Day 196: Thanks!!!/We Are Idiots

Sometimes when traveling, people lose things. Claire and I have kept a running list of our lost items, and it includes things like 1 smug toothbrush holder (it had a smiley face; Claire loved it, Lara felt it was mocking her), 1 Nalgene sacrificed to Everest. Our world has shrunk to such a small size that every single lost thing can be easily tracked and very frequently missed. “Remember my black pants?” I will sigh occasionally; Claire will make grunting noises because pants in themselves are not very interesting things.

We have yet to have anything blatantly stolen, however, and for this we are very very lucky and grateful and scared of jinxing ourselves. However, we have not always been the ones to lose things. Sometimes large airports lose bags. Sometimes they lose them a lot or quite mysteriously. And Sometimes, just Sometimes, these are large bags of things you happen not to need so they can be shipped back to your home without too much loss to your “lifestyle,” if you can call our mobile squalor such a thing.

Well, this has happened to us. Both Vietnam Airlines and AirFrance have misplaced certain key items, like one extremely large, neon blue duffel bag full of our Vietnam shopping bounty or one well-labeled box containing warm clothes and gifts for those of you who email us occasionally.

But losing bags is extremely difficult when you travel, as things like calling 800 numbers are no longer a real option. Or when calling Vietnam Airlines from Cambodia is for some unknown reason absolutely impossible. This is when we turn to others to help us out of our idiocy.

Helper #1: Unknown Vietnamese Airlines representative by the name of Van Vo. At a loss for how to get in touch with Vietnam from Cambodia, we called the Vietnamese Airlines representative in San Francisco one night (it was also cheaper than calling Vietnam, we do not know why) and despite poor Van Vo’s claims that “it is expensive to call San Francisco” and understandable questions of why two backpackers were calling her in San Francisco from Siem Reap, Cambodia about an issue in Ho Chi Minh City, she did her best. Over weeks (literally) of emails, this wonderful woman at the San Francisco airport got our bag shipped to Singapore for us (where we no longer were) and eventually on to Lara’s house. We do not know how she managed it.

Helper #2: We only in fact know that she did manage it because our friend Diplomat Diana used her diplomatic skills to negotiate the final parts of this transaction. It took Diana 40 minutes to finish up what we had tried to accomplish for weeks. After similar questions from Diana of why on earth we were so idiotic as to require her help from Singapore, we got emails pointing out that while we had complained to her about the complicated problem, we had failed to provide such crucial information as what the bag number was (we didn’t know), where it had been lost (we did know, but apparently chose not to share) or who we had been talking to (“do you know anything besides that her name is ‘Van’?”). Despite our best efforts to make the task impossible, we soon got an email from Diana detailing what she had accomplished and spelling out next steps for these “well-trained travelers”:

“I would recommend getting your parents to drive down in person frankly, because I called the airport on your behalf and all I got was a message: "Please leave a detailed description of your item, your name and contact information. We will contact you if and only if we have your item." So much for customer service.

Anyway, I left a voice message for these helpful people which ran approximately thus:

Hi, I'm calling in regard to bag number @#$@#$reallylongnumber@@#$@#. That's @#$@#$reallylongnumber@@#$@#. It is a large bright blue duffel sack that arrived on SQ 2 from Singapore which connected to to UA 180 and arrived on October 12. It contains clothing, and has an Iberia tag that reads Lara Vogel, V-O-G-E-L."

So now, I would recommend you forward this email to the parental units and get them to drive down because you sure as hell won't get anything close to resembling help by calling.

I am going to post this on your blog in case your parents read it before you get this email and then someone can stop the staff at Logan from putting the bag on a flight to Singapore. Which would be bad.”

But then she actually followed through realizing that we may not actually get our act together from keeping the bag sent back to Singapore…

”So I called your parents in Boston and woke your dad up at 3.30am in the morning, and he told me your bag's already arrived. As he said, "If there's only one bag involved, it already arrived." Yes, it's a bright blue duffel.

You guys are idiots but I still love you.”

Thanks Diana. We obviously love you too. As do Lara’s parents now: “that Diana! She is so helpful and conscientious! How did you get her to do such a thing?”

And now the torch is passed on to Claire’s mother--Helper #3--who is working to get our box back from the Parisian AirFrance employees. Again, emails are flying across continents “Claire, you guys need to file a claim…” Ah yes.

To our credit, we have tried. But Air France provides only 800 numbers (again, un-dialable) and no email addresses. We are at a loss, and have drafted a letter for Claire’s mother to fax to Florida to establish a claim so that the intrepid mother can then follow through on the claim and figure out where the box is and how to get it home.

So it turns out that at any given point in this trip, while we are in one continent, our luggage has been spread out over three. It causes vague anxiety, but not as much as you may think.

Mostly, it causes EXTREME gratitude to those who have helped us to reclaim our meager lost, and truly valuable only to us, items.

SO the point of this?

THREE CHEERS FOR DIANA, PARENTS, and the lovely AIRPORT STAFF that make it possible for us to possess things!!!!!!!!!!!

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