You can’t get there from here

Much as I prefer to avoid autobiography on this blog, I have to share a very surprising and exciting piece of news.
This afternoon at 2:20 PM United Airlines finally delivered my suitcase into my hands here in Cardiff.
I’m not sure I have the verbal tools to adequately explain to you just exactly how unlikely this outcome has seemed since my poor suitcase disappeared from under my own gaze on June 25th, over a month ago! Even a week ago, when the suitcase had been found but left sitting in Dulles Airport for 5 days, I seriously doubted I would ever see it.
Through the entire experience, the good folks at United have, by and large, acted as though this was the first piece of luggage the airline had ever had in its care, the first it had ever attempted to move from place to place, the first it had ever lost and the first it had ever attempted to locate. Although this is the longest period they’ve lost my luggage for, it’s not the first. United has lost or delayed suitcases of mine at least 9 times in the last 3 ½ years, which means they’ve failed to get my bags there about  60% of the times I’ve flown them in that period.

Frankly, my experience throughout the summer has been that the entire transport system of Western Civilization is in ruin. My recent US trip to Portland and Durango consisted of 10 legs spread out over two round trips on two airlines (United and Delta). Only one was less than 2 hours late, but that was the leg where the suitcase disappeared. Our trip to London this weekend started nearly 3 hours late when the bus didn’t show, and when it did the bus driver was a red-eyed, screaming madman. As a result we missed the last tube and had to take a cab. Three cab rides in four days, and every time the cabby was on the phone (very illegal in Britain), although the last one did make a heroic effort to get us to our bus. When organizing our side-trip to Glyndebourne, I called the “information” line to get train times, and they cheerfully explained that I could book both the train to Lewes and the bus on to Glyndebourne together as the “Glyndebourne Express,” a construct that was completely unknown to the staff at Victoria station. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember the last time I paid the fare at the station that I was quoted on the phone. Our attempt to return to the bus station for our return journey was a catalogue of horrors, including trains emptied because of bodies on the rails and a bus stopped for nearly 30 minutes at one stop light. By the way, doesn’t it seem reasonable that, when catching a bus, the logical place to look is the bus station (where it wasn’t) and not the train station (where it was)? And, as long as I rant, I must ask, why does one wait 30 minutes for a number 11 bus while 30 other buses pass, and when it finally arrives it is followed bumper-to-bumper by 2 more number 11 buses (both empty)????

I should be smiling- I have my suitcase, my long lost suitcase. Now if Delta would just process the 600 Euro compensation payment they still owe me….

 c. 2006 Kenneth Woods

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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