Fragrant Theft

Caroline Hurry
Caroline Hurry

You know how it is. You endure a 12-hour flight only to discover your suitcase has been molested. Eager to dig into the spoils, the thieves have ripped off the locks and slashed the fabric.

Serenity in. Anger out. A little perspective is all you need. Eight seconds or so and you’ll be home free. You can see the doors to the arrival area. Wilton Mcube, chauffeur for hire, will usher you into an air-conditioned Audi. There’ll be classical music. Soon you will be re-united with your pets and down duvet.

But no, 25 yards from the finishing line and now an ORTIA customs official wants a good ole rummage among your personal effects. You want to say: “Don’t waste your time, Bru, the good stuff’s been nicked,” but you hold your tongue. Probably best just to co-operate.

“Care to open your suitcase for me, Miss?”

Sure. About as much as you’d care to stroll naked down Jan Smuts Avenue, which amounts to the same thing. By the time the official has unearthed to the passing public’s prurient gaze, the gussets of your unwashed knickers, your extra control compression girdle (with derriere lift) and held aloft –“What ees thees?” – the vibrating hand your husband got you in Copenhagen for your stiff neck, your dignity will be dust. Red-faced, you will be forced to demonstrate how the oscillating fingers soothe aching shoulders and other hard-to-reach places at the flick of a button, handy – hah – after a hard day’s shopping.

The official will then turn his attention to your bottles of expensive perfume and some Scotch sealed in their duty-free plastic bag. He will say he is removing them for “further examination”. You will lose your cool and tell him you know your rights.  You’ll storm off clutching the remnants of your luggage, daring him to take this further. He won’t. Richer pickings are heading his way. Compensation? Zip.

According to consumer journalist Wendy Knowler, expensive perfume tops the list of items coveted by thieves. “If you’re into high-end perfumes, whatever you do, don’t pack them into your check-in luggage when you fly.”

Option two will see you watching three lone suitcases – none of them yours – moving around the carousel like some sort of grim metaphor for your life. Everyone else has baggage, except you ­– and not in a good way.

Dang! You will reflect on the irony of having forked out an extra R90 for a plastic wrap to deter OR Tambo’s luggage looters. You will endure lectures from your husband about how he specifically said to put his valuable engineering equipment in your hand luggage.

You will write copious emails to the airline asking them to explain how their tracking system works. You will be told the airline regards your missing luggage as “a priority”. You will say: “Really? How can we tell?”

You will be ignored. In desperation, you will threaten to “go public”. Eventually, the airline will admit they have no clue where your luggage is and compensate you a fraction of what your suitcase was worth. Still, you’ll reflect, as you polish off the bottle of duty-free Scotch, at least this time you managed to hang onto your perfume.