Day 2, Sunday: No communication from Air Canada.The AC rep had informed Mom that FedEx didn’t work on Sunday, but promised to request permission for same day service with an alternate delivery service for Sunday or same day service FedEx service on Monday. Mom emphasized that she’d only be at Death Valley for four days, so if I couldn’t be delivered on Sunday or Monday it would be better to keep me at their office where she would retrieve me when she and Dad returned their rental car.
Day 3, Monday: Mom and Dad hiked Golden Canyon, passing under the shadow of Manly Beacon at Zabriskie Point. In spite of wearing the same clothes she’d been wearing since Saturday morning she was thrilled to traverse territory walked upon by R2-D2 and C3PO forty years earlier. Over lunch at Furnace Creek Ranch, she received an email advising that FedEx would pick me up that day between 0800 and 1400 hours. She was ecstatic – I’d arrive by late afternoon.
By 16:30 I had not arrived. Was I in Vegas? Was I enroute? Would I arrive any minute? What would happen if I didn’t arrive before they flew to Mexico? Would they send me home to Canada? Would I be permanently lost? Anxiety and frustration skyrocketed.
Three days wearing almost the same clothes hadn’t been much fun although she attempted to focus on the bright side: the time-consuming chore of wondering what to wear had been eliminated. Mom always wears layers, preparing for different weather conditions. For this trip, she had chosen a black silk T-shirt, long-sleeve cargo shirt, vest, hooded windbreaker, hat, and beige skirt to camouflage dirt and dust and her standard hiking boots.
“Honey, what do you think I should wear today?” quickly lost its appeal.
Dad had zero success tracking my route using the web link provided on Air Canada’s Lost Baggage Claim Receipt received from the Vegas rep however Google “Air Canada Lost Baggage” hit the jackpot. The AC Reference Number led him to a FedEx tracking number that provided surprising information: McCarran/Vegas Lost Baggage Office does have a contact number for travelers. And he learned the devastating news that FedEx had scheduled my delivery after they would depart Death Valley. If this couldn’t be stopped, I would arrive in Death Valley – as they were arriving at Vegas.
Day 4, Tuesday: During the next 24 hours, she communicated often with the AC Vegas and FedEx agents. She learned that contrary to the assertions of the first AC outsourced rep who had “helped” her on the day of arrival, the Lost Baggage Office is staffed daily from 06:30 to 23:00. Owners of lost luggage may not be able to speak with their airline’s rep, any agent on duty would be able to answer general questions:“when will my agent be working?” “is my bag sitting in front of you?”
With FedEx, she stressed these difficulties weren’t their fault, implored them to keep me in North Vegas for her, and thanked them for understanding.
With the AC rep, she advised she intended to pick me up at the FedEx office but, if FedEx was obliged to return their shipment to them rather than allow the owner (her) to claim the shipment, she begged AC to tag me “Hold for pickup by owner.”
Annoyed with my continued mismanagement and beginning to tire of the same outfit (hand-washed each night), on two consecutive nights she spoke with Air Canada’s Lost Baggage telephone reps, pleasant men living in India, nicknamed “Brad” and “Matthew” for the convenience of English ears.
The conversation with “Brad” was difficult. The connection was poor, his microphone volume was almost inaudible, and he and English were not old friends. Trying to make the strangled dialogue manageable, Mom used the phonetic alphabet: “If you must return my luggage to Canada, the office postal code is Kilo Zero November Five Zulu Nine.” “Brad” mangled this to “Kilo Seven November, Nine Sierra November.”
The next night, Mom hesitated to increase her frustration by calling AC India and re-live last night’s parody of customer support. “Brad” was as nice as the AC Rep in Vegas, but neither were efficient. However, “Matthew” conducted the conversation in excellent English, authorized a second USD50 expenditure, and provided the list of seven documents required by AC to process my claim reimbursement.
As for my conundrum, several possibilities loomed.
If FedEx couldn’t legally hold me, I would be returned to the AC Lost Luggage at McCarran Airport. One FedEx agent tried to reassure Mom that this ‘return to shipper’ would “likely occur by Friday.” This was bad: our flight to Baja California Sur was Friday @ 10:30. Who could predict a decision by employees that had scheduled my arrival to temporary lodgings after the known departure date?
Would they keep me for pick up? Would they send me home to Canada?
Would I trail around North America, missing her by a slim margin at every opportunity? If we couldn’t be reunited before the cruise, she fretted for my safety and her comfort.
Day 4, Wednesday: At 0905, FedEx granted an “Official Exception ” to the routing. My revised status was “hold for pickup by owner.” Mom’s confidence mushroomed but she would be relieved when she could snuggle me against her body. Her insides churned. Would they would arrive at FedEx Vegas to find that was at Furnace Creek? Would they return to Furnace Creek to find that I had returned to Vegas?
Enroute to Vegas, the spectacular Death Valley scenery diverted their conversation from our predicament. They viewed derelict structures in abandoned mining “towns” that had never been more than a ramshackle cluster of a dozen jerry-rigged buildings. They summitted passes through mountains striated like vanilla-and-caramel candy. Dad deliberately sidetracked Mom by betting that they would encounter fewer than ten opposite direction cars. He lost by three.
Half-way to Vegas they pulled up to the Rough Guide recommended “Famous Crowbar Café & Saloon” at Shoshone Junction, a living history museum of offices and homes depicted the harsh life that had existed on the route between Mob machinations in LA and Vegas. A relic gas station with a decaying Chevy, plated California 1937, slumped at decrepit Chevron pumps. Across the street, the modern Post Office and a functioning Chevron Station mocked the decaying memorabilia. Great food. Don’t miss it.
In Vegas, Mom presented her ID to a FedEx clerk who fiddled with information on her terminal then contorted her mouth in apparent puzzlement. Mom couldn’t breathe well enough to ask if there was a problem. The clerk disappeared into a storage room. Seconds later she returned, struggling with my bulk.
Dad teased, “Please don’t leap over the counter to hug the clerk.”
Mom discovered the reason for the agent’s hesitation: the AC outsourced rep had recorded her name as LORALEE.
Vegas was great.
Next stop San Juan del Cabo, Mexico.