We had done everything we could to expedite check-in at the airport, in preparation for our trip to Miami and the Bahamas. My mother had coordinated tickets so that she, my stepfather and I could be in adjoining seats on the flight, and we had all completed the process of checking in online ahead of time. On the way to the airport, I even downloaded the app from the airline, so that I could get us digital boarding passes on our phones in order to further move things along once we got to Logan International (no easy task; the app was rated two stars out of five, and it was very apparent why).
We parked our car in Braintree, south of the city, and took a shuttle in. Even with all of the travel involved to that point, we were hours early for our flight.
Once at the terminal, though already a bit tired, we were confident as we made our way forward to check our bags. I had my digital boarding pass up on the screen and my license in hand as I stepped forward to the next available representative at the counter. Should be a breeze, I thought, since on top of being ultra-prepared, there were only a handful of other people milling about in the area, none of whom seemed to have done the early check-in online (they were all at kiosks, rather than in line).
I met the rep and with a smile, taking a quick peek at her name tag so I could greet her by name, then handed over my phone and license and began to heft my bag onto the scale. She looked at me and then the bag with what I could only call a chiding face. The first semi-word out of her mouth was “UHN-uh.”
“I’m checking this bag,” I said simply.
“YOU need a TAG!” she said, stabbing the words at me accusingly while still shaking her head.
I found this an odd greeting from anyone, let alone from an airline representative to a customer. But in taking a quick glance around for some other sign or clue, I noticed something like a goldfish bowl full of ID tags with the little elastic bands attached. I already had a leather ID tag on my bag, but I figured it was better to just “follow the rules” with this woman. So I reached toward the bowl – which she promptly slid away from my hand down the counter, lips pursed, eyes wide and head tilted condescendingly.
In a too-loud voice, like someone’s bossy great aunt, she pointed one finger vaguely to my left. “YOU got to go over THERE!”
I looked “over there” and didn’t see another line that was marked for pre-checked passengers. In fact, I was sure the line I was in had read “Pre-Checked Passengers Only.”
I began to get the feeling that foam was expanding inside my skull, getting denser and denser. I held up my phone again, showing the digital boarding pass. “I’ve already checked in online,” I said, still feeling swimmy (in the bad way).
She added no new information, arm and finger still rigidly pointing. “You STILL got to go over THERE!” she repeated. “YOU need a LUGGAGE tag!”
Befuddled, I wandered in the general direction of “over there” and had the good fortune of seeing a couple with an equal look of consternation on their faces a few kiosks up the line. They were trying to collect the long pink and white strip that was snaking from the machine like Play-Doh from the Fun Factory (only much less fun). Maybe that’s what she’s talking about, I thought.
The kiosk was its own wonder of confusion and inefficiency. There was no greeting, no instructions. Just some buttons insisting that I enter forms of ID that didn’t pertain to me, since my mother had purchased the tickets. But after studying the screen, I eventually found a way to bypass the other methods and manually type in my confirmation number … along with re-entering all of the details I’d entered online days earlier when I went through the early check-in process.
At long last, out came the pink and white strip. It was clearly a luggage tag of some sort, but did not have clear instructions about which parts peeled off, which you kept, or how to affix it. With the long strip fluttering like a streamer in one hand, I lugged my baggage back over to the woman at the counter, handing her the digital boarding pass, my license – and now the luggage tag.
“UHN-uh!” she said. “I need a BOARDIN’ pass!”
Feeling caught somewhere between helplessness and vexation, I held up my phone a little closer to her (maybe she had poor eyesight?). “This is a boarding pass,” I stated, as mildly as possible. “I got it from your own site this morning. And I’m still not sure why I just had to enter all of my information again in order to get a luggage tag, when we all checked in online days ago.”
The woman sucked her teeth, exhaling a condescending sigh. “I can’t USE that. It don’t WORK. Now, I need a BOARDIN’ pass. YOU got to go over THERE!” She was pointing with the same rigid finger back at the kiosk I’d just come from.less stress