Tony Woodlief | Author

Dear United: Next time how about you kiss me first?

As I bribe my children with candy to find me one of the two dozen sippy cups cleverly hidden by the baby throughout the house, it occurs to me that I have a solution for that institution remarkably like children in its propensity to lose things and then disavow responsibility for them: the airlines.

After waiting at the Wichita airport until 12:30 this morning, only to be told that I was not a lucky contestant in United’s “Who Will Actually Get His Luggage Back From Us” Sweepstakes, I rented a car (traveler’s tip #437: never leave your truck keys in your luggage) and drove home for four hours of sleep before bringing Wife back to the airport for her much-needed R&R trip to an undisclosed but quite sandy resort. This leaves me the undisputed king of my castle, the lord of my manor, the suddenly single father of four boys who can smell the opportunities in a parent’s disorganization the way bankers sniff out federal pork.

To sum up, in the last ten hours I have lost my luggage containing one suit, one pair running shoes, one pair of those slacks with the secretly stretchy waist so you can load up at the buffet table without anyone knowing, one of my few ties that actually matches something, my Eastern Orthodox prayer book, various and sundry toiletries, two power cables, the pens I ripped off from a fancy hotel to give to the boys in lieu of an actual gift, and my only glasses.

Oh, and also a wife.

I’m not sure this newfound domestic authority is worth it. But you know me — other than broadcast my issues on the World Wide Web, I’m not one to complain. I make lemonade out of lemons. Perhaps margaritas. Or a Tom Collins after I move up the kids’ bedtime to 4pm. The point is, as I wait hopelessly by the phone like a girl who puts out on the first date, for that call from United that will never come (traveler’s tip #438: when they try to take your roll-on bag at the ramp, go ahead and dump it in the trash can, because destroying the contents yourself at least preserves a modicum of dignity), I am realizing that yelling at four boys for the next four days is not an efficient way to make things happen. This is not what I’ve learned about management, after all.

Which brings me to my airline solution. Here I am in the kitchen, trying to make omelets. Baby Isaiah is underfoot, asking in that endearing yet maddening way he has, over and over and over and over, for “juice, juice, juice, juice, Juice, Juice, JUICE, JUICE, JUICE!, JUICE!!, JUICE!!!” There are no sippy cups to be found. There is the one we bought from Wal-Mart, the one that tears up like one of those women on The View if you look at it wrong or, God forbid, put liquid in it. But no reliable sippy cups. So I tell the boys to find me a sippy cup. There is little action in response to my request. Instead they meander about much like, well, a United airline employee when you call him to ask where your bloody luggage is.

And then it hits me: yelling won’t work. Why do I know this? Because they are my sons, and yelling never worked for me. Try out a carrot, something inside me says. No, not an actual carrot. Something sweeter. “Alright,” I shout, “first boy to find me a sippy cup gets a piece of candy!”

Suddenly they’re like a posse tracking a mess of cattle rustlers. Within 60 seconds I have a sippy cup. Within another 30 seconds, the baby has juice, ending his infernal auditory siege. If there’s a problem, as Vanilla Ice sagely noted, yo, I will in fact discern a solution to it.

So how about this with the airlines. Instead of paying them the full amount right up front, we pay them 90 percent of the fare. The remaining 10 percent comes due once we have all our belongings in hand. I wonder if then it will occur to someone at United to start using those little sticky bar codes to track luggage, the way UPS tracks boxes. Or give ground crews bonuses based on luggage successfully delivered. Or, who knows, to simply start acting like they care when they lose a man’s luggage.

Not that I’m bitter. And that’s all for now. Busy day here on the Woodlief ranch. Once I get these omelet dishes washed I’m going to teach the boys how Daddy likes his drinks mixed.

On Key

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