(james benedict brown) on the road

Donald Rumsfeld stole my luggage

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 12 September, 2007

While I was sitting next to gates 41 and 43 at Washington DC’s Ronald Reagan National Airport on Monday, a young business man traveling without any hand baggage smiled at me and continued to meander around, listlessly waiting. I wondered how many business men and women use this city airport for regular commuter flights to and from work, or for business trips into the American capital. Surely they needed at least a briefcase or laptop when they traveled? Having said that, almost all of the other business folk in the departure lounge were manically clicking and scrolling through emails, contact lists and electronic diaries on little handheld Blackberry devices. Perhaps the entire business trip could be managed through a slim pocket organiser and phone that slipped inside a jacket pocket.

My bizzare and unnecessarily elongated trans-Atlantic travels seemed to be going well that afternoon as I sat at Reagan National, waiting for the 18h00 shuttle to New York La Guardia. I’d just arrived from Philadelphia, where I had in turn just arrived from Glasgow. If that routing has you reaching for the atlas to check your geographical knowledge of the north-eastern United States, then don’t bother. It was a stupid route to have chosen but it was the cheapest flight I could get.

The businessman continued to walk back and forth. Eyes darting around, hands buried in his suit pockets. Perhaps he was late was an evening meeting. Perhaps he wanted to squeeze in a round of golf or a trip to the gym on the way home. Or perhaps he actually wanted to get home to an adoring suite of wife, children and widescreen television (was there a baseball match on that night? I couldn’t tell…). The 17h20 flight to La Guardia was still boarding the last few passengers, so perhaps he was waiting for my flight forty minutes later. I could have easily caught this plane, but wasn’t ticketed on it and was afraid that I might get separated from my checked luggage, which was hopefully bouncing around on a baggage cart between planes. The corridor between Boston, New York City and Washington DC is one of the most intensively served airline routes in the world. The airline US Airways alone has hourly departures all day between all three cities, with an extra few thrown in around rush hour. So really there’s no need to worry about missing a flight.

But then in a flurry of raincoats, murmured radio communications and A-grade political schmoozing (“hellothankyougoodafternoonhellohellothankyou”) none other than Mr. Donald Rumsfeld flew past, entourage by his side, gate agents meekly welcoming him. The doors for the 17h20 shuttle to La Guardia closed behind him.

The business man with no hand baggage murmured something else into a concealed radio microphone and then collapsed in a seat next to one of his colleagues. Their security detail for the evening was almost complete. He picked up an evening paper and they hung around until the plane had pushed back from the terminal and begun to taxi away.

A few hours later, in the depressing echo-ey US Airways Shuttle arrivals hall at La Guardia, I was still waiting for my bag to emerge. Three flights from Washington had arrived, and my bag hadn’t been on any of them. Maybe I should have hopped on the 17h20 flight with Donald and friends – perhaps my bag did. Perhaps someone on that flight arrived in La Guardia and mistook my bag for his. Perhaps in the rush of international political obligations, Mr. Rumsfeld didn’t have the time to follow the advice of the recorded announcement at La Guardia and check his baggage tags carefully. Perhaps.

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One Response

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  1. AM said, on 12 September, 2007 at 16:31

    Are you sure it wasn’t Dick Cheney? He is a fan of the ‘five finger discount.’

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