Your baggage is still in Houston
As I sat on the plane waiting to disembark, I had this feeling in my gut that something was wrong. The possibility that I might be getting sick crossed my mind, but it wasn’t that feeling. It’s the feeling when something isn’t quite right and you can sense it. Like you forgot something or someone injured themselves.
I disembark the plane with my mother and head towards baggage claim to pick up my checked luggage. I was visiting Indianapolis, Indiana for a cello competition and to meet with my eldest brother, who I hadn’t seen in almost a year.
As a cellist, we cannot put our instrument in the overhead compartment like nearly all luggage, so we have two options. The first option is to buy the cello it’s own seat and it will sit next to me on the plane. The second option is to check the cello under the plane. This option is usually cheaper, but much riskier. In order to check the cello, we must own a special flight case for the cello that one can buy for $800. We need this flight case instead of just the normal case we put the cello in by reason of it has extra padding and protection which will protect the cello from the air pressure and jostling it experiences while under the plane. In addition to buying the flight case, an oversized luggage fee is often required, which sometimes cost more than the seat itself. Therefore, a great deal of consideration and thought is put into deciding whether to check the cello or buy a seat for it.
I waited patiently for my cello to arrive at baggage claim, watching as other passengers arrived and left with their luggage. Sitting there for over an hour, I hoped that my cello would soon arrive, but it never did. Finally, I went to the Southwest Airlines kiosk and confronted the attendant.
"Your baggage is still in Houston. It never made it onto the plane." said the attendant as he looked up the luggage number heedlessly.
My heart dropped. I would be competing at my competition in less than two hours and I didn't even have my cello.
"But that's not possible, I checked my bag two hours before my flight to make sure it was put on the flight!" I said with exasperation.
"I don't know what to tell you, ma'am. It's still in Houston. We can put it on the next flight out to Indianapolis but it will arrive at 9pm." said the attendant.
I had reached the pinnacle of my annoyance and I almost started bawling, but I took a deep breath and remembered that the attendant was just doing his job and their stipend wasn’t high enough to care about my competition. I knew there was nothing I could do that would make my cello magically appear so I must consider my options.
The first action I must do was call the competition and let them know that I did not have my cello. Then, they suggested that I call a nearby classical music connoisseur to borrow a cello to use for the competition. Without a doubt, the connoisseur allowed me to borrow a $30,000 cello, which was much nicer than the one I owned. By the time we arrive at the venue where the competition was taking place, there was only 30 minutes before I competed. I practiced on the cello for half an hour and then competed. Even though I was quite nervous and I barely knew the cello, I was delighted with the way I performed and could tell the judges were enthralled by my abilities.
Later that evening, I received excellent news from the competition directors. I was selected to perform in the finals the next day! Luckily, I was able to return to the airport and pick up my own cello to perform on in the finals the next day.
I performed in the finals the next day on my own cello and ended up winning second place against other students who were twice my age. My mother even called Southwest airlines and talked to a convivial assistant who felt indulgent and paid us back for the oversize baggage fee and gave us a voucher. What started out as a unfortunate weekend turned into a fantastic one!