(part one of my travelogue Dork by Northwest)
The monitor says carousel 18.
What carousel is that one over there?
As I trudged through Sea-Tac's cavernous baggage claim area, I passed by a black man who pointed at the University of Michigan hoodie I was wearing and exclaimed, "Michigan! Me too! Gooooo blue!"
I acknowledged his remark with a half-smile and kept walking.
[surveys the area]
Is this the right carousel?
This area is empty, and that information kiosk says "United" on it.
But that guy over there was on my flight, so I'm not crazy.
Let me check the monitor again.
The monitor said carousel 18.
When I exited the jetway, the piece of paper taped to the door told me to pick up my luggage at carousel 11.
I walked over to carousel 11.
There are people here, but no luggage.
I spent 20 minutes oscillating between the two carousels before locating my luggage.
During that time, I passed by the black Michigan alumnus (manning an information table opposite carousel 15) several times. One such crossing, he asked me, "Where in Michigan you from?"
I debated in my head whether to tell him I actually grew up in California.
Oh, what the hell…
"Oak Park," I replied.
The black Michigan alumnus stared blankly at me.
Is that even a city in Michigan?
Isn't it in Illinois?
Why couldn't I have just said "Detroit" or "Ann Arbor"?
Can't even pretend you're from Michigan correctly…
Fortunately, Oak Park is indeed a city in Michigan, and the black Michigan alumnus soon nodded and said, "Yeah, I know where that is," to which he added, "I'm from Detroit."
Big surprise there.
"Cool," I replied, and walked off to check on a carousel.
Phew. Close one…