Its never a good feeling when you’re one of the last people stood in an airport baggage claim area as four bags that clearly don’t belong to you make laps on in the baggage carousel. You know those bags aren’t yours, but you check their tags anyway. You don’t want to give up hope on your luggage, instead you stand there watching the little entrance that the bags come into the baggage claim area hoping that your wayward bag will appear like a lost lost dog finding its way home. But after a while the truth becomes inescapable… this dog isn’t coming home tonight.

Baggage claim offices are always the same. Grumpy forgotten airline staff, presumably too awkward and ugly to work on the check in counter, ask you a series of mumbled questions demonstrating that they might actually be more fed up than you are. Any attempt to make light of the situation is wasted. Your luggage is lost, it’s really not that funny, and if you’re making a joke then you’re only showing how inexperienced you are at the whole lost luggage game. They know only to well that in a day or so, any good humor you had about the delay in getting your luggage will have evaporated like puddles in the sun.

I arrived on Friday. My flight wasn’t complicated. I flew from Manchester to Chicago then claimed my baggage and rechecked it onto my onward flight to Portland Oregon due to depart three hours after that time. Several hours later I am that person standing in the baggage claim area losing hope as I watch the same 4 bags make laps on the carousel like riderless horses of a merry-go-round.

Quite how United Airlines managed to lose my luggage is beyond me. But the miserable baggage claim agent assures me that the bag isn’t “lost” it’s just “delayed” and it will arrive early the next morning whereupon it will be delivered to my address in Portland. No amount of screaming and shouting will help, and besides after several hours of sitting in cattle class I’ve lost the will to do much else than nod my head in agreement with whatever I am told.

My luggage doesn’t arrive as promised and with all patience and understanding gone, I call United’s 1800 baggage claim number. First off I have to dispense with the friendly voice activated robotic operator who has trouble understanding my British accent. In order to help the virtual operator I have to put on an American accent so that ‘he’ can get me through to a real person. The next problem though is worse. That ‘real person’ is an Indian call centre operator in Dheli, India, and they have little grasp of the English language, let alone the geography of the United States.

What follows is a series of fumbles and mistakes that has my luggage flown to Phoenix where it spends a night before being flown to Denver, then back to Portland despite my explicit instructions to fly the luggage to Redmond then deliver it to my hotel just down the road from there in a town called Bend.

The luggage is scanned onto a flight to Redmond that arrives just as we are driving by the airport so we elect to pick it up. However when we get to the airport we’re told that the bag has again been lost as it wasn’t on that flight that just arrived. However, in this little airport it seems the staff really do care. Three of them start calling around trying to locate my wayward luggage, and eventually it is found in a baggage hall in Portland.

It will, according to United staff at Redmond, be put on a flight from Portland to their little airport these evening then delivered to my hotel later tonight. This time I feel a little more confident that it might just get here, but in all honesty I won’t be the least bit surprised if I don’t see it until I return to Portland on Thursday.