Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Exerting control

I need to premise this story by pointing out that I really did have a lot of luggage, and I own up to that fact.


Today when I checked in to my flight, they found I was 15 kilos overweight. This was more than I'd expected, but not a lot more. After all, I was checking in with my whole life in three bags. The attendant said she'd have to charge me extra luggage, but would figure out some kind of discount. First she needed to weigh my carry-on, which came to a whopping 15 kilos in and of itself (more than double the allowed amount)! I don't know how that happened, except to recognise I did kind of put all the heavy stuff in there.

She said they have a very strict policy against heavy carry-ons, so I'd have to check some of that or leave some of it behind. Ouch! This is my life we're talking about! And while I did have bags inside of bags and could have just decreased my weight by ditching the suitcase, it was my best carry-on-sized case. In summary, after a bit of repacking, she said she'd charge me for only 20 kilos overweight instead of the 24 I should pay. I said that was not fair. I'd pay the 15 for checked bags but I had not received fair warning about the carry-on, and plus a little flexibility on the part of the airline was to be expected in a situation like this: I'd already paid ahead to take some extra luggage but it wasn't enough.

I pleaded her boss, who was the most unwavering Arab man I have EVER met.

So I pleaded with the poor girl again, and she was becoming a bit hard-nosed herself. She said that the rules are for my own safety and that's the most important thing.

How do you argue with that? Well, here's how.

I asked her how much time I had until the counter closed. She said 20 minutes, so I had to move fast. I proceeded to unpack and rearrange all of my stuff. All of it. One of my suitcases was banged up and ready for a new owner anyway, so I unpacked it and squeezed its contents into my carry-on and a backpack that was in my carry-on. Getting rid of the junked suitcase saved me 4+ kilos on its own. Also, using a backpack as a carry-on meant that they'd let me get away with more stuff - it doesn't look as heavy as a carry-on suitcase. The airline staff were shocked that I would forego the suitcase and offered to check it empty. (Huh?)

Here was the logic floating through my mind as I took over the check-in area floor: After all, this was for my own safety, so I should rearrange my stuff so as to keep myself and my fellow passengers safe, right?

In the end, I came down to the wire and was the last passenger checked in. By the end, the stubborn man was gone and only the women were left, and I was one of the club. They charged me for 10 kg instead of 20 and, yeah, offered to check the empty suitcase. They bode me farewells with smiles and encouraging words. I think maybe they were just scared of the man. Or they honoured my attempts to look out for safety.

Then! Once I was in the boarding lounge, one of these airline women came up to me and handed me a wad of coins. I'd forgotten I'd left some USD coins in a pocket of the bag. The porter who claimed the discarded suitcase had found them and turned them in! Wow!! She asked me what country they were from, how much they were worth, etc. I said she should keep some for her children and give the porter the rest to give to their children. What a beautiful last picture of Sue Dan to take with me.

As I pondered my own belligerence, I realised it was my little attempt to take control. Everything in my life seems to be spiralling, but don't even think of messing with my luggage allowance! It felt stupid, but it also felt good. And I saved 80 bucks. And bonded with the women.


happygirl said...

And now you have a wonderful travel story to share. Oh friend, what a difficult experience for you. I'm so glad you turned it around in the end and made this a success story. POSITIVITY!! Are you leaving Sudan forever? or just a trip home? I look forward to hearing of your future adventures.

Cathy said...

This transformation of an experience into words gives your life a shared heart ...

David N. said...

This story cracked me up. Well played.

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