A Cautionary Tale From A Frequent Flyer Photographer

The fellow running the curbside check-in at American Airlines out of LaGuardia seemed content with the tip, but not with the fact that we lingered until the bags went down the chute. This was New York, after all. From there it apparently went through many hands--the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), the baggage handlers at LaGuardia, the crew in Chicago where it got transferred to the connecting flight, and finally the off-loaders in Albuquerque, who got the bags to the carousel in record time. Problem was, one of those pair of hands walked off with a small, attractive, green Lowepro bag we had placed inside the checked luggage.

No, we were not foolhardy enough to place a camera inside the checked luggage. The small, attractive, green Lowepro bag contained a mouse for the iBook, a network cable, the iBook's charger/AC adapter, a battery charger for the G3, a SanDisk 256MB CompactFlash card, and a Lexar FireWire card reader--the usual paraphernalia for the traveling digital photographer these days. Oddly enough, we carried on film as well, which, because it included high-speed and infrared emulsions, was dutifully and politely hand-checked by the TSA agent. Indeed, the agent even granted a request to not open the canister on the infrared black and white. All that made what was to follow all the more ironic.

Upon discovery that the small, attractive, green Lowepro bag was missing, and that there was a TSA sticker on the bag from which it had been packed, we called the TSA. They answered after a while, recommending both their website for claim forms (www.tsa.gov) and that we call American's lost and found. We did, and allowed the phone to ring while we made a pot of coffee, had a cup or two, and took a walk around the block. When they finally did pick up the representative at LaGuardia suggested we call the same at Albuquerque. After a similar hiatus we were told to call a different number at LaGuardia, which never did pick up. We then called back the first number at LaGuardia and after a good while they suggested we call the TSA. In short, the old runaround.

Upon downloading the forms from the TSA website (which requested receipts for the lost items and a photo of same (!?), something we usually don't carry on the road) we waited a day or two and then re-called American's lost and found, the TSA, and another number we were given along the way--by whom we can't remember--someone suggested we call the Port Authority Police, who suggested we file a report, and told us that this was fairly common these days. One note we do cherish on those pages of numbers and scrawls is a quote suggesting that we "not pack anything you can't do without."

Well, we hope that whoever got the small, attractive, green Lowepro bag enjoys the wires, adapters, etc. Sorry, Jack, though it looked like it there was no camera inside, just a bundle or stuff that will set us back about $150. What did we learn from it all?

Unless you have time to kill on the phone and like talking to folks who, although nice enough, seem trained to pass the buck, don't pack anything in checked bags aside from old socks and gear you might like to dispose of and just don't have the heart to throw away. And never, never put a small, attractive, green Lowepro bag that looks like it might have a camera inside in your checked luggage. As for anything you might like or need, carry it on, my friend, carry it on.

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