I am in Laughlin, Nevada. I wish my luggage was, too.
United Airlines doesn't have a clue where my luggage is but they seem reasonably certain it is not in Laughlin, Nevada, which is where
My flight departed at 3:15 so I left my house at 1:15, which got me to a parking lot near LAX a little before 1:45. I boarded the
shuttle to the airport with my suitcase — the one which, at the moment, is not in Laughlin. I also had my carry-on bag which, since I
carried it on, is here with me in Laughlin. It contains the laptop computer upon which I am typing at this very moment.
Another man boarded the shuttle, clutching a bag not unlike mine, except that his did not have the logo for Dell Computers on the
outside. No, he — the big show-off — had the symbol of the President of the United States of America on his bag. He didn't
look a thing like Bill Clinton but his face was not unfamiliar. About halfway to L.A. International Airport, I suddenly placed him as Marlin
Fitzwater, the Presidential Press Secretary under George Bush.
(This shows you what a hopeless wreck I am. I once sat for an hour at a party, pathetically unaware that the woman seated next to
me was Lindsay Wagner. Her, I couldn't recognize...but I somehow managed to identify Marlin Fitzwater. This must be some early warning sign of
I thought about asking Marlin to explain Bush's involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal but there wasn't time. At 1:55, we reached
the United Airlines terminal and he got into the line for First Class travellers. I took my place over in the commoners' queue where I found
myself eighth in line.
At 2:00, I was seventh in line.
At 2:05, I remained seventh in line.
At 2:10, over in the First Class check-in line, Marlin finished all transactions and headed for his flight. I remained in my
line, seventh in position.
By 2:20...well, far be it from me to leap to any hasty conclusions but it was beginning to look like my line was not moving very
quickly. There were three attendants servicing our queue and they were each deeply engrossed with a different traveller, working out
At 2:25, a cheery United Airlines employee-owner ambled by and I explained to her my concern that my flight would depart and I would
still be right there, always and forever seventh.
"We're doing the best we can," she said, quickly finding something else to do. I remained seventh in line for some time.
At 2:40, Ms. "Doing the Best We Can" could not avoid passing us again and I flagged her down and explained that I had been in the line
for some forty-five minutes and they had managed to process a grand total of one person. "There are thirty-eight people in this line, counting
me," I noted. "At this rate, that lady at the end of the line will not get to the counter for another twenty-six hours and thirty minutes."
"You're exaggerating, sir," she said.
"Do the math," I challenged. "That woman will not get her ticket until day after tomorrow. "Couldn't you get a few more
attendants down here?"
"That's not possible," she said and walked off. Nothing like a direct, comprehensive answer.
Soon, it was 2:45 and then it was 2:50. Before long, it was 2:55 and I had been waiting one full hour for my ticket for a flight
which, by the way, takes fifty minutes. So far, I had made it all the way from eighth in line to seventh in line. They didn't treat
Marlin Fitzwater this way and he probably doesn't even have a job these days.
I had long since abandoned all hope of getting on that plane before nightfall, let alone flight time. Instead, I had visions of
archaeologists in the year 3009 coming upon the ruins of Los Angeles International Airport and excavating what was once the United Airlines
terminal. There, thoroughly fossilized and preserved in limestone, they will locate my ossified form. They will know it's me because
it'll be the one that's seventh in line.
At 3:00, there was no progress.
But then —
But then, at 3:04 PM, there came the miracle! No, the attendants in our line did not finish with their customers. They were
still with the same customers they were handling days before, when I arrived in the terminal. For all I know, they are still there.
But the First Class counter was suddenly without customers. All this time, they had been speedily processing those who were
travelling upscale — a fine argument for living well — and their line was now empty. One of those attendants called, "Next,"
meaning that the first person in our line could step up to their counter. It had been so long, however, that the first person in our line had
completely forgotten her destination, her seating preference and even what the word "next" meant.
In a flash, I was sixth. Then fifth. My pulse quickened as I moved up to fourth and then, in the blink of a false eyelash,
at 3:08, I was, by God, first in line. I abandoned all cynicism and allowed myself to fantasize that somehow, I might yet make the 3:15
flight. At 3:09, a distant voice in the mist called out "Next" and I was instantly at the counter.
"My name is Evanier," I gasped, spelling it out for her. "I have a reservation on the 3:15 flight to Laughlin and yes, I know
it's about to leave but I've been standing in that line for over an hour and here's my American Express card and here's my picture I.D. and yes, I
packed my bags myself and no, no one has given me any gifts and is there any way you can manage to get both my suitcase and me on the 3:15
"Your suitcase should be no problem, sir," she said as a computer spat out my ticket. "But you'll have to hurry to Gate 71."
I ran for it, scurrying through the terminal, mowing down Hare Krishna solicitors, disrobing only slightly to pass through the metal
detector. As I ran, I suddenly got a mental image from an old commercial of a man sprinting through an airport and I decided to make him my
momentary role model. Then I realized that I was recalling an ad with O.J. Simpson and I quickly shifted role models. I had enough
I arrived at Gate 71 at 3:12 and discovered that Gate 71 is where they stick you on a tram to be driven to the real gate. I
paused to ask the attendant if my luggage could possibly be getting to the plane. "The luggage goes straight through to the departure area,
sir. It's probably already there," he said as he stuffed me on the tram. The tram driver assured me of the same thing as he radioed
ahead: "One more coming for the flight to Laughlin."
At 3:16, the tram dropped off me by the plane. A lady yelled, "We've been holding the flight for you." I felt momentarily
important — top that, Marlin Fitzwater! — but I did pause to ask if my suitcase has been accorded similar honors.
"A large, black Samsonite?" I asked her.
"Just saw them load it myself," she said as she forced me up the gangway to a plane that was about the size of a Hebrew-National Kosher
salami, and looked no more capable of flight than one. Two seconds later, it took off and I was aboard.
Would that I could say the same for my black Samsonite.
I am in town, among other reasons, to see my long-time chum, Bill Kirchenbauer. Bill is a fine comedian some of you may remember
from appearances with Carson and Letterman and all those shows, while others of you may recall him from his role as Coach Lubbock on the TV series
Growing Pains and, later, starring in his own spin-off entitled, Just the Ten of Us.
He is performing here in Laughlin. In fact, his show starts in about forty minutes and, while I'd love to go down and get some
dinner and then see it, I have decided my time is better spent up here in my hotel room where, since the moment I began typing this article, I have
been on "hold" with United Airlines.
Yes, a little while ago, I phoned said Airlines to discuss the possibility of my Samsonite joining me here in Laughlin. I was
routed through a maze of voice-mail menu choices (and repeatedly disconnected) until finally reaching what I sure hope is the correct
department. I was told that all lines were busy and that I should stay on the line, my call would be answered in the order received. This
usually means the one guy they have answering phones is out having a smoke.
I put the call on the speakerphone and began this article. You can see for yourself how long I have been on hold...how likely it
is that I will finish this entire piece (and maybe next week's column) before I speak to an actual human being at United Airlines. This is
assuming there are any there.
There is something almost peaceful about being on hold. It's a kind of limbo: You're not really here, you're not really
there...you're in some ethereal space in-between. I have a theory that you don't age when you're on hold. I explained this concept to my
last girl friend and she expanded on it, suggesting that perhaps any food you eat while on hold does not add to your waistline.
Being on hold has its own sense of security. It's like standing in front of that big map at the mall, showing where all the
stores are. It's so comforting to see that little arrow that says "You are here" and to finally, at long last, know where you are. I've
always wished I could carry that arrow with me everywhere I go. If ever I felt lost, I could just pull it out and it would tell me, "You are
here" and I would know.
But at least I know precisely where I am at this moment. I am on hold, somewhere in the United Airlines telephone system, waiting
for someone to take my call. And I'd bet any amount of money that I am seventh in line.
I am not the only one at this hotel looking for my luggage. I have alerted a nice bellhop who picked me up at the airport and
who, miraculously, recognized my name from the Groo comic book. I felt momentarily important until I realized that (a)
this is the best thing that has ever happened to me because of Groo and (b) that what I tipped him is more than I made off the damn
book in fourteen years.
I am here in Laughlin for two nights, then Bill and I are driving to Las Vegas on his day off. I will spend most of my time here
working on a script — that's if I don't spend most of my time here tracking down my suitcase. But I do want to see Bill's show and I may
also go across the street to the Ramada Express to see The Amazing Kreskin, who is performing there. What puts me off is that there is a phone
number to call for reservations.
I figure, if Kreskin is that amazing, he oughta know I'm coming without my having to call first.
But before I
Hold on. An actual human being is coming on the line.
(Talk amongst yourselves for a moment. I'll be right back.)
Okay, I'm back, and they don't have the foggiest notion where my black Samsonite is. A nice lady just put me back on hold while
she scans the Friendly Skies in search of
Wait. We have breaking news. Back in a sec.
Well, this is getting interesting. She informed me that the reason my luggage was not on my flight was that they didn't think I
was going to make my flight. Some handler saw how late I was and decided that there was no point putting my suitcase on the plane because I
surely would not be on that plane.
I asked her, "Now, why would he do a silly thing like that?"
"Well," she explained just moments ago, "The odds were that with such a late check-in, you would not be on that flight, in which case
you would be glad that your suitcase hadn't been placed on that flight."
"True," I noted. "But I did get on that flight."
"Well, we have no control over that, sir," she said. She actually said that. (Did you ever have that feeling that you're
George Burns and everyone else in the world is Gracie?)
She told me that my suitcase may be on the next flight to Laughlin. Or it may be sitting back in the baggage depot at L.A.
International Airport. Or for reasons she cannot explain, they may have put it on a flight to Las Vegas. There is no earthly reason why
they should have done this last option, but that's what her computer suggests has happened.
I've decided to just forget about it for now and go downstairs to eat and to see Bill's show. This kind of thing happens, I
guess, and I've gotten most of my frustration out of my system by writing this column.
Those of you who get upset when I don't write about comics here...well, I'm sorry. I had a great column in mind detailing secrets
of the background inking in pre-super-hero Marvels but this luggage thing has me too annoyed to write about anything else.
So if you don't like this column, complain to United Airlines. I'm heading for the buffet.