My Mum always says; "Sophie, you will never truly know a person until you’ve done business with them". Well Mum, yes I agree - money can be very revealing (ever thought you liked someone and then found out they're the type of person that demands that 10p you borrowed for the car park back? Exactly.) I have a new contender for a ‘true character revealing situation’ – Losing your Bag at the Airport. Along with terrorism, crashing, and getting stuck next to a ‘cuddler’ on a long-haul flight, it's one of our biggest aero-travel anxieties. (Yes, the latter did happen to me once. On a 9 hour flight back from Australia I got stuck sitting next to a man who kept trying to cuddle me ‘in his sleep’. I ended up hanging out of my seat and nearly falling into the aisle in an attempt to get away from him. This is what happens when you are far too British and polite. It was all very funny - Well, maybe not for me - but the air hostesses and surrounding passengers had a riot of a time laughing at the whole fiasco.) Anyway, arriving at your destination and finding yourself the only person left at the carousel, a rising panic as you realise that’s the same cling film bound buggy that’s been going around and around for the past 10 minutes and your bag is clearly not going to appear. It is the ultimate loss-of-control-first-world problem. Not quite a tragedy, but definitely enough to induce a heart attack in the emotionally fragile. If there are any demonic tendencies hidden away in there, you can guarantee the prospect of no hair straighteners, a lost GoPro and 7 days’ worth of missing underwear will almost definitely bring them out. As a rep I saw my fair share of lost baggage situations – and I personally think it’s a good litmus test for seeing how a person copes when they’ve lost control – or even just finding out how capable of murder they are.
You’re just waiting for the final party to turn up to your coach and really hoping you don’t go back inside the airport to find they’re the exasperated people screaming blue murder in the lost baggage office. Ah…here we go. Travel disruption in general can be very revealing. I’ve been sent a torrent of abusive text messages from the same middle aged man who then ran up and bear hugged me when I appeared dragging his enormous suitcase the next day. I also had an older lady fold her arms and stamp her feet in such a strop I felt like I was having to calm down an 8 year old throwing a tantrum because she wasn’t allowed anymore sweets. (yes, that was a confusing moment for all.) But my personal favourite has to be one time when a seemingly lovely young couple had lost their ski bag. After going through all the procedures with all the correct paperwork, I reassured them 'not to worry, this happens with big ski bags and it’ll be on the next flight out.' I would let them know as soon as their bag landed and our couriers would be delivering it straight to resort. It was all very civil…and then it wasn’t. The text messages became gradually more angry, to the point where it was 11 o clock at night and 'no I’m very sorry but I cannot get the airport baggage office to open right now'. In the end I had to politely stop replying. There was no point. I knew how this worked. His bag would appear tomorrow morning and he’d be on the slopes by 11am but if he wasn’t going to listen to that, well then, nothing else I could do. Sure enough, 10am the next day I got a text; ‘Good morning Sophie, our bag has arrived!!- everything great thank you so much for all your help – have a great week in Flaine!’. I just loll’d. The text the evening before had been an essay on how incompetent myself and my company were. The funniest part was at the airport the following Saturday – I was standing by one of the doors to departures and I saw this guys’ girlfriend mouth ‘there’s that rep – take the other door!!’ along with one of those head tilt things we do to try and subtley say 'over there.' Yet she wasn't quite subtle enough and I watched them awkwardly shuffle out of the lovely clear path next to me - and onto the parallel busier one. Of course the only thing left to do then was to try and make eye contact and smile and wave at them as much as possible.
I get it, you’ve just arrived in a foreign country and now you have no clean pants and you might have to wear the same top for two days– yes it’s stressful – but you're not on the moon, there are shops. (I know – who’d have thought?!.) So you’ll be fine. It never failed to amaze me the emotion that came out when people lost their bag. Conversely – some people were very nice, and chilled, and would just follow procedure and give me a quick call when it arrived the next day….like it always did. Anyway, in light of all this - I have come to the conclusion that losing a bag at the airport is a scenario that can be quite revealing of someone’s character and a good indicator of how one might cope when things don’t quite go their way in future. Particularly - when you may have to sit back and trust someone else to sort it out. Even more so if said someone is a small blonde person who stuttered down the mike, dropped her lift passes everywhere and said your name wrong...(‘oh its Coburn, not Cockburn – I see - silent ‘ck’ - Sorry.) Then you'll definitely see someones true character.