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The luggage conveyor blues

[Written Monday, posted Tuesday night; I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying.] We wondered aloud: Why in the world were 230 or so people flying 12 hours from Paris to Madagascar on a Sunday night? No fancy deboarding platforms here like the glass and steel ones in Paris. A-Town is downright down-home in this Indian Ocean neighborhood, so we exit the plane via a stairway/ramp and pull our rolling carry-ons several hundred feet down the tarmac in the cool night air, which smells like burning wood (because there had been local fires that day in the countryside). The terminal looks like a cross between Abilene Regional Airport and the Greyhound bus station downtown. Several dignitaries took us to a special welcoming salon (room), greeted us and gathered our passports to whisk them through customs while we watched the luggage conveyor for our bags. The reason they tell you to always pack a change of clothes in your carry-on bag became crystal clear: the travel fairies either were asleep on the job or were playing a cruel joke in the middle of the Madagascar night, because only 5 of our 24 travelers got all their bags. Close to 30 suitcases were missing from the flight, and 25 of them belonged to the ACU contingent. The five Tyson family members were batting 1 for 10 in this Samsonite derby. Videographer/producer Ryan Britt was left with not much more than a toothbrush when he opted to carry on his HD camera equipment instead of clothes. Vicki Anderson, Karen Rich, Pam Money, Jerry Strader and moi struck out entirely. Part of the luggage contained 125 pounds of full-color Commencement programs we didn’t have time to print in Madagascar, plus press kits we prepared for the local and national media. We quickly overwhelmed the tiny baggage claims office in the terminal with our paperwork and wondered if ACU’s first Commencement to be held halfway across the world would be its most casual on record, hosted by two dozen rumpled tourists wearing the same underwear – or each other’s – for 7 days. If something doesn’t happen by Saturday, I have two programs and 1 press kit in my carry-on to divide between the expected Commencement crowd of 400 like some New Testament miracle involving too few loaves and fishes. If Air France is willing, maybe this scenario will end up just as well as that one. It will be interesting to find out just how. By the time we check into our rooms and get to bed, it’s 3 a.m.. Our trip totaled 27 hours, most of it in the friendly skies.