As matters stood at the end of last week's Flashback Friday, Royal Jordanian had just extorted $800 from us at the ticket counter in Amman, Jordan. Though we did manage to make our flight, needless to say, we had not parted well with RJ. I figured it was good riddance since the only association I planned on having with them anytime soon was negotiations to get our $800 back.
That was before we realized we had left a little blue carry-on suitcase behind at the check-in counter. All of a sudden, I wanted very much to be in communication with those RJ extortioners at that ticket counter, as soon as possible. The cruel truth was that we were going to be stuck on a flight for 12 more hours.
I knew that the poor suitcase's fate would pretty much be decided by the time we could do anything about it. When I was able to talk to RJ, either the suitcase would have already been stolen, or it would be safe and happy in the possession of someone in authority. It was almost entirely out of our hands.
Still, as soon as we landed at JFK airport, I called my #1 go-to person: my mom. She is a brilliant woman for taking care of business and I gave her the details she needed and set her loose on the case. In the meantime, Jeremy and I were dealing with transferring to our next flight to Tucson.
The $800 was really a secondary concern at this point. Jeremy and I tried to piece together what was in that precious suitcase and we came up with an iPod, iPod speakers, a laptop computer, a camera, and an iSight webcam, in addition to sundry non-electronic, important items, including my personal journal from the last two years. We also determined that beyond all reason, that particular suitcase had no identifying tags whatsoever. No permanent luggage tag, no temporary RJ one, and no interior label of any kind. I still held out hope that we could get it back, somehow, but the odds were looking worse and worse.
In addition to my mom's efforts as well as our own emails and phone calls, we mobilized a small network of friends who were still in Amman. Here's how it went down.
1. I sent an email to RJ and received the response, "ATT O/D PLS CHK ND RX ADV WZ B RGDS M.SBEINATI." I wasn't sure if that was good news or bad news.
2. The student friends we sent to the airport asked about the bag and were told that because of security concerns, RJ could not disclose any information about any missing bags. Hmm. Again, not really conclusive either way. Did they have it or didn't they??
3. So we broke out the big guns in the form of the leader of our church congregation in Amman, a retired Foreign Service officer with killer Arabic skillz and a lot of presence who was kind enough to have a chat with RJ on our behalf. RJ told him (so much for security concerns) that they'd found a Samsonite bag with a Canon camera inside on the morning we flew out of Amman. Our suitcase wasn't a Samsonite brand but I was hoping they were using the term generically.
4. It turned out that bag wasn't ours, but the RJ employee happened to mention to our friend that another suitcase had been left behind a few days before and he'd personally put it on a flight to JFK just that morning. The only information they had about the suitcase was a name - Janice - and a phone number.
Janice is Jeremy's mom's name.
The phone number associated with the bag was our old Tucson phone number.
This HAD to be our missing suitcase. It had left Amman and was on its way to JFK. I made half a dozen phone calls and managed to get on the line with an actual baggage handler at the JFK airport. He punched some information into the system and told me that yep, an unaccompanied suitcase was scheduled to come in that night. I told him it was mine and that he needed to send it right on to Tucson, Arizona.
He did, and when Jeremy went to the airport to pick it up, it was like he was collecting a long-lost relative for a long-awaited visit. And what a sweet reunion it was. If you can believe it, we got our suitcase back with everything still inside of it.
Want to know some other weird things about this story? Well, as soon as we made sure all our stuff was accounted for, I checked the suitcase over to see if it had any kind of address label or identification tag. I was still puzzled as to how RJ had assigned the name Janice and our old phone number to this abandoned suitcase. I never found anything.
Also, an important email sent by our church leader friend that played a crucial part in getting our bag back to us showed up in his email system as having failed to send. But somehow the person who needed it did actually receive it.
Finally, the tickets we bought from RJ terminated at JFK (we bought separate tickets from JetBlue for the remainder of the trip). RJ was under no obligation to send the suitcase on to Tucson, but they did.
To sum up: we left a suitcase full of expensive consumer electronics in the middle of a bustling airport terminal in a foreign country with absolutely no identification attached to it and received that same suitcase at our home in Tucson within a week, with nothing missing from it. Yeah.
But there was still the matter of that $800...
TO BE CONTINUED.