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By Vicki Erskine

The siren of the airport conveyor belt wails, signalling to the travellers that it is game on. They check the carousal number, adjust the direction of their trolleys and squeeze the life out of the levered handles. The stampede begins.

The plastic strips covering the hatch from which the luggage will emerge flap against each other. A passenger crouches down, peering through that magic gap, perhaps believing this action to be a key ingredient in a spell to make her bag miraculously appear.

The carousal’s revolution is 30 seconds, but she and most of the other tired travellers clearly find this too slow. What else would prevent them from spreading themselves out along the entire length of the conveyor belt? The crowd in this constricted spot is starting to heave and she takes a couple of knocks to the shins and ankles. But she remains resolute.

She is way over the yellow line that indicates optimal proximity to the conveyor belt, so that everyone can see the oncoming suitcases. She is interested only in herself and her luggage.

The first bags of the flight arrive and the passenger leans in even further, head turned, eyes narrowed. Without shifting her focus, she reaches behind and tugs her luggage trolley, already under everybody’s feet, even closer. She spots a black suitcase and takes a deep breath. Her legs are planted in the power position, a solid foundation.

She cups both hands, links them and grabs the handle as the conveyor continues on its journey. The suitcase wobbles and shifts so that its front right corner hangs precariously over the edge of the belt. The passenger, still attached to the bag but now with arms fully extended, does not lose heart. She stumbles over bags and feet as the dense crowd, all close to the belt, steps back.

Somebody leans in, grabs the suitcase for her and it thuds on her trolley. She pulls her glasses from her head and looks at the luggage label.

Not her name.

Vicki took a year off corporate life and discovered a gift for writing. She has a sharp eye for detail, and a dry sense of humour.


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