Every holiday starts with a plan. My plan was to spend just over three weeks away in Greece: the motherland. I was to spend a few days in Athens, then go to the island for 10 days, then back to Athens for my cousin’s wedding and some catching up with family and friends. It was a good plan, a solid plan, a plan I could work with.

So on August 15th, I packed a suitcase, waved goodbye to my sister and headed off to Athens. Although nowadays airports signify the beginning of a holiday, my earliest holiday memories are of train stations (yes, I am that old) and so I don’t get the same buzz at Heathrow as I do at say Victoria or Euston. Plus which, at the train station, you still have to interact with people who issue you with tickets, and who check them etc. This trip, I booked the ticket online, checked in online, printed out my own boarding pass, got to the airport and printed my own luggage tag, attached it to my suitcase, and sent the suitcase off to the flight without ever interacting with another human. I was wondering if one of the questions they were going to ask when I was printing off my luggage label at the airport was: “Can you fly a plane?” It seems that although security has increased, airport staff hasn’t, so every available body at the airport is used to divest you of your clothing at the security points. If I see another poor person holding on to their trousers after they have been stripped of everything but the bare bones of their outfit including shoes, it will be too soon. At Heathrow, the queues are long, the staff surly and the travellers wary of having to part with their clothing. I have long advocated the policy of walking through security as if I own the place, feeling that an aura of quiet confidence and a faint air of knowing what you are doing helps towards not being stripped. I usually have no trouble walking through the machine, and – due to my predilection for travelling in converse trainers – hardly ever have to remove my shoes. I don’t wear a belt, and not enough jewellery to set off any alarms. I often travel with D though who has to remove 20 items of jewellery, her belt, her sandals and watch before going through. It isn’t removing all the things that is the major problem, it is having to get dressed again whilst your stuff is being bashed into by everybody else’s. Try it at home: hop on one leg to put your shoes on while simultaneously re-looping your belt on to your trousers and putting on 5 rings and three bracelets; to make it more authentic, have your partner or a friend bash into you and reach around you dragging bags, shoes and laptops in front of your face. Let’s just say, if you can do it, apply to Cirque de Soleil, they can always use you for something.

Anyway. Having done all of the things I was supposed to do including go to the duty free shop to get Dairy Milk for my godsons and to ask for some obscure Clarins cream which the duty free lady assured me doesn’t exist but I know does, I went to one of the many restaurants to wait a while for my gate to be announced. I ordered a sandwich and a cup of tea and settled down to read. Airports are the one place where there is no need to feel self-conscious about eating alone. I took out my kindle and started to read all the while looking around and trying to spot fellow Greeks who would be on my flight. As I was travelling on the 15th, a National Holiday in Greece, I didn’t expect to see anyone I knew, or for the flight to be particularly full; indeed I had booked to fly that day because the flight was at least £100 cheaper than flying the day before or after. The sandwich arrived, as well as the tepid tea, and I identified 6 or 7 fellow Greeks (Greek Men: Please – vary it up a little, you all wear the same clothes and carry the same phones but most of all have the same we-are-the-founding-fathers-of-democracy-and-were-already-civilised-while-you-were-still-grunting-and-picking-fleas-off-each-other superior swagger (like you actually had anything to do with founding democracy yourselves) – it’s too easy to spot you).

The flight was called, nothing spectacular apart from the fact that the less than mediocre sandwich and tepid dishwater cost me nearly £20 – talk about a captive audience – and we boarded the plane. I sent the obligatory text to my Mum informing her of our imminent departure so that she could spend the next three hours fidgeting and looking at her watch with a knot in her stomach, and settled into the flight. There were plenty of empty seats including one between me and the guy at the window, so I was comfortable. Three hours and one badly edited movie later, we land in Athens. So far so good, the plan was working.

We ambled off the plane, had our passports checked (well, glanced at) by a guy who is so relaxed he doesn’t even bother to get into his booth and lounges lazily against a wall causing the entire queue (I say queue, but this is Greece now, so it’s more of a crowd) to snake to the left and block off a major thoroughfare of the airport. I settled in to wait for the luggage. Usually, the best thing about Athens airport is that the luggage comes out about 20 minutes faster than at Heathrow. I am always ridiculously early to the airport so have long grown accustomed to the ‘first in last out’ motto that we all assume applies to luggage retrieval. After about 45 minutes, there were about five of us standing around the carousel watching the same eight suitcases go round and round. I wondered why there always seem to be unclaimed luggage on the carousel. Is it because people forget they had a suitcase? Can they just not be bothered to wait? More to the point, did they walk off with my suitcase and leave theirs?

We looked around for airport staff to answer questions about where our luggage was. It was 11pm, and the only staff we could see were pushing dust about with giant mops and we didn’t think they would know.

Finally, a harassed looking lady came to the lost luggage desk. I was first in line.

“Hello,” I said calmly, “My suitcase hasn’t arrived.”

“Which flight were you on?”

“Aegean Airlines from London Heathrow”

She looks over at the moving carousel still with some luggage on it.

“Go and have another look, there’s still lots of luggage on there.” she says patronisingly.

“I have looked, my suitcase isn’t there and no new items have come out in the last 25 minutes. My suitcase isn’t there.”

“Go and look again, and then we’ll fill in a form.”

I breathed deeply. Stay calm, I told myself, injuring airport staff is frowned upon, even if it’s justified.

I ambled back over to the carousel while she had an identical conversation with the man behind me in the queue.

As I walked back to her, he and the guy behind him walked furiously over to the carousel. I joined the back of the queue. After she had dispatched us all to go and have another bloody look, it was my turn once more.

She smiled fakely.

“Double checked? Yours definitely isn’t there?”

I kept my voice even. “Nope, not there, just like I said.”

She handed me what can only be described as a scrap piece of paper. Write down your name, your address in London and Athens, your phone numbers, your email address, and your dates of travel. Did you fly directly from London or connect from somewhere else?

“Direct from London”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, absolutely, it was this afternoon.”

“London was your original starting point?”

How many ways could she ask me the same question and receive the same answer?

“Yes, I left London this afternoon on this flight, and arrived here this evening without my suitcase.”

“What colour was your case?”

“Grey.”

“Grey, are you sure?”

Oh sorry, no I said grey but I meant shocking pink, I thought angrily.

“Yes, positive.”

“Right, ok, write down your details.”

I wrote down my details, leaving nothing out. Luckily, I was staying in Athens for three days and not connecting to an island the next morning.

She printed out a paper.

“This is your information and luggage ID number. It is also the case number so don’t lose it. You can get in touch with us at these numbers,” she said crossing them out instead of underlining them as she spoke. “Someone will be in touch and your suitcase will be delivered when it gets here who’s next?”

Dismissed, I got into a cab and went home. Fortunately I have a home in Athens so it wasn’t the end of the world, I assume that is how I managed to stay calm and not clobber the woman. I certainly don’t think she would have been so lucky had I been staying in a hotel and connecting to the island the next morning.

All the next day, I was calling the number. It was either engaged or rang until the line went dead. Finally at about 6:30pm, I got through.

“I am calling about my suitcase. ID number XX, case ID XX.”

“Oh yes, we haven’t heard anything from the airline yet. Try calling later.”

“Yes, but I have been trying to call you for several hours now, and there have been two Aegean flights from London since yesterday. Does this mean that my suitcase went somewhere else?”

“There are three lines and I am alone here… As I said, we haven’t heard anything, but I will be in touch as soon as we do. Don’t worry, we will get the case to you eventually.”

“Eventually sounds great,” I said holding on to my temper, “ But I have been in pyjamas all day, and am travelling to another island on Sunday, do you think I’ll have my luggage by then?” DAMMIT I AM NOT AN EASY WOMAN TO CLOTHE!!! I wanted to shout.

“Oh I am sure we’ll have some more news before then. It will probably be on the next flight, they often arrive on the same flight as the one you took. Please be patient, and we will be in touch.”

“OK, thanks”

Back to pyjamas, and borrowed toothpaste, soap etc.

About 3 hours later, they called.

“We have your suitcase, do you want us to deliver it?”

No, I thought, keep it, it’s only clothes, who needs them? I am quite enjoying the Hugh Hefner pyjamas all day lounging by the pool thing I’ve got going here.

Aloud, I said, “Yes please, as soon as possible.”

“Will someone be at your home today between 8pm and midnight?”

It was already 9:30pm.

“Yes.” I answered.

“Are you sure?”

“YES!! I am in pyjamas!! Where do you think I am going to go??!!”

“OK, OK, someone will call you.” She hung up.

At 10:30 the phone rang.

“Your suitcase is here.”

“Thanks, ring the top bell, we’re on the second floor.”

“No, come downstairs and get it.”

Now that is what I call excellent customer service. Still, at least I had my case and everything in it almost within 24 hours.

As a first day to the holiday, it left something to be desired. I comforted myself with the thought that the ‘bad thing’ had happened, and so nothing else could go wrong…

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