I’m fortunate in that I have few things to be anxious about. Gone are the days when I’d fret over the fact that I had nothing to fret about. There was a stage when I had worrying down to a fine art, but no more. Somewhere along the way, that permanent worry gene was replaced by a sporadic one that now only engages when my mouth runs away with me and opinions best kept to myself are vented or purged. Thankfully, the venting and purging are directly proportionate to my excess energy levels so they happen rarely enough for me to declare my life a relatively anxiety-free zone … except when it comes to baggage carousels and luggage.
It’s a first world problem, I know. And despite the fact that 99 times out of a 100 my luggage travels on the same plane as I do, that anxious gene kicks in when my suitcase doesn’t arrive in the first 17 on the conveyor belt. I have no idea why I count the pieces of luggage as they appear and can’t explain the increasing heart rate as I approach the magic number, or why it even is the magic number – but I’m a counter.
If I’ve had to change planes, my anxiety is particularly acute. By my own peculiar logic, transferred luggage should be loaded last (all other passengers having checked in much earlier) and therefore unloaded first. If the stopover time is around the one-h0ur mark and the gates are far apart, then as I’m waiting at my final destination for my suitcase to appear, I expect it to be one of the first off and if it isn’t, it’s brown-paper-bag time: I have to consciously stop myself from hyperventilating.
It’s ridiculous really. I’m only a few miles from home where I have a change of clothes, toiletries, and food and if I don’t get my case for another day or two, it’s not the end of the world. I know this. I’m not stupid. But this doesn’t stop the anxiety.
Every suitcase I have has a little orange seed stuck to the inner lining – a seed blessed by the Dali Lama given to me years ago by a mate who spent some time in Tibet. But even with this added insurance, I can’t stop the mounting feeling of disquiet as I pass by 17 and 27 and 37 and 47 and 57. The relief as a familiar blue case peeps through the rubber slats is replaced by despondency when I realise that it’s not my blue case – and this oscillation in mood only adds to the tension. I watch with something approaching an irrational envy as others who disembarked after me pick up their bags and move towards the green nothing-to-declare (but a self-satisfied smugness) channel. And yes, I know that the seating order on a plane has nothing to do with the order luggage loaded or unloaded but by this stage logic has flown out the window and I begin to slowly, but steadily morph into bag of cats. It’s not pretty.
And when, as has happened a couple of times lately, my blue case is first off, I see it as an omen – a good omen. And if in Ireland, I play the lotto. [And some people think I’m intelligent!]
This week, with 2400 miles of Canadian and American road behind me, I’m back in Budapest. We had a short stopover in Munich and our luggage was amongst the last off the carousel in Liszt Ferenc. But it arrived. And for that I’m truly grateful.