Carry On My Wayward Bag

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you know that I went to Scotland in November.

Night shot of Edinburgh airport sign, decorated for ChristmasIt was a trip I had been looking forward to for months, because I would get to meet my English friend Ali. We met in the Glee fandom several years ago and have been close ever since. So of course I was terribly excited to meet her, and terribly excited to see Scotland. I booked my flight, she booked our airBNB, and I packed two carry-on bags for the flight.

This is where things went slightly askew. Because of course things went askew. I can’t travel without problems.

I don’t make it a secret that I prefer to travel carry-on only. I like to use public transit and residential rentals when I travel, and this usually means I am going to be doing some walking. I don’t like to walk around with a wheelie suitcase if I can help it – nothing flags you more obviously as a tourist, they’re unwieldy, noisy on streets…no, thank you. So for this trip I had a backpack that I love (not an affiliate link – I just really like it), packing cubes that I swear by (again…not an affiliate link…I would likely have to update this blog more regularly for that sort of thing), and a cute new weekender tote I’d purchased from ModCloth (can’t recommend it, too awkward, but at the time I was excited to use it).

I had to check the backpack.

Aer Lingus has a regional affiliate airline that only allows one carry-on. Not even a carry-on and a purse. A single carry-on that has to fit under the seat at your feet or in the overhead bins. And that meant checking my beloved backpack with my umbrella and antacids and contacts and hair spray and most of my clothing.

Oh, I think you see where this is going.

The author in a restroom at DFW airport.

Gotta love a classy airport bathroom selfie.

I began my trip on Thanksgiving Day in a pair of leggings, a sweater dress I’ve owned and loved for years, and leg warmers. I was layered up underneath, because I knew it would be chilly in Scotland. This would be comfortable and practical for travel, I thought. And cute! I like to look cute when I travel.

Reader, after five days of this outfit, it was no longer cute.

See, I missed my connection in Chicago. O’Hare, an airport I have never once in twenty years had a problem with, an airport I have defended when people groan and call it “the worst airport,” this airport for which I’d had great appreciation for the longest time…it turned against me, folks. There was construction. Missing directional signs. I couldn’t find the terminal to terminal train. There was one bus that went between terminals, I had to basically descend into the basement of the airport to even find it, and because of a shift change, they were taking an hour and a half to even get a bus together.

I had an hour and a half between my flights.

It wasn’t enough.

This threw my whole trip into turmoil. I wasn’t sure my bag would be successfully transferred to the new flight Aer Lingus put me on. I was going to have to spend eight fucking hours in the Dublin airport (note: do not recommend, though I admit the offer to upgrade my Burger King chicken sandwich meal to include a beer instead of soda at 11 AM was awfully tempting…and at least on this unplanned lengthy stopover, I got to get off the airplane – looking at you, Reykjavik) before I could get another flight to Edinburgh. I was absolutely going to miss the drag show I had purchased non-refundable tickets for and had packed a cocktail dress into my tote for. And my eyes were stinging like crazy because my eyeliner and mascara were not waterproof and I was sobbing and snotting everywhere.

And when I got to Edinburgh – weeping, tired, blister-footed, half-crazed with exhaustion, slightly tipsy because darling friend Jessica had insisted on sending me money to get thoroughly Airplane Drunk, and blessing the fact that I will never travel without a couple of spare pairs of underpants in my carry-on – my backpack wasn’t there.

Nobody, actually, was sure where it was.

“Probably in Dublin still,” a baggage clerk whispered to me. “90 percent of the time when these things happen, it’s Dublin.”

I filed a report and took an airport tram to Princes Street so I could terrorize the poor, kind and helpful staff of Primark twenty minutes before closing. I had packed a cocktail dress into my tote for the drag show I missed, three pairs of spare underpants, and four pairs of tights, but I had not packed pajamas or anything that could be used as pajamas, and I was not about to sleep in the under-layers of the outfit I had been wearing for over twenty-four hours.

Takeaway from Primark: fifteen sets of cheap and gloriously tacky fake nails for drag, a pair of badly fitting purple leggings, an equally badly-fitting I Heart Edinburgh t-shirt, and a packet of fuzzy socks (I love the socks, I still have a pair, I gave the other pair to Ali).

An Instagram Stories snap of the author in a souvenir t-shirt from Edinburgh

I took the shirt home and t-shirt surgeried it, it fits much better now.

A cocktail dress isn’t really great for hours of doing tourist things all through Edinburgh and Glasgow, so I was in my airplane clothes for most of the trip. I don’t have photos from all the days I was stuck in The Goddamn Sweater Dress – which I washed every night and hung to dry over the radiator in our airBNB – but I have enough to give you all a pretty good picture of my mood over the next several days.

 

I called the airline or the baggage company every day. Nobody could find my bag. On Monday evening, Ali parked me in a posh pub with a pot of tea and a dram of whiskey (I quickly combined the two) while she went outside to have a stern chat with the baggage company. She came back, face grim. “They’re not even sure the bag made it into Scotland. They can’t trace it. They really don’t know where it is. They think the airline’s got it somewhere and they’ve been keeping that from you while they try to get the airline to find the damn thing.”

Well, that upset us both (although, shout out to Menzies, the baggage company, who worked so hard for me, and were lovely and kind the entire time). We ditched our plans for the rest of the night and went back to our airBNB with the express aim of eating our weight in Mini-Cheddars and Galaxy chocolate while watching terrible British television and drinking worse wine.

Except when we got there, there was a note on the door from a courier company.

“BAG DELIVERED,” it said. “NEXT DOOR.”

Astonished, we trotted over to the airBNB owner’s door – our flat was a nanny flat attached to his house – and sure enough, that lovely kind gentleman had my bag. “I saw them lurkin’ around yesterday,” he said, and yes, it was as broadly Scottish as you think it is. “But they didn’t knock on my door and I didn’t know what they wanted. But when they came back today I asked and they said they had a bag for the house, and oo, I didn’t know what they meant at first and then I thought, might be for the ladies* in the guest house. So I said I’d take it for you, and here you are.” He laughed, one of those laughs you hear in BBC comedies about Scotland, a jovial bark from the belly. “And y’ve only got one more day left!”

Yeah, we know. Sigh. But. Bag! Bag bag bag!

Please note the “RUSH” tag on the handle. The courier had actually had the damn bag all weekend. Some rush.

I immediately stripped off my entire outfit and hurled it to the floor of my room.

“Let’s burn it,” Ali suggested, but it was very damp in Edinburgh and we couldn’t figure out how to do so effectively. Also, The Goddamn Sweater Dress is acrylic, so it would only have melted into a stinky lump.

Now, that morning I had finally given in and gone to an ASDA (the UK’s Wal-Mart – literally, it is Wal-Mart with a different name and an astonishing selection of kippers and chocolate Advent calendars in the grocery section) to spend some of my holiday money on some clothing so I didn’t have to wear The Goddamn Sweater Dress (we were both just entirely sick of the thing) when we went to our very posh lunch at the Castle Terrace restaurant on Tuesday.

I did not like dipping into my holiday funds for it, but Aer Lingus says they’ll probably reimburse me for it, and it turns out the new sweater is very soft and cozy and I have worn it quite a lot since I came home. So there’s that.

Did I have an otherwise excellent time in Scotland? I did, and I’ll share more photos later. And my trip home, apart from a mild confrontation with Dublin Customs over a roast beef sandwich, was wholly uneventful.

But I am never the fuck ever checking a bag to Europe ever again, and I don’t care what pretzel knots I have to twist myself into to avoid doing so.

It may be time to look for a new winter raincoat with many extremely large pockets.

*airBNB doesn’t really have a gender option for those of us gender non-conforming types, so I didn’t bother to correct the gentleman who was, after all, very nice and had my bag and I was desperate to get into my own properly fitting pajamas.

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