The Legendary Mother Of The House Of Baggage
US Airways Baggage Claims Office, LaGuardia
I'm second in line behind a tall elegant black man. He's wearing a black full-length leather coat, something you don't see every day. He explains to the clerk that he's missing three, "that's THREE", very expensive, "that's EXPENSIVE", Louis Vuitton suitcases with irreplaceable, "that's IRREPLACEABLE" items in them. Every time he repeats himself, he slaps his hand on the counter.
The clerk is a short, raven-haired, gum-popping, LaVerne DeFazio sound-a-like. "Louis? Ya mean like real Louis? Or some...udder brand?"
"I beg your pardon? You think because I'm black that I've got some swap shop Louis Vuitton? Don't even try that shit with me, Miss Girl."
The clerk regarded him with a flat expression. "Sir, we get lotsa luggage brands every day. Some a'dem is real. A lot a'dem ain't. Nuttin' against you."
"Why don't I believe you?"
The clerk made some clicks on her keyboard. "I'll need to know the contents of ya bags."
"Cuz maybe your bags didn't get here cuz they got no tags. Sometimes they gotta open the bag to see if the contents match the claim report."
"They have clothing in them."
The clerk purses her lips in doubt. "Irreplaceable clothing? What kind?"
(Louder, but still inaudible)
"Sir, I can't hear you."
The man throws his hands up. "Ball gowns. Ball. Gowns. All three of them are full of ball gowns, OK?" He turns to give me a defiant look, as if daring me to say something, but I just raise my eyebrows slightly.
The clerk, now wearing a Mona Lisa smile, shoots a sideways glance at her co-worker. "OK, got it. Ball gowns in all three. Where do ya want 'em delivered?"
The man gives her an address in Harlem and stalks out. I'm still wondering which house he might belong to, when the clerk tells me that my one bag, full of non-expensive, non-irreplaceable, non-gowns is definitely in Pittsburgh or Charlotte. Unless it's in Dayton.
A few minutes later I'm in my taxi and as it approaches the Tri-Borough Bridge I come alongside a taxi bearing Mr. Ball Gown. We move into parallel toll lanes and he glares at me the entire time our vehicles inch forward. I stare back without expression until we both accelerate out of the toll booth. That's when I give him a big ole wink. As my taxi veers left and his fades off to the right, I can still see him laughing.