Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Exercise in Futility

What a nightmare. Losing your luggage. I think I have a right to be furious about it. Although I am much less aggravated about the whole situation than I was yesterday, that's for sure. And, my luggage did make it home safe and sound with everything intact. It's a miracle. Wearing my lucky socks was a very good thing. Yes. I have lucky socks. Doesn't everyone? It is quite likely I could have gotten a whole lot more done yesterday, including that mountain of laundry, if I could have found just ONE person to help me at Qatar Airways with the list of numbers that I accumulated between yesterday morning and yesterday afternoon. Honestly, if it wasn't for the service that I've received in the past with the exception of that one instance where Farrah was in charge of my side of the cabin, I'd be saying "That's it. All done flying Qatar."

Actually I don't know why I'm even bothering to be surprised. It is typical for this side of the world. No one wants to be responsible for anything and no one has the foresight to go over and above and actually try to think outside of the box. You think that government workers are bad in the States? Ha! They have nothing on the Middle East!! You have no idea what ineptness is until...

It is not worth going through one by one each of the telephone calls I made yesterday - which actually started the night before when I arrived home sans luggage and called my travel agent in the States and said, "You need to help me find my luggage. Two huge blue bags, with Priority tags on them [business class luggage is supposed to be handled with priority - it is one of the reasons you pay twice or thrice the amount of an economy class ticket!] were left at JFK in New York and no one seems to want to tell me why. Qatar, being a Middle Eastern company, automatically wants to blame the "other" airlines who checked my bags when I originated my trip in RDU. No. Not acceptable. When I checked in at Qatar in New York, they asked for my baggage claim numbers, which I dutifully gave them, which they dutifully [or not, obviously] entered into the system. That is what those bar codes are for, though, so that airlines can match up what bags are supposed to be on board matching them with each passenger. No matter. It was nothing short of impossible trying to explain that that is what happened and that is how it happened and that it is Qatar's fault, not American Airlines.

Dozens of phone calls yesterday all to numbers that either had a mere voice at the end coming out of a brainless, empty talking head, or worse, phone numbers that went unanswered or went to voice mail boxes. Unbelievable. And each number that I called that had a brainless, empty talking head answer at the other end said, "Yes, Madam. Call this number." No. I already called that number. I've been calling it for two hours and no one answers. "Oh, yes, Madam. Call this number." I have to say that I got more assistance from the man in Baggage Services at Bahrain International Airport than I got from anyone else. Thank you, Ahmed. It was yesterday afternoon when I called Ahmed for the umpteenth time and he said, "Yes, Madam. I received a message that your bags will be on tonight's plane if there is room." What? If there is room? Throw a half dozen other bags off that plane and get my bags on there! The ones that were supposed to be on the plane I was on from two nights ago!!

DH had to work this morning at 0-dark-thirty. Early. Very, very early. He wouldn't have gotten but a couple of hours sleep if he would have taken me to Bahrain last night to collect my luggage - and it was a trip that had to be made without actually being able to confirm one way or another that my luggage was going to be there. No problem. I'll get a cab and go over. I mean, it's not like I can get in my truck and drive myself there since women do not drive in The Sandbox [they will never be able to drive - it is a control issue and men here, apparently, cannot bear the thought of losing that control]. So, I left Saudi last night in a cab to Bahrain at 8:30. Off to the airport. Not knowing that my luggage would be there, or not, but wearing my purple socks with the lime green frogs on them. My lucky socks. My driver spoke very little English. I used the "new" company that is here as the "old" company had no car available. You have to give these men a great deal of credit to come here from whatever third world country they are from and learn to drive in the worst driving conditions anywhere on earth! For the most part all of them do an excellent job. I have no complaints in that regard. I tried to ask the driver if he had been to Bahrain earlier and what the bridge traffic was like. He did not understand me and said, "Bridge busy on Wednesday night and Thursday night." But, of course. Wednesday night is the equivalent of Friday night in the States. Thursday is the same as Saturday night. The bridge was busy. What are all of the cars with Saudi license plates, filled with young Saudi men, doing going over to Bahrain on a Tuesday night? Oh, sure. They are going grocery shopping or to the mall. Wink wink.

It is a constant source of both amusement and aggravation that it is ALWAYS the Saudi side of customs that is backed up. We sat at the bridge for a good half hour or forty-five minutes last night just waiting to get through the Saudi side of Customs into Bahrain. Was it backed up in Bahrain? The same number of cars passed through the Saudi side to the Bahrain side. No. It was NOT backed up on the Bahrain side. Just the Saudi side. Always the Saudi side both directions - going and coming back. Why is that? I have a partial answer to that question. The Saudi workers are all too dayum busy playing with their mobiles - talking and texting - and those mobiles take priority over the job they are supposed to be doing - you know, the job they are being paid to do. You take those mobile phones away from the workers and see how efficient they become! I realize that there isn't a chance of that happening, but that is part of the reason / problem. Again that is just part of the reason / problem. Another part is that women - covered head-to-toe in their black bags - do not want to show their passports to the customs agents at the booths, so they get out of their vehicles to go into Female Inspection while their male drivers - husbands or fathers - wait for them. Another part is that the males in the vehicles do not think they should have to wait in line to pass through the booths so they jump out of their cars and race up to the booth windows on foot to cut in front of those of us still waiting in line to get our passports stamped. The men working at the booths allow this to take place so there is no preventing it or stopping it. They could simply just say, "Get back in your car and wait," but that does not and will not happen. It makes no sense because your car is still in the line - you just don't have to wait as long when your car actually pulls up to the booth and you can race through. I just don't get it. Likely, I never will, either.

Got to the airport in Bahrain just as the plane arrived. Timing. Perfect. Bags were just starting to be unloaded. Ten bags were unloaded and then I saw one of mine. Goody! See? Wearing lucky socks does help! A couple of minutes later my second bag came through. I should be all relieved and happy. I have my stuff. Maybe. Who knows what got removed from my bags in New York? Yes. Of course I have locks on the suitcases, but that only prevents honest people from stealing stuff out of my bags. TSA has removed more than just a few items from our bags in the past. Has to be TSA workers because they are the only ones with the special key that opens TSA approved locks, right? Honest TSA workers? Oh, sure. There are some. But they are government employees, and being a government employee means you are allowed to steal from anyone you want. After all, you're stealing money from taxpayers just by virtue of being employed by the government who has far too many employees already but again, being a government employee also means that being efficient and actually working is out of the question. I digress.

There are my bags. I should be all happy, happy, happy. And I am happy. But not happy, happy, happy. I am unhappy about the frustration and time and effort expended to get bags that never should have been left off of the plane in the first place, and I want an explanation as to why they were NOT put on the plane. I can handle someone saying, "It was our mistake and we are sorry." But as of right now, that has not happened. Oh, and I need to be reimbursed the $125.00 I spent last night taking a cab to and from Bahrain. Don't think I didn't get that in motion last night while I was at the airport. After I collected my bags I went straight to the Qatar office with my receipt for the taxi - including a generous tip - and said, "I need to be reimbursed for this." Khalid at the Qatar office in the airport last night was more helpful than all of the men and women I spoke with yesterday, combined. Except of course for Ahmed who works at Baggage Services. Khalid had me fill out the paperwork and provide my ticket information, copy of my passport and the receipt so that I can be reimbursed for the extra expense and told me that I could not make a claim for any missing items unless the bags were inspected there, at the airport. Fine, then. Get me a porter and we'll go get the bags out of the trunk and we'll inspect them right here, on the floor of your office. And that is exactly what we did.

It was a cursory inspection, there in his office on the floor, but it would appear, so far, that everything made it. Treats and new toys for The Kids! [Always a first priority. They actually know at this point that there are treats and toys in the bags and The Baby helps me unpack with her little nose in my bag as if to say, "Is this mine? How about this?"] I could feel the cold packs without actually taking them out of my bag. They were still cool to the touch. Of course, when I originally put the cold packs in my bags they were three frozen solid blocks. Twenty pounds of bacon and Canadian bacon and sausage. Can you even imagine how rank the bags would have become if they weren't sent over to me as quickly as they were? A new special egg poacher [I have never made a poached egg in my entire life!] for DH so that I can make him Eggs Benedict [I'm giving it a try for the first time when he gets home from work in an hour]. A dozen packages of Knorr Hollandaise sauce. And a dozen packages of English muffins. Oh, sure. Most people probably pack their clothes in their suitcases. Me? No. Other stuff. All the stuff I can't get here. Guess that isn't a hundred percent true. The dozen or so new bras I bought in the States to wear after having had my surgery done were in my suitcases, too. I cannot wear my old ones because they all have underwire in them and underwire is not allowed for at least six months. But, then, I'll never need underwire again which is the reason for getting the lift and "pluff" in the first place! I've been wearing the same sports bra since I left the States on Sunday afternoon... Knew that I was going to need that extra support for such a long trip home, and I did, but that was all I had with me - just the one I had on. Today I have a new, clean lavendar bra on [in honor of wearing my lucky socks last night!]. Okay, okay. Too much information. Way too much information. Other stuff in the bags? Books. Never ever leave the States without buying books. Vanilla. Two huge bottles of it - real vanilla [the kind that actually has alcohol in it instead of the fake stuff that we can get here].

Anyway, after a couple of hours at the airport going between Baggage Services, Customs and the Qatar office my non-English speaking driver and I were on our way home. Still have to go through Saudi Customs though and admittedly I was just a bit nervous with twenty pounds of pork and real Vanilla in my bags. After having the car so thoroughly searched the night before I could only imagine what they were going to do with my suitcases. In some ways, I have to be thankful that Customs - on the Saudi side - was as backed up as it was. They were asking all of the men in their vehicles to get out of their cars and were again doing thorough searches - even the dogs were out - literally - the dogs that are sniffing for contraband - the kind that is pharmacutical or the kind that goes boomboom - no clue. We pull into our spot and Mr. Custom's guy has the driver open the trunk - then he looks in the back seat where I am sitting - and he nods his head - he stamps the driver's "paper," and lets us leave. Yes! See? Once again, it pays to wear your lucky socks!! Did not even have me open a single bag. But then, I do not believe I am very mennacing looking, either. White, blonde American woman. Middle-aged, at that.

So now, all that remains to happen is for me to be reimbursed by Qatar for the cost of taking a taxi cab to and from Bahrain and for them to apologize. It would be nice if they would add - oh, I don't know - a gazillion miles to my account, too. Not holding my breath for that. In the meantime, I'll get back to that mountain of laundry and finish unpacking. There is a great deal more I could add to the frustration that I have to deal with in my day-to-day life - we had gardening and irrigation show up to fix the faucet in the back yard for the thirtieth time - it still isn't fixed and someone else is coming to attempt to fix it at 12:30 today. And, then there is Appuk, the gardener, who, although he does a good job is getting on my last nerve for a variety of reasons. It is just the way it goes. My world... Maybe more on all of that, tomorrow.

Oh, and that special egg poacher I got? It doesn't have a single instruction on it how to actually cook the eggs! What is that all about?! Am I the ONLY one that doesn't have a clue how to make a poached egg? The cooker was made in China. It just figures. Think I'll go practice with it and try to figure out what I'm doing.
Yeah. Wish me some luck on that one... But, I do have my luggage, now. And I made it across the border through Customs without having bacon and other products taken away from me. Life is good.


  1. For the record, a good way to keep shady TSA people from rifling unnecessarily through your bags is to use zip ties in addition to locks. You can get the big ones at any hardware store. After you lock up all the compartments, secure each zipper pair with a zip tie.

    It provides a great tamper-evident seal and doesn't violate TSA regulations. If someone wants to get in your bag, they have to cut the zip tie, and will not be able to replace it with another one, so you have proof positive that someone was in your bag.

    When I was traveling home from Asia I brought some valuable clothes home with me that I didn't want to get stolen, so this is what I did. I recommend purchasing the neon-colored zip ties.

  2. Most EXCELLENT suggestion, Anonymous! Most excellent, indeed. We have clear zip ties. I'll be looking for colored ones - neon ones.

  3. How to Poach an Egg:

  4. I did it with another informational somethingorother that I found on-line, Matthew. And, DH luved it! Eggs Benedict for lunch. Came out perfectly. Thanks, anyway, though. For anyone else's reference, the perfect poached egg takes only four minutes. Who knew? I hard boil eggs for twenty...

  5. Sorry about your luggage problems but, yay for lucky socks!

  6. It's the zip tie lady again. (Yay, someone finds my suggestions helpful!)

    You might be interested in this:

    This company appears reputable and claims to ship internationally to any destination so you can probably order some colored ties and have them shipped to Saudi.

  7. I shall never complain about Heathrow again...


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