this is where the strap had been torn from the side of the bag), she points and says—and I’m not joking—“Looks like a manufacturer’s defect.” Like I said, I’m NOT making this up.

“Uh huh,” I said. “I can see how that strap just JUMPED off the duffel. How could I have been so blind.” She wasn’t amused.

So she just pointed to the white plastic sign with black lettering behind her. It said, “Not responsible for straps, wheels, handles, protruding things, and material defects in passenger luggage, or what can be construed as normal wear and tear.” Okay, I paraphrased a little. But you’ve seen those signs. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

“I’m denying your claim,” she tells me.

“But how can you deny my claim? I haven’t officially filed one yet.” At this point, I was getting a tiny bit upset. Jet lag has a tendency to do that to you. Luckily, my partner-in-climb, Mike Jackman, was there with his rational voice to help.

“Ma’am,” he said—and he was using that term VERY loosely, let me assure you, “Why don’t you just enter our claim in the computer. You can deny it, and we’ll appeal to your supervisor.”

Sounded reasonable to me. But we weren’t dealing with a real human being here. I was now, more than ever, sure this was a pod person from Insania.

She said, and remember, I’m not making this up, “I’m denying it now. The appeal comes back to me. So I’m denying it. This is a manufacturer’s problem.”

So I walked out. Mike got her supervisor’s name and phone number, and even her Earth name. But let’s face it. To file a claim and get someone to listen or pay up or WAIT—TAKE RESPONSIBILITY—would be like being trapped in a hamster wheel. Round and round with never any progress made; all the while, you’d hear those squeaky pod people voices saying the same thing over and over again—“manufacturer’s defect…manufacturer’s defect…manufacturer’s defect…”

I’m better now. I’ve come to terms with the situation. I even have a new duffel bag. A stronger duffel bag.

But know this.

THEY are out there.

And they’re waiting at an airport close to you.

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David Bard has been a fixture at TechRepublic for some time now. At one time he was editor-in-chief of LinuxRepublic and then AdminRepublic. Currently, he occupies space as an editor-in-chief with TechProGuild. In addition, he’s a freelance writer who has covered extreme sports for years. He also is a writer of horror and—contrary to what his climbing partner may think—is hoping the expedition to Nepal doesn’t provide fodder for his next story. When he’s not at home teaching his year-and-a-half-old daughter why it’s not a good idea to eat rocks, or trying to convince his wife why yet another expedition really is necessary, he’s usually off in some remote section of woods trying to discover himself. He’s still looking.