The scene takes place in LaGuardia Airport. The weather is rainy and miserable. A group of people stands around Carousel E in Terminal B. Then the buzzer sounds and the carousel starts moving. One by one, the suitcases appear. All shapes and sizes, all different colors and textures, all filled with precious and not-so-precious belongings. Clothes, shoes, perhaps jewelry or photos. Souvenirs to commemorate a special trip or work papers that still need to be looked over or filed. All of these things wanted by the people waiting for them.
Kids are running around, parents are looking harried and exhausted. Businessmen look impatient. The hour is late because the flight was delayed. And the carousel goes round and round. Bags are lifted off of the belt. Carried out to waiting cabs or cars. Strangers help strangers lift their luggage off before it passes them by.
The crowd starts to thin out. Slowly but surely the carousel comes to a halt and a metal gate comes crashing down over the entrance to the belt. The buzzer sounds again, and there is quiet.
All of the suitcases, duffle bags, strollers, and car seats are with their rightful owners. Families are on their way home to unpack, do laundry, settle into deep sleep and happy dreams. Other travelers might have connecting flights or have flown to New York City for a vacation.
But there still are two people standing in front of Carousel E in Terminal B. These two people are tired, but also still basking in the glow of a wonderful weekend. A weekend that was spent celebrating the bar mitzvah of a friend’s son. The friend has been a friend for more than two decades and was a bridesmaid at the wedding of the two people who are still standing in front of Carousel E in Terminal B. They spent a weekend in Atlanta, embraced by southern hospitality and southern food. Cheesy grits — still not sure what a grit is and was too scared to taste it, but it sure does sound southern. The two people are staring at the carousel, wondering why it has stopped moving when they still haven’t retrieved their lone black suitcase, the one that has a pink ribbon tied to one handle and an NCSY orange luggage tag on the other handle.
The two people stare at the belt, willing it to continue to move. They look at the steel gate that has remained firmly in its place. They touch the steel gate to confirm that it is, indeed, steel. And that it is, indeed, not moving.
The two people stand there for a few minutes looking at each other. “I don’t think our suitcase is coming out,” one said to the other. “This is why you never pack your tefillin in your suitcase,” one said to the other. “Um, what are we supposed to do now?” one asked the other. The two people see a man wearing an official-looking vest. “Excuse me, our suitcase did not appear with everyone else’s. What are we supposed to do now?” one asked the man in the official-looking vest. “I personally took all of the bags off of the plane and put them on the belt. There were no other bags left. Go report it to the office,” the man in the official looking vest said to the two people with no suitcase.
So off to the back of Terminal B went the two people, where they asked the woman behind the counter where their lost suitcase was. She typed in the number that was on the boarding pass that belonged to one of the two people with no suitcase. “It appears that your suitcase is still in Atlanta,” the woman says with much authority. “But we are not in Atlanta,” one of the two people without a suitcase responds. “That is true,” the woman responds. “But for some reason, your suitcase is still there. The computer cannot tell me why it is still there, but it is still there.” Then she continues to type something. “It looks like there are a lot of flights tomorrow. We will get your suitcase and then deliver it to you,” the woman assures the two people, who still have no suitcase.
It is tomorrow and the lone black suitcase still is homesick and alone. The two people are still waiting for its safe return, but are fully aware that it is just a suitcase and there are much more important things in life, like spending a weekend in Atlanta with wonderful, special friends. They also are aware that one of the two people with no suitcase probably should have tipped the lady in Atlanta who took his suitcase in the first place. But we won’t go into that right now……
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is hoping that by the time you read this, her suitcase will be back in Teaneck, unpacked and put away. If not, there will certainly be a part two to this column where husband #1 is in really big trouble….