On traveling alone, (2)

When I arrived at the Indianapolis airport, on my back to Calgary, I was barely able to lift my suitcase. It had to weigh more than the 50lb limit, I realized much to my chagrin. ‘Maybe I’ll get a nice person at check-in,’ I silently hoped.

‘Any bags to check?’ the ticket agent asked when I reported to the check-in station. Apparently he thought the two gynormous bags-on-a-cart behind me belonged to someone else.

‘Two,’ I volunteered in an ultra-polite voice. Perhaps, if I was really polite and kind, he’d let me off the hook.

‘That will be $60,’ he instructed while motioning for me to slide my credit card through the slot on the pay machine. ‘It was $25 [for my one suitcase] when I came here,’ I protested, certain he was trying to charge me an extra $10 just because. ‘Yes,’ he dismissed my pre-complaint, ‘$25 for the first bag; $35 for the second.’

Wow, United, I don’t know what to say!

‘Are they over the limit?’ he suddenly suspected while I swiped my credit card.

‘I don’t think so,’ I hoped-lied.

‘Hrrmph, let’s see’ he decided.

I set my lightest bag on the scale. The one I was able to lift. Twenty-three pounds. Yes! Surely the other bag wouldn’t weight more than double?

Sensing my luck was about to run out, I set the second bag on the scale, crossing my fingers that my inability to lift it was due to my painful shoulder rather than its excessive weight.

Sixty pounds, the scale revealed. I guess the bag was just heavy.

‘Whoa,’ the agent blurted out, while shaking his head. As if to say ‘don’t even think that I’m going to give you a free pass and let your ten-pounds-over-the-limit suitcase on that aircraft.’

‘That’s $100,’ he lectured-accused. No….Calgary….that’s TWO hundred.’

And I stood there, too distressed to question his seemingly arbitrary math. Paying $200 just to cart a suitcase filled with snacks and presents back to Calgary was out of the question.

‘It’s not worth it, frankly,’ the agent interrupted my thoughts. ‘You could go [motioning towards an invisible luggage store] and buy a duffel bag for less than that.’

I was familiar with the buy-a-bag approach. We’d been forced to do that in 2002 after we tried to board a plane with suitcases weighing 90 pounds. Same suitcase, come to think of it.

So I decided to try the ‘repacking-redistribution’ approach. Perhaps I could magically remove 10 pounds’ worth of weight from my large suitcase and [magically] insert it into my over-stuffed Euro-style backpack.

I had no choice but to air my dirty laundry right there on the Indianapolis airport floor as I valiantly attempted to repack my bags without removing every single item from each bag. Fortunately I had all the time in the world because I’d arrived – inadvertently – at the airport three hours before my flight was scheduled to depart. What can I say, I have a hard time reading boarding passes.

I shuffled. I shoved. I rearranged. And yet, when I put my suitcase back on the scale, it said 53 pounds. Instead of 50. My original naysayer had left to take a break, but the female attendant on duty was even less accommodating. ‘Nope!’ she shook her head. De-nied. ‘You need to get rid of three more pounds.’

Which seemed like a personal insult at that point.

One heavy-ish gift remained in my overweight suitcase. I knew if I removed it, the suitcase would be within the ‘legal’ limit. But there was no way to shove that puppy inside my way-too-full backpack.

Ironically, it was my Christmas gift. From my mom.

The only solution – save donating it to some random passerby – was to transport it as a carry-on. Except my carry-on luggage consisted of a small purse. And a camera bag.

And then I remembered: the un-aesthetically-pleasing reusable bag I’d purchased at Trader Joe’s the previous day. It was an impulsive last-minute purchase while I stood in the check-out line.

It had cost…a dollar.

I retrieved the slightly hideous Hawaiian-print bag from my suitcase and placed my unacceptably heavy Christmas present inside it. I re-weighed the suitcase: 47 pounds.

Eat it, United!

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