Humanity has come a long way.
We’ve put a man on the moon, found a cure for polio, and invented banoffee pie. But, for some godforsaken reason, we have not yet figured out how to properly use a luggage carousel.
[Ok, so trigger warning: anyone who finds crowds, inane behavior, or ends-of-holidays traumatic, look away now. Because this isn’t going to be pleasant.]
Yesterday, I flew back into Sydney from Hamilton Island, where I was swanning and sunning for their annual Race Week celebrations. Still spray-tanned, smiling, and sporting Birkenstocks; I was magically managing to cling onto my holiday glow despite landing back into chilly Sydney.
I survived a lost bag, I waited in the hour and a half line at the airport, I breezed through a frantic stopover in Brisbane, and I had even smiled all through the final leg of the journey with a farting man sitting next to me.
But my good mood ended abruptly as we reached the baggage carousel.
What is it about people and baggage carousels?
The system should be simple, and yet we somehow manage to take that molehill and blow it out into Everest during an electrical storm.
Here, try this on for size:
We step off our flight and down to the baggage collection area calmly and quietly. (Also, we managed to get through the entire flight without anyone farting.)
We all gather in the ample space provided next to the luggage carousel, calmly and quietly. We may even smile at our neighbouring passengers. Calmly. Quietly.
Standing several feet back from the moving carousel, we watch (calmly and quietly) as the luggage passes through. Thanks to the organised crowd that are displaying careful consideration for other humans, we can even spot our precious suitcase from several feet away!
And then – calmly and quietly – we’ll collect our luggage and float away on a unicorn to our house that has been cleaned for our arrival, a suitcase that unpacks itself, and a glass of wine, something delicious.
Yesterday, as it always is, the luggage carousel was a 21st century war-zone.
It looked a little bit like this:
Hungover couples snapped at each other as they stuffed cheeseburger wrappers into back pockets. Frazzled mothers with screaming toddlers on their hips struggled to wrestle suitcases off the carousel. Elderly couples were elbowed out of the way by gum-chewing teens with arsecracks hanging out.
Even the carousel itself sagged under the weight of overstuffed bags held together with old belts, boxes containing cheap holiday purchases, and knocked-about prams that spewed out baby toys and diaper bags.
I swear, you could almost see the glittery post-holiday glow evaporate off me like steam.
Standing back, I shoved my boyfriend into the fray. He is a patient chap, and is unlikely to bite someone’s arm in frustration. We’re different in that way.
Like every experience I have with the baggage carousel, I marvelled at the stupidity of the situation.
The grumpy, post-holiday crowd jostled and elbowed their way to the front of the carousel, with most leaning over it as if they were awaiting the second coming.
MY BAG, they seemed to be internally screaming, WHERE IS MY PRECIOUS BAG?
And then someone would actually spot their bag, and all hell would break loose.
They would crowd-surf to the front of the murderous mob, yank violently at their suitcase handle, and wrestle it up and over several people…all of whom refused to budge. Those who were polite enough to move? Well, they had their prized position filled before they could take a breath. Dog-eat-dog world, this baggage business.
Like a prehistoric hunter dragging their catch back to the cave; the poor person would emerge out the other side, panting, sweating, a crazed look in their eye.
I looked back at them. I’m so sorry, I tried to tell them telepathically, I know what that was like. Run and never look back.
So, question: why do we do it?
According to psychologist Jeremy McCarthy, it comes down to the basic human behaviour of competition.
“The problem is that people are not thinking in a collectivist/collaborative mindset as they arrive to the carousel,” says Jeremy on his blog, Psychology of Wellbeing.”They are thinking competitively, with each one wanting to be the first to get his or her bag.”
(NO SH*T, JEREMY. If there was an Olympic Games of Baggage Grabbing, I can guarantee someone would end up dead.)
Jeremy goes on to compare this kind of irrational behavior to that of lion seals. Because ~science.
“In The Darwin Economy by economist Bob Frank, he describes how lion seals, whilst competing to be larger than their competition, all become morbidly overweight. He explains it as a race to the top that is perfectly sensible for each lion seal…but nevertheless it’s destructive for the whole environment.”
So there you go: lion seals get fat, and humans overcrowd the baggage carousel.
It’s irrational and insane and undoubtedly going to spell the species downfall…but we just can’t help ourselves.
The baggage carousel is a delicate ecosystem, my friends. We must respect each other’s space. I beg you, don’t be that person having a coronary because you can’t reach your suitcase. It’s not going anywhere.
There is not a giant shredding machine at the other end of the carousel that will munch up your bag. There is not a black market ring of baggage thieves who are looking to pawn off your dirty knickers online. There is no gaping hole to the centre of the earth that will swallow your suitcase whole.
It’s just going to go around that damn carousel again.
Oh, and next time? I’m only bringing carry-on.
If this article has left you twitching, watch this. It helped me.
Life Hacks: Six soothing solutions to de-stress.