Why I'll never forget to use this luggage scale again

Some years ago, I chanced upon an item that affords a reliable manner in which to weigh luggage at home before reaching the airport. This inexpensive handheld scale is a godsend as I cannot bear the humiliation of having my luggage adorned with an excess baggage sticker or the mocking derision of airline personnel in dour uniforms who exhibit the kind of supercilious demeanor found in public-facing workers with the power to ruin my life with the tap of a keyboard.

I'll tell you a story about the one time I forgot to weigh my luggage before arriving at the check-in counter. It was 500 grams over the limit. The counter clerk told me I would have to pay $200. I grudgingly handed him my credit card, demanding a bill of lading document to acknowledge receipt of my cargo for shipment.

I watched with mounting suspicion as the staff member filled out the bill of lading (with a Sharpie, no less!). I realized how easy it would be for the spiteful clerk to alter the bill of lading and have the airline deliver my luggage to some empty lot or a warehouse in some removed location.

I said, "Wait a minute… if my bag doesn't arrive at my destination, how will I get the matter resolved?"

"We'll be the ones to contact you about it," replied the sleepy-eyed clerk as he tossed the hastily scrawled document over the counter.

I skimmed across pages and pages of incomprehensible legalese rendered in four-point type. I didn't see my name anywhere on the document.

"But my name isn't even on this. How do you know I'll get it?"

"Oh, don't worry. We know what you look like. You'll get it."

A feeling of ominousness began to creep into my bones.

I said, "Why don't I keep the bag with me on the flight. I have an aisle seat, so I can keep it on my lap."

The clerk said, "Sir, I'm sorry. I cannot allow you to keep your bag on your lap. It's against FAA regulations."

"But that doesn't make any sense. Since when can't an airline staff member bend the rules a little?" I casually slid a $5 bill across the counter, glancing over both shoulders to make sure the coast was clear.

The clerk flicked his eyes at my "deal sweetener" and said coldly, "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave the counter."

I left the counter and stood by an information desk, and the staff member pretended to become busy helping other passengers in line. I politely shouted at the clerk to help me, but he turned away to speak with a worker carrying a large cage containing a monkey.

I went and found the police, but they refused to help. They said the airline and I had a contract, and it was too late to void it. They said I could pursue restitution after the fact.

As it turned out, the suitcase was not at the luggage carousel when I arrived at the Warsaw Chopin Airport. I eventually recovered it, but it was only after I had spoken on the telephone with a very unpleasant representative from the airline and threatened to sue the airline for breach of contract and got him to admit that the airline is a crooked operation that thinks it has the right to commit any fraud without consequence. I told him how I felt about being swindled and that he had better be honest with me or I would sue him personally — only then did I receive my luggage.

Or, maybe I didn't. I suspect I was given a counterfeit bag with articles of clothing and toiletries that closely matched the originals. That seems likely. Perhaps they really did send my luggage to some empty lot or a warehouse in some removed location.