Our travel back from Kauai last month started off with what can only be described as a nuclear explosion. It was hot, and muggy, and pretty much a total disaster, with the exception that our flight managed to make it back to the mainland without a major malfunction.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to check our bag, get ourselves and the carry-ons through security, then settle down before taking our overnight flight home.  We thought we’d hit a glitch when the rental car return wasn’t located at the airport terminal, but a simple internet search solved that problem. So we turned in the car, rode the shuttle back to the terminal, and began jumping through the hoops involved in travel.

When we stepped off the shuttle we had a head count ready: 4 people, 8 carry-ons, and 1 large suitcase to be checked.  With everything in tow, we were ready to begin.

First we moved to the inspection station for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  When leaving Hawaii for the mainland all luggage to be checked must first pass inspection to prevent the spread of hazardous fruit flies and other dangerous plant insects and diseases.  So we hauled our suitcase onto the conveyor belt, picking it up on the other side once it had been scanned and cleared for travel.

After checking the head count we moved on to the airline check-in counter – 4 people, 8 carry-ons, and 1 cleared suitcase to be checked.  I mentioned it was hot and muggy, right?  I guess that describes it, if by “hot and muggy” you mean “feels like you’re traipsing through hell in a sweatsuit while hauling heavy luggage.”

We stepped up to the counter, checked in, got our bag weighed and tagged, then collected our boarding passes for the flight.  This was when the shit really hit the fan.

We’d turned toward the terminal when what can only be called the luggage nazi stopped us.  She then motioned to the device designed to measure the size of your carry-on luggage.  You know the one – the metal bin with the marked dimensions.  The device you drop your carry-on in that I’ve never seen a single person use, ever.

I’d like to take a moment here to point out that we flew this airline’s same flights back in December/January.  That would be six months ago.  Even better, we’d flown that same airline to the island six days earlier.  SIX DAYS.  You know what we flew with?  4 people, 8 carry-ons, and 1 checked suitcase.  And, shockingly enough, we were using the same luggage leaving the island that we used on our way in.

Except now the luggage nazi was requiring us to place our rolling carry-ons into the measurement bin. This would be the luggage I bought two years ago specifically for international travel, because their dimension restrictions were more stringent than domestic and I knew we’d need to use the luggage for various trips.

Lo and behold, 3 of our 4 rolling carry-ons didn’t fit the sign’s required dimensions.

Oh, Lord.

Suddenly the temperature in that airport hell cranked up about 50 degrees.

Have you ever tried arguing with an airport employee?  It’s a delicate dance these days, because you can only get so agitated while presenting your case or suddenly you’re dealing with a whole new level involving airport security.

Long story short, the luggage nazi would not budge.  It didn’t matter that we’d flown to the island with those same bags as carry-ons.  It didn’t matter that we were surrounded by luggage that was as big or bigger than ours.  It. Didn’t. Matter.

There are very few times when I can literally watch BrightSide’s blood pressure rising, but that was definitely one of them.  When it became clear that she was going to force us to check three additional bags (which, coincidentally, earned the airline three additional baggage fees) I plopped myself down on the cement to begin shifting the belongings that I wouldn’t allow them to check.  She wasn’t terribly pleased – I don’t think I was what she’d consider out of the way – but I didn’t really give a flying…well, I didn’t much care at that point.

I finally got the rolling carry-ons ready to check, except you can’t check luggage that hasn’t been cleared through the agriculture prescreening.  (Insert deep breaths here.)  BrightSide left to get the extra bags scanned, T-man (of course) chose that moment to need to use the bathroom, and I was still sitting on the cement praying for deliverance from this airport hell.

BS returned, got the extra bags weighed and tagged, then removed them from the scale and put the luggage claim slip inside the top pocket of one.  Right about then it struck me that the claim ticket was the only thing that would help us if they lost one of those freaking bags, so he unzipped the top pocket to pull the ticket out.  Except that’s not allowed.  Because once it’s cleared through agricultural inspection and tagged the bag can’t be opened again.

Sweet Jesus in heaven.

We blinked at the counter agent as she insisted that BrightSide couldn’t do that, and I was busy thinking “but he’ll have to open the bag again to put the slip back in” so that didn’t make any sense.  We looked at her and asked couldn’t she just witness the fact that he only removed the luggage claim slip but oh no, that’s not how it works.  CRAP.

This was when the luggage nazi literally walked BrightSide and the (tampered with) carry-on bag back to agricultural screening to get it cleared.  Again.  It was only after we’d jumped through all these hoops that we were permitted to drop the cleared bags off to be loaded onto the plane, go through security, scan our carry-ons that we were allowed to keep through a second agricultural x-ray, and finally settle in at the gate.

So the work I’ve been doing on accepting reality and being zen and not tilting at windmills, that was all pretty damned hard to pull off after this airport drama.  And the next 11 hours of travel didn’t help much. Watching people roll their enormous carry-ons down the airplane’s aisle in Hawaii added fuel to the fire, and every person we saw for the rest of the trip with a carry-on the size of the ones we’d checked just pissed me off more.  By the time we landed back home I may have finally let it go.  Maybe.

Or maybe not.  Because just writing about it has made my chest clench up again.

Guess I’d better keep working on that zen thing after all.