The Baggage Tag

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The office boy came over to my work table and delivered the envelope to me. I was nervous but I tried my best to hide my emotions. My hands were trembling with excitement as I opened the cover. Though I knew what it contained, I wanted to confirm it and have a look at my prized possession.

There it was tucked inside that casing, the printout that I had been longing for since my Boss had informed me that I had to travel for that official meeting in his place this time. It was indeed my flight ticket. It was the passport to my first ever air travel.

Who cared whether it wasn’t bought by me with my own money; or whether I really earned that trip or was it just because my boss fell sick. What I cared was that lady luck had just handed over to me the visa to my first ever levitated journey.

At least four photocopies of the ticket, a picture of it on my phone, at least a dozen reads of the same, if I remember correctly, and there I was on the designated day, reaching the airport, well before time, walking around with my head held high as if I am walking to the podium to receive a bravery award.

So many occasions, I must have seen people walking around flaunting a tag on their bags, and every time I had wished that I owned one of those to embellish my office bag too. A baggage tag tied around a bag was like a status symbol. It’s like one belonged to an elite club.

Have a pleasant journey, Mr. Quentin, the lady at the counter pronounced, handing over my boarding pass, guiding me to the check-in gate. As she asked me to pick up one of the baggage tags and tie it on my hand baggage, I was thrilled as if my name has finally been announced to receive the award.

I put my hand into the bowl and pulled out two of it. It was surely intentional, though I had tried my best to show that it wasn’t. I glanced at the girl at the counter and she was already engrossed in conversation with the person behind me at the queue and that convinced me that my misdemeanour has gone undetected.

Looking out for corner chair where I would be under the least glance of any prying eyes, I settled down to write my credentials on one of the baggage tags as was instructed by the lady who handed over the award to me, I slyly slipped one blank one inside my bag to be used later.

I moved on to the security check, subjected myself to the frisking after handing over my mobile phone and my baggage for the screening all the while praying that my baggage tag should survive the veracities of the conveyor belt that my baggage was subject to.

God must be really showering his mercy on me, I thought as I picked up my phone from the tray, for there it was, lying inside it, a baggage tag. As artfully and craftily as I could, the tag was in my hands along with my phone and I was sure my second transgression for the day was as successful as the first one.

I needed to despatch this extra one into my bag, for I knew I was being closely observed by the hoard of CCTV cameras around. Again looking out for a cosy corner, as I settled on the chair, I was absolutely convinced that lady luck was on my side, for there it was, one more, lying on the chair, which too was promptly despatched into my bag. Someone had already written something on it, which hardly mattered at that time.

So there I was, proud owner and possessor of four baggage tags, two written, and two blank ones, which I had the liberty to write any destination and flight number and prominently display it on my office bag while travelling in the local trains and buses.

I used them for months, while travelling on crowded local transport, made sure that I held the bag in such a way that the baggage tag was prominently seen. The blank ones, I shamelessly had decided to put in exotic locations, and random flight numbers, who bothered and who knew, I thought.

I used to be very careful of my prized possession, checking once too often whether it was intact on my bag. By the time, I had exhausted the first two; with just two more left to survive my life, as I had thought, I had grown in confidence. I added locations out of the country, without even verifying that these airlines ever flew out of the country. If I didn’t knew, none would, I audaciously assured myself.

By the time I was left with the last one of my prized possessions, I was honestly worried. I was concerned and anxious that I would be relegated to the status of a lesser citizen if I lose it.

Once as I boarded a crowded train and somehow managed to get a seat, and then realised that the baggage tag was missing from my bag. The loss of a baggage tag was like the whole world crashing down for me.

I felt that I was precipitously the same as everyone sitting around me, I did not have that aura of an aeroplane traveller any more. I just waited the crowd to thin down, and there I saw, my baggage tag was lying there on the train floor, soiled and trampled by the many feet. I picked it up as if I had found a lost fortune.

The piece of paper which the tag was had ripped off the thread, so I tried to fix it back, putting cellophane tape, which I prayed no one would notice. I tried to clean it as much as possible, would have dry-cleaned it if possible, ironed it and fixed it back on my bag.

Then one day, the inevitable finally happened, the tag wasn’t there anymore. I looked around everywhere, prayed to all the Gods and Goddesses that I could reminisce that I may find it but in vain.

I had pretended to live the life of a frequent flier while I was a ‘free-quent’ liar. After living an ascended life in heaven all these days, I was relegated back to the ground.  I was a common man once again, without a baggage tag.

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