Connect with Jimmy on Facebook

Connect with Jimmy on twitter

jimmy's blog

Carry-on Bags

November 28th, 2011

This is the time of year for me that I make some long travels. It’s too cold for triathlons in the U.S., therefore I must venture to the southern hemisphere for some action. This year I went to Chile and Brazil.

Every year there is a new adventure associated with flying halfway across the world. This year the big brouhaha was over reducing the amount of carry-on items to two; one on some airlines. I didn’t foresee this as a problem for me, since I only travel with my trustee backpack and a small travel guitar about the size of a tennis racket. I was sure, however, that this was going to be an interesting dilemma for 90 percent of travelers. You want to check as little as possible when you fly halfway around the world. You never know where your checked stuff may end up, so many travelers bring a lot of stuff into the cabin.

So I’m at the counter checking in for my flight to South America and the check-in person asks me how many bags I’m carrying on. I tell her I’m carrying on my trusty backpack and my little (about the size of a tennis racquet) travel guitar. She asks me, “That’s makes two, right?”

I wonder if this is a trick question. I actually get flustered as I add up the pieces in my head. I add, and then re-add just to make sure. “Two,” I tell her. “Unless I’ve added incorrectly.”

“That’s good,” she tells me. “Because you’re only allowed two carry-on bags.” Then, after she asked me if I’m the only one who packed my bags and if any stranger has given me something to take on the plane, she looks at my two carry-on bags and tells me they may be a little too big to carry on. She tells me the gate attendant will let me know if my two carry-on bags are the appropriate size to carry on the plane. I tell her that’s fine, knowing I’ve never had a problem with these two pieces in any of my previous travels.

So I’m in line waiting to board a big ole plane to Chile. 747. Lots of room on that baby. I notice as I’m standing in line that everyone has carry-on bags of various sizes. I notice some other peculiar things as I wait to board the big ole 747.

I notice most of the men are carrying on big garment bags and either a briefcase or laptop computer case. That makes two, I notice (if my math is correct). A garment bag by definition must be pretty big. It carries garments, after all. Assuming the average man is 5’10”, a garment is a decent-sized article of clothing. And, by law, a garment can only be folded one time. And it can only be folded for a short period of time, meaning that usually upon entering the plane the garment bag is unfolded and either hung up in a closet or laid out in the over head bin.

I look at my backpack. It’s fatter than most of these garment bags, but in terms of cubic inches, it’s much smaller. The gate attendant doesn’t even give these garment bags a second look. I relax, knowing that the check-in lady was just making me sweat a little. I’m not even worried about the lack of overhead bin space due to excess garment bag stuffage, because I know from experience that my trusty backpack fits comfortably beneath the seat in front of me.

I notice the women as I’m still waiting in line. Most of the women have the following: one big black suitcase/appliance dolly with wheels and a retractable handle to ease the strain of rolling 230 pounds of clothes, cosmetics, irons, blow-dryers and such through the airport; one small suitcase or duffel bag that contains extra cosmetics, spare brushes and combs, shampoos and conditioners, spare blow-dryer, and other possible emergency items; one extremely large purse with a double reinforced strap that they try to shove under the seat in front of them, in which they carry things they may need while in flight such as magazines, romance novels (at least 3), snacks, a laptop computer, a large wallet, toothbrush and toothpaste, water bottle (1.5 liter); and a small purse in which they carry the personal things they may need in flight like those fold-out mirror things that you can look at your face in, some lipstick, perfume to spray on before you depart the plane, and other feminine products that don’t take up too much space. If my math is correct, this makes four carry-on bags. (Please don’t think I’m sexist or anything. It’s just that I travel a lot, and I notice things. And I did say “most” women, not “all.”).

I’m astounded, as I wait in line, to see the gate attendant letting these women on the plane. They clearly appear to me to be exceeding the two carry-on bag rule. Maybe they’re cutting these extra-carry-on-bag-carrying women some slack because the plane isn’t that full.

As I reach the gate attendant/carry-on bag inspector, I notice him giving my trusty backpack the evil eye. He must be jealous that he doesn’t have such a wonderful, trusty backpack. He looks at my backpack and says, “Sir, I’m afraid that bag is too big to carry on the plane.” “What do you mean it’s too big?” I say. “It’s a backpack.”

Then the gate attendant tells me that if my backpack doesn’t fit in this little box he has on the ground beside him, that I must check it. I look down at the box. It’s a small box. Some of the ladies’ purses couldn’t fit in this box. No garment bag could even think about fitting in this box. I look at my backpack, then the box, and then my backpack again. It reminds me of that children’s game when you’re a kid, where you try to put a wooden block into the right-shaped hole. I can see my backpack is not going to fit in this box.

“Sir,” I tell the gate attendant. “I fly every week, and every week my trusty backpack fits comfortably beneath the seat in front of me.” “Sir,” he tells me. “We have new rules now. If your backpack doesn’t fit comfortably in this box, you’re going to have to check it.”

“Oh, it’ll fit,” I angrily tell him. Then, just like when I was a kid playing with the wooden blocks, I proceed to make that backpack fit in the little hole. I shove, slam, and squish my trusty roundish backpack into that little rectangle hole. When it didn’t seem like it was going to make it, I thought about all those giant garment bags I watched some businessmen carry on. I thought about the suitcases attached to an appliance dolly I watched some women roll on, not to mention their three or four other bags. I felt like the gate attendant was discriminating against me because I didn’t have proper-looking carry-ons. I stepped my 140 pounds up on that box and I jumped up and down on my trusty backpack (squishing my two bananas, breaking my water bottle, which leaked all over my magazine and paperback, and severely scuffing my trusty backpack) until that sucker fit into the little rectangle box. I was wracked with flashbacks of my youth when, sledgehammer in hand, I bragged that I could make any wooden block fit into any shaped hole.

“There, it fits,” I told the gate attendant. “May I board the plane now?” “Go ahead,” he said, as he and quite a few passengers (all with carry-on bags bigger than my backpack) looked at me with astonishment.

I barely made the flight by the time I pried my bag out of that box. And when I finally did get on the plane, there was no space in the overhead bin for my guitar…but that’s a whole other story.

As I finally take my seat (after helping a lady hoist an incredibly heavy suitcase into the overhead bin) and carefully tuck my trusty backpack beneath the seat in front of me, I can’t help but smile. I love traveling. It’s only my first race and already a new adventure. I glance down at my trusty backpack…it’s going to be a good year.

more Coaching Programs→

more Tuesday Tips→