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Finally, the fun part of the trip could begin. After a day of travel, flying to New York and then renting a car for the drive to Mystic, Conn., we had arrived at the Mystic Inn. The necessities of travel can be agonizing: making up for lost time on the job, packing, going through airports, fighting traffic in an unfamiliar place, hauling luggage. What makes it all worth the effort is that moment of arrival – the point of the trip when you can relax and say you are finally there. Plans were to unpack, go for a walk in downtown Mystic and then have a nice, relaxing dinner. All was as calm as the boats resting atop the still waters of Mystic harbor. But then, realization rocked the moment: a wrong suitcase. There had been one person checking the luggage tags at LaGuardia airport in New York, and all of us newly arrived passengers were impatient. I even thought about trying to dodge the checker, but she was able to take a quick glance before we walked away. Now there were two problems: We had somebody else’s suitcase and somebody else had ours. After a few dumbfounded moments, I called American Airlines and worked my way through the beeps and dial tones until I actually got a live person on the line, some poor woman whose job it is to deal with misplaced luggage. She confirmed that our luggage was still at LaGuardia and that the luggage we took (each suitcase had a similar pattern) had been reported missing. All I had to do, she said, was bring the luggage back to LaGuardia that evening and get ours. Here was another problem. The moon over Mystic was beginning to rise. The drive back to New York City would take about three hours, and then I was not confident that I could find my way to the airport once I got to New York (a concern that proved accurate when I did return two days later), plus I would still have to drive back to Mystic. Nothing short of American Airlines sending thugs to break my legs was going to make me drive back that night. Fortunately the luggage lady had an idea. Maybe she could get a delivery service to bring the luggage to Mystic and take the errant suitcase to New York. After a long hold, she came back on the line with good news, sort of. She found someone to make the run. But, it would cost me $300 cash, paid at delivery. In what must have looked like a drug deal going down, I brought the suitcase to the lobby and left a stuffed envelope for the desk clerk to give the middleman, who would swap suitcases. Around 11:30 that evening, the room clerk called to say that our suitcase had arrived. Days later, after we got back home, we talked to the person whose luggage we had taken – a woman from LaPlace who had been on the same flight as ours. She was nice – and forgiving. This issue of New Orleans Magazine is about travel. Let me begin by offering some advice. Put something on your luggage so that it stands out during the rush to get out of airports. I’ve seen suitcases with plastic flowers or bright stickers attached to them. Smart move. I now have conspicuous luggage tags that look like tiger tails. After all the angst, the first night in Mystic was nice, though $300 more than expected.

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