Linda Herrick 's Opinion

Linda Herrick is the Arts and Books Editor at the NZ Herald.

Linda Herrick: In my case, I need the bells and whistles

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Know thyself and, when travelling, know thy luggage - or get ready for a quick return trip to the airport, writes Linda Herrick.
The uniform look of much modern luggage can lead to confusion at the carousel. Photo / Thinkstock
The uniform look of much modern luggage can lead to confusion at the carousel. Photo / Thinkstock

It wasn't until I put my suitcase on the front veranda - whew, home, at last - that I realised I had made one of the most awful mistakes you can make when flying. Apart from missing your flight, what could be more ghastly and inconvenient - to all concerned - than arriving home with ... the wrong suitcase?

Yet, after years of carefully checking my battered old black case, festooned with ribbons and labels to mark it out from all the other boring black bags twirling around the carousel, I had done just that. But it wasn't with my old faithful black bag. This was a nearly brand-new bright orange suitcase, of such a lurid hue I assumed no one else would have one - same colour, size and brand - from the very same flight. How wrong, how thick could I be?

There was no excuse for my failure to check the labels when I swung the bag on to my trolley in Auckland Airport's baggage area and signed the form saying I had packed it.

True, it was at the arse-end of a 14-hour flight from Dubai to Melbourne (delayed by three hours), then on to Auckland. True, I had had virtually no sleep overnight during the long haul because of the plight of a seriously ill elderly woman in a neighbouring seat.

But there it was: I was finally home, practically brain-dead, with swollen ankles and an orange suitcase I was about to haul inside when I noticed it had a slightly different lock.

Whaat? Then I spotted the label - and someone else's name.

@#$%*&*!!!!!!!

Panic. Rang the airport, who directed me to the bag services people.

I'd only started to explain when he said: "The orange suitcase. Yep. You'll have to come back to the airport."

So I had to suck it up and head back out, with that bloody wrong bag, my passport, keys to my case and my luggage receipt. Just like checking in - or out - all over again.

At the bag services area (around the back of the airport), I rang the bell and a voice on the intercom said: "Orange bag?"

He took it away, along with my passport and keys so Customs could go through my case. That took some time. The coriander seeds in the Arabian spice set caused some alarm.

Then the nice bag services man wheeled my suitcase out. It was exactly the same brand, colour and size. It even seemed to have the same scuff marks.

"It happens all the time," he said jovially.

"One in five bags at Auckland Airport get picked up by the wrong person."

Really? I pray it will never happen to me again.

I will "unique-ise" my bright orange bag with bells and whistles if I have to. I will always check to make sure my name is on the label when I grab it from the carousel.

Then I will check it again.

And I hope you do too, no matter what colour your case is.

- NZ Herald

Linda Herrick

Linda Herrick is the Arts and Books Editor at the NZ Herald.

Some might say books editor Linda Herrick had a deprived childhood, growing up in Westport with no TV. But she had whitebait by the bucketload and, just as importantly, access to a world of books via the local library. While she did eventually become a TV addict, she has never lost that love of books. After completing an English degree at Victoria University, Linda moved to Auckland where she joined the Auckland Star in 1985 as a librarian, then sub-editor and writer at the Sunday Star-Times. She has been arts editor at the New Zealand Herald for 12 years, and books editor for a decade. Her tastes are all over the place: some thriller writers - Garry Disher, Peter Temple, Alan Furst (Stieg Larsson, no); history (William Dalrymple, Max Hastings); fiction (William Boyd, Ian McEwan, Elizabeth Jane Howard). The best thing about her job? Interviewing the likes of Robert Fisk, Michael Palin and TV chef, Rick Stein. He writes books too.

Read more by Linda Herrick

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