November 12 2012 by Sam Lowe
A few years ago, while waiting at the baggage carousel at O'Hare in Chicago, the man next to me started some idle chit-chat by saying that his wife had once tried to settle the issue of spotting her suitcase as it circled past by adorning it with purple ribbons. He said she figured that nobody would use purple ribbons to mark their luggage. Everybody always relies on red or checkered or polka dot, she figured.
She figured wrong. Unbeknownst to her, a group of women calling themselves something like "the Purple Hat Ladies" was on the same flight. And each one of them had marked her own suitcase with purple ribbons. He said it took, in his words, "for-EVER" to get bags and owners reunited. He may have exaggerated a tad, but I sympathized.
My wife, Lyn, and I have tried a variety of methods to reduce the problems associated with hoisting the wrong suitcase off the carousel, then having to put it back when the name tag and your name don't match. Especially when the wrong suitcase you're trying to put back seems to be filled with lead plumbing fixtures. We have had some success with plaid ribbons but are forced to live with the slight, although real, suspicion that someday we'll be waiting at a carousel right next to a 45-man traveling Scottish bagpipe troupe waiting for their appropriately marked bags.
On a recent trip, I saw what may be the absolute cure for MBS (Mistaken Baggage Syndrome) when a set of pink suitcases came tumbling down the carousel chute. Pink gets your attention for two reasons: First, it's pink. Second, it's pink. I did, however, give some thought to maybe purchasing something similar, but only briefly because as I stood there pondering going pink, this scenario hit me: You'll be dragging that suitcase all the way through the terminal where hundreds of people will see you and they'll all look at you funny and little children will point at you and say things like, "Look, Mommy, that man's piggy has wheels."
So in view of all those pitfalls, we have opted for simpler identification methods. Before we leave, we take a piece of chalk and draw a huge "L" on both sides of all our luggage. Then we tie plaid ribbons to the handles. Then we replace the leather name tags with bright chartreuse ones. Then we stick SpongeBob SquarePants decals onto several key areas.
Then we wait until everyone else has procured their luggage so nobody sees us reclaim ours. SpongeBob is SO two-thousand-sixish.