Baggage Rush

By admin

Passengers carry on as if there is only tomorrow

Jan 18, 2011

It starts with the handicap/wheel-chair announcement.  And it ends with a two old people sitting on their seat-belts, waiting for the aisles to clear.

“Boarding those with wheel-chairs.”

Like iron filings to a magnet, a slumbering sprawl of distracted gate-passengers suddenly leaps to attention. Laptops snap shut, children yanked in, and “carry-ons” pulled up by their handles.  Gate-room chatter implodes into a religious silence.

It’s as if some residual primitive instinct– “lions!”—has switched on like an electric current and beamed a force field over the waiting gate area.

“Boarding those with wheel-chairs and those with small children.”

The crowd is up, in place, on their toes; anxious and squeezing toward the woman with a mini-microphone; the woman with her back up to gap in the wall. A stretched out belt of fabric separates the gangplank from the crowd.

“Boarding First class passengers and those with small children.”

A few figures dart along the edges of the crowd: quick, low key, and gone.

The crowd of passengers inches forward.

“Boarding First class passengers and those with small children.”

The crowd parts.

A heavy gray haired woman oozing out of a wheel-chair slowly rolls by—–by—rolls by—-pushed by a frail young woman with a bag hanging off the back of her shoulder.

The crowd eyes the wheel-chair pair hungrily.

The frail woman stops pushing.

“You can come.”

The crowd looks back.

A young man—stands on the edge of an imaginary boundary of the small cleared area.

“Come on—you are with us.”

The young man rushes through: in a-flash.

Boarding passes are up in the air, slippery white slips of proof and privilege. The crowd shoves closer to the woman with the tiny microphone; a woman whose


is slowly diminishing.

Waiting, waiting—

“come onn!”.

A man with no carry-on rushes up along aside a woman standing “in line” and quickly locks his body into place, staring ahead.

Two minutes of quiet hangs in the air. An intercom announcement from the distance:

“flight 346 to Chicago boarding at gate 23”

Anxiety. Passengers grip their “carry on handles” wheels in place.

“flight 346 to Chicago boarding at gate 23”

The crowd inches in even more squeezing in on the woman with the microphone. The small separator belt —looks ever more fragile. But it continues to hold back thousands of pounds of heart pumping human flesh.

Behind the blob of people a loose, ragged sprawling tail of passengers begins to form a “line”.

A young man rushes up from the bathroom tucking in his shirt. A man and woman “roll up with their carry-ons and quickly  flip the handles into place at the back of the “line”.

The gate-crowd, now, has formed into a single blob with a tail.

Like a massive human sperm cell, trying to penetrate its way down the long narrow corridor—down, over the thin worn blue carpet, over the steel step, past the woman in uniform, who hands will be clasped downward, and into the aircraft.

Who will plant their carry-on safely inside the luggage rack?

And who be forced to hand their carry-on to a stewardess to: tag and check.


Check– personal gifts.

Check—noo waaay.

Who will give away their most precious travel possessions to bloated airline management and a wild hoard of baggage handlers?

Self-absorbed—the  passengers wait in anxious silence.

“What if they loose my—?“

“I got my favorite— in my bag”

-“I can’t afford to …”

Sperm— one out of million win the lottery of life.

Carry-ons—two or three out of a hundred lose the baggage race and end up tagged and checked.

The stakes are enormously:—- small.

And cramped.


The crowd edges closer.

“We have an announcement:  Wiil Bill Rainford please come to the ticket counter?—Bill Rainford-please come to the ticket counter.”


“Bill Rainford—will you please come to the ticket counter?”

“ Man—when will they? “

“Bill Rainford this is your last chance—we have a space—“

“I’m ,,,this is the last time I ever fly this frickin airline.”

“Bill Rainford—your boarding pass is waiting for you—bill rain—Boarding for passengers seated in area 1. Seating area 1.  Boarding for those passengers in seating area 1.”

A young woman snuggles up the arm of the man in front of her: “I have area 2—did they announce 2 yet?”

Boarding for those passengers in seating area 1. Please, only seating area 1.”

“Is 2 next, or did they call it already?”

The tail shortens and widens as the crowd presses in.

“Boarding area 1 and 2. Boarding passengers seated in 1 and 2.”


Bit by bit crowd pushes through the gap in the wall. Her boarding pass- ripped in half –another liberated passenger jauntily rolls a carry-on through the gap in the wall.

“Boarding passengers seated in area 2.”


“I have 3. Can I go yet? “

“Yes, I saw a couple 3’s go in”

“Boarding area 2. “

Finally, a small cluster of men are left standing.  In the distance:

“Last call Flight 23 to Chicago”

“Are they going to announce boarding area 4?”

“I donno, most of the 4’s went in already.”

“But they never announced it.”

“What do we do?”

“I going in”.

“Are we suckers or what?”


Inside, a frantic search for a free compartment. Flip. Full. Flip full.

Flip, flip, flip,——–


“Sir, you have to put that under the seat or let me check and tag it.”

“Flip, flip.”



“Oh,— Mr. Rainford, you will have to have your bag tagged and checked also.”

“I can put it under the seat.”

”You’re  lucky got on. Let me take your bag.”


And HOME Safe

It ends hours later. Standing in the aisle. Safe. Staring ahead. The hunch-backs “standing”  in the middle seat, head and neck bent under the overhead compartment.  Each passenger is gazing intently towards first class, searching for any sign of movement.  Time slows like a current frozen in ice. The last ten minutes, at the exit-gate feels like hours.

Another primitive instinct—food?—leaves each passenger staring in silence; waiting for the slightest stir; waiting for any suggestion of an open door.  The same thought rolls around the inside of each passenger’s head, like an echo in an emptied and weary chamber.

“Coome  ooonnn.”

Then: whoosh, they are moving. A man springs forward past the first class curtain and —–out.

Another  echo:

“Oh yeah, he had no bag in the overhead rack.”

It’s so unfair. Bill Rainford is the first coach passenger out of the plane.


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