At Boston's Logan airport, I walk over to a counter in a corner where a woman is busy on the phone. I wait for her to finish, thinking various dark thoughts of my own, then she suddenly leans over the counter, puts one hand over the mouthpiece and addresses me by name.
"Mr D'Souza," she says, "we haven't found your bags yet."
Incongruously, my first thought is: how did she know my name? (Wouldn't it be your first thought?) But I realize quickly enough that I must be one of only a few on this flight -- if any more -- whose baggage has not made it, and it can't be too difficult to put two and two together to make D'Souza.
She also tells me they don't know what has happened to my baggage. "Should I be worried?" I ask. That gets a response that, many hours later, I'm still trying to figure out.
"No," she says, "I don't see your tags in our system so there's no need to worry."
To tide me over until these bags-with-the-invisible-tags get to me, she hands me a "debit card" with which I can withdraw 50 bucks from the nearest ATM. So she says, at any rate, and so the fine print says. The nearest ATM is just outside, so I wander over there and stick it in and punch in my demand for $50. The machine thinks for many minutes, then spits out $40 and the screen tells me my remaining balance is $0.
Truthfully, I find now that I can't really give a damn about sorting this out, so I turn to the two charming friends who have come to get me and say: Take me to Costco.
(Well, not quite -- it was more like a consensus decision).
And so it is that my first stop in the US, three years after I last was here, is a major retailer with an enormous parking lot. Welcome to the United States of America. We walk past what seems like miles and miles of cars, then miles and miles of shelves selling iPods and veggies and tiramisu and panties and everything in between, and I pick up some underwear and a pair of pants. Pretty much cleans out my $40.
It's a nice pair of pants. But why is it so difficult to find male underwear in colours other than white, grey, black and dark blue? Why not parrot-green with purple stripes, for example?
First person to tell me where to find such wins a Maynard's Sour Pastille.