9:00 Check in for my re-booked flight, scheduled to depart at 5:00 p.m. Call the car service and book a car for 2:45, since I just need to go through security, not bag drop-off or check-in. (No TSA pre-check speediness this time though—that’s only on American carriers somehow.)
10:00: Call American Airlines just to make sure my bag was correctly transferred to Iberia. The staffer says that as far as he can tell, they were not. They are to be sent on the same American flight that was cancelled last night. I sigh, but since that flight departs at 7 p.m., and will arrive in Madrid two hours later than my Iberia flight, I can wait for it. Except. Because there’s always an except—staffer says that if I don’t board the flight the bag is supposed to go on, they will unload it. So I’ll be waiting in Madrid while my bag sits forlornly at JFK. My bag with the clothes I need for the conference I’m attending. He suggests I recall it. He’ll ask the baggage handlers to bring it to the baggage claim office, where I can pick it up and re-check it to Iberia. Okay. He promises to call me when he’s located the bag.
10:15: Miracles. He actually calls. (Always a surprise in any context). Says the baggage people (elves?) have found it and will bring it to his office. I can pick it up there. I send him some secular version of blessings.
11:15: Paranoia has taught me to confirm everything now so I call the office again to make sure someone can physically verify that the bag is there. New staffer. She checks the room and says, no, it’s not here. Says she’ll look for it.
11:30: I call again. Staffer says the bag is still tagged to leave on the American flight. She sees nothing about it being re-tagged and transferred to Iberia or of a request to pull it and bring it to their office. I tell her I spoke to her colleague. We figure out who he is and I ask to speak to him. Would that it were that simple. His shift ended, so he’s gone. She says she’ll put in the same request.
12:00 Pack a few more clothes, something I already regret but can’t avoid doing in case my bag is lost.
12:30: Send a fax to American asking for reimbursement for the Madrid hotel fine I had to pay for being a no-show.
1:00 Eat lunch, shower, find and book another Madrid hotel. Print out new booking.
2:00 Suddenly realize that if I have to retrieve the bag, I need extra time at the airport because the Iberia flight leaves from a different terminal than American. I call the car service and ask if they’ll send the car at 2:30, 15 minutes earlier than requested. The dispatcher sounds deeply skeptical about this happening but makes assenting hmm noises.
2:25: Call the baggage people. Still nothing.
2:45 Wait for car. Call car service. Get the same line as the previous night so drop the request and get a taxi instead.
2:45-3:35: Loooong cab ride. Get stuck in stop-and-go traffic on the freeway. Cabbie insists I must have Bangla ancestry. I explain that I don’t. I don’t explain that no one “looks Bangla”. We talk about hardworking Bangla immigrants, politics in India, Bangladesh, and the U.S., and his kid going to Bronx Science (good work!) I call baggage claim again. Nada. Dropped off at Terminal 8. ($50 extra on top of the hotel $100 I’ve already lost).
3:45: Skuttle to baggage claim office. Staffer re-routes me to another back office. Through the half door, my bag is the first thing I see. Bless Rick Steves and that weird purple colored canvas suitcase/backpack combo he sells. Then I see it’s tagged for Iberia. Huh. Suppress sudden font of rage. Staffer has her back to me and continues talking on the phone. I wait for a moment but finally interrupt and just ask for my bag. She looks exasperated but comes over and gives it to me. Tells me, “look, it was already tagged for Iberia”. I take a deep breath and softly say, yes, but none of your colleagues said that when I called repeatedly today.
3:50 Dash for the Airtrain on the upper level and jump on one just as it’s leaving. Fortunately (for once!) it’s one going counter-clockwise, so the Iberia terminal is the next stop. I run to Iberia’s counter. Hand over bag to check in against all my instincts. Staffer can’t understand my rebooked and return ticket. Consults a colleague several times as I watch the clock. Reviews my visa again. Finally prints out new bag tags and takes the bag. Tells me boarding starts at 4:10.
4:00: Go through security, which moves blessedly fast.
4:10: Stuff Ziploc with liquids and laptop back into carry-on, slip shoes back on feet, and dash for gate.
4:15: Indications that the flight is on time but not boarding right away.
4:20: Try to call Madrid hotel to arrange for shuttle pick up from airport the next morning. Call won’t go through. Text friends to ask them to call. Message the hotel via facebook and the hotel booking page. Suddenly hear my zone being called to board. Gather assorted belongings and rush to gate. Become one of the jerks cutting in line.
4:20-6:00 Sit on tarmac because the line to taxi and take-off is long. Figures. Welcome to flight in the 21st century. We’re working on it.