Crap...that is the first among many words that describes how I felt when the phone rang at 1:09 AM Monday morning. On the other end of the phone was my preferred airline's attendant-bot saying "This is a call back for (pause)...a valued customer (seems it could not make out my last name when I yelled it into the phone two hours earlier). At that point a real life human asked how he could help me. I took the time to patiently and calmly explain my situation: that my bag had probably made the nearly nine hour late flight to Tampa and perhaps this was the reason my Philadelphia flight had been cancelled, etc., etc. When I finished, the representative said "Okay so we need to get you and your bag from Atlanta to Tampa..." I sighed. "No, I said, my bag is probably in Atlanta but I am still in Philadelphia". My "Helper": "Oh, I see now...we need to find your bag in Philadelphia so it can meet you now that you are in Tampa". I sighed again and looked in the mirror (I was making the call in the bathroom so I would not disturb my wife). I was checking to see if I was having a stroke as this was the only explanation as to how this guy from the C team was not understanding me. I debated (briefly) the idea of hanging up and trying again but the thought of a 2:17 AM wakeup call was worse than trying to get this person to understand my situation. The longer it went on the more I felt like I was trying to help him solve a rubix cube by phone...with a translator. Finally, after I had him look up all of the reservations he was able to get me booked on the flight that I had re-booked seven hours earlier.
Ever the optimist I decided to see if he could get me the number to locate my lost bag. He said he would get the number for me "right away" and disappeared for five minutes. When he returned he explained that he did not want to give me the Air Cargo number because that would not be the right number so he had to locate the baggage customer service number. He then connected me to Air Cargo and hung up.
Tuesday went incredibly well. I dropped my rental car back in Philadelphia and walked over to the terminal (If you don't know that you can walk to the terminal faster than taking the rental car shuttle in Philadelphia you will cost yourself fifteen minutes and perhaps a bruised disk because the terminal is across the street but the shuttle has to go completely around the airport to get to this same place...and rental car companies save money on shuttle vans by not ordering shock absorbers). I whisked through pre-check again and not only were my flights on time but I was upgraded...both times. I arrived in Tampa, walked down to the baggage customer service area and was greeted by my overstuffed bag that had arrived before me. My rental car was excellent and the drive over the causeway to Clearwater Beach was beautiful. The week had improved.
One item that was not with me was my Golf Bag. I had my clubs shipped since I knew we would play at least once (only once!) and the rental fee can actually cost more than shipping. The only problem was that they were not yet there. I expected them on Wednesday so no worries. I did decide to stop by the concierge desk and let them know to please be on the lookout for them. They appeared slightly less interested than my teenage children would be so I slipped the guys some cash. "What was that name again"? they asked. The cash had worked. Later that night I helped arrange (I basically followed up on an earlier request from our group) some transportation to dinner. Again...some cash. Wednesday came and no bag but an inquiry from me nonetheless. No cash. Thursday the clubs still were not there and they were frantically making calls to "receiving" and the local shipping office. I suggested they call "Air Cargo" but the joke missed its mark. Cash. Friday I received a call from my friends at the Concierge desk. They had my clubs and they offered to take the "bulky box" to my room...I agreed. Cash. I had created monsters...who knew my name. Every time I ran into a uniformed Concierge person, even if I had not met them...they greeted me by name and offered to help carry my newspaper, my pen...me. Over the weekend I needed help finding a restaurant for breakfast (the hotel buffet was getting old) and upon my arrival two couples who were "in process" for whatever request they had were summarily dropped in favor of...me. Cash.
When it came time to ship the clubs back, three people greeted me at my door ready to assist me in sending my beloved clubs home. One remarked they would take extra good care to make sure they made it safely..."Would be a shame if they arrived damaged". Cash, Cash, Cash.
When I left the hotel I not only noticed a few Concierge people getting weepy but at least one looked like he had a new watch...
The two weeks went by fairly quickly and were mostly uneventful...that included our negotiation...which we did not finish. I think it had something to do with...cash.
End of Part II
Part III - The Car Service Ride Home