I flew back from New York on Friday on Continental Airlines. For reasons unknown to the airport staff, baggage claim took 65 minutes. Instead of putting my hand down the throat of a particularly clueless staffer, pulling out her intestines and tying them as a gag around her mouth, stopping obediently to staple a hand luggage tag to her ear and sending her standing upside down around the carousel, I chose to benignly travelers-waiting-for-their-luggage watch instead. It was familiar, but now that I was ‘watching’ watching, I gleaned deeper insights and naturally, deeper joy.
Specimen one — The alpha male traveler. Has to ‘beat’ everyone in the race from the aircraft door to the conveyor belt. Then takes a position at the mouth of the conveyor belt so that he can be first out. God help airport staff if he has to wait more than 3 minutes.
Specimen two – The desperately paranoid traveler. He is the one who reads every baggage tag of every suitcase somehow convinced that his suitcase has transmogrified into a new, deceitful disguise. He will be seen taking bag after bag off the conveyor belt, examining them and then worriedly putting them back on.
Specimen three – The seductress. She is the one who has checked in four very large suitcases with the special red tags saying - “Don’t even try to lift this! Your arm will fly off its socket!!’ She innocently bats her eyelids at female-affection-starved travelers (which accounts for pretty much all Indian men), and charms one of them to lift her bags off the carousel – which he does, smiling bravely, and then has to be immediately hospitalised.
Specimen four – The Master of the Universe. He really couldn’t be bothered, he has many more important things to do. He is furiously on his Blackberry, overthrowing governments, advising Bill Gates, negotiating nuclear disarmament. He has sworn to himself that one day he will be so famous (see Specimen five), he’ll waltz out of airports while his minions scurry to collect and perform prayers over his luggage.
Specimen five – This is the famous movie star. He/she could be naked but you will never see them in an airport without outsized sunglasses. These are the finest of our race whose genes have been honed to only smiling and raising one arm to wave to crowds, both real and imagined. Their luggage magically materialises in their hotel suites, most times carried by the very same clueless airport staffer who escaped intestinal asphxiation and ear-staple injury at my hands.
There is a god after all.