A TSA interaction on my return trip

The following is an unillustrated account of the Computer Saga. 


The flight from Auckland to Los Angeles was a bit bumpy and the rear of the plane seemed bumpiest. Though there was ample leg-room and plenty of fresh air on this flight I did not sleep much or very well. I arrived at LAX tired but with a couple hours to make my transfer. I eventually had my luggage and exited the arrivals room without detailed inspection. I rechecked my bags onto the United flight to Boston and then walked the half-mile or so to the United terminal. I still seemed to have plenty of time to get a boarding pass and pass through security.
I followed the directions on the e-ticket check-in screen and found that they required me to ignore certain statements (about luggage) before I could get a boarding pass. With a little help I eventually had a boarding pass and was then sent outside the building to get in a line that ran well down the sidewalk. I was about fiftieth and soon there were another fifty behind me. This line eventually re-entered the building and the security counter was just inside. Time was now getting a bit tight. 
My plane was to board at about 8:15 and depart about 8:40. The line was very slow and after an hour the fifty people ahead of me had moved through security and I could look in the door to the security area. In front of me were two portly couples traveling together, all on telephones. They had large carry-on bags and seemed oblivious to all proceedings, I just knew they were going to have troubles with security. The four men behind me had been in New Zealand for a fire-fighters rodeo of some sort. They were also portly and looking forward to getting home.
The line was very slow. I asked the staff that was in the area if this line and our pace was unusual. They laughed and said that it was often longer and slower. It appears that there are several United flights between 8:30 and 9:00am each day and this is a situation that happens daily. Increasing staffing for a short time each day does not seem to be an option. 
My plane had now been boarding for more than ten minutes. I was beginning to get a bit antsy. It turned out that there was only one screening unit staffed and if they had to search or re-examine a person or a bag the whole line stopped. It turned out that the four people ahead of me had a few bottles in their bags and they were searched and their luggage sent through the machine again. 
However, by the time that happened the next three people, me included, had put their stuff on the belt. I had a briefcase, a big lens, shoes, and the laptop. These items were proceeding forward when it was determined the foursome needed further scrutiny. They were scrutinized and then their luggage was reinserted in the stream to be examined one more time. Of course to do this the luggage had to be stuck in the flow and in my case that was disastrous. Their luggage separated my bins from each other.
By now there was a tectonic mess at the exit of the x-ray machine. Luggage was jamming against luggage and there were bags lifting up and rolling back. People were looking for their items and the jostling was getting serious. The inspector-fellow was still opening bags and looking for the bottles inside. Everyone was worried about their flights as many flights had been boarding; the line was slow, and people were very tired of being in line.
Even with the continued examination of the four people and the jumble of small luggage,I saw my bags begin to exit the x-ray machine. I grabbed the brief case, slipped on my shoes, grabbed the lens, and briskly started off to the gate. My gate was 83 and 84 is the furthest one. When I arrived at the seating area outside the gate there was no one there – no travelers and no staff. I looked around and found someone who scanned my boarding pass and I entered the jet-way to the plane. We took off moments later. It was nice to have an on-time departure and even nicer to be aboard. As we climbed out of LA I dozed a few minutes, and then reached for my briefcase where I carry the laptop. It wasn’t in its slot.
I called the flight attendant and told her. She scooted up front to the captain and they called the United Airlines people and the TSA in Los Angeles and asked the TSA staff if they had recently found a computer. She soon returned and said they had looked in two of the three security areas and there was no computer. I had been through Door H and that was the one area where they had not looked. When you are in line for an hour, outdoors and moving slower than a glacier, things like Door H are observed hundreds of time. On the slip of paper that had been sent to the plane from United back in Los Angeles were two telephone numbers and she suggested I call them as soon as I could.
Eventually, and with no further news, I landed in Boston and found my luggage. Fran was in the cell-phone-lot and I called her and we started off to the Cape. My story was told and I tried the phone numbers on the slip of paper. It was Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles and the answering machine said they would be open Monday morning; I left a detailed message and promised to call again. I waited until noon on Monday to call them at 9am Pacific time. I reached the answering machine again and left a similar message. Later that day a call came in from Fernando at TSA lost-and-found. He seemed to want me to call him again so I did. 
I provided lots of information on the computer and he seemed to be jotting it all down. Later I called again and he implied, but never stated, that he had the computer in the lost-and-found. He was very quiet, sort of mumbled, and was in no way offering information – but he was there and seemed to be involved (but how I wondered). Optimism is a way of life for me but getting the computer back seemed a bit to much to hope for. I asked what I could do and he said I could come in and get the machine (if they had it). I offered to send a mailing label (pre-paid UPS) and he said that would be OK. I still was never told they actually had the machine.
I sent the 2-day-air mailing label by fax and hoped it would soon be attached to a box holding the laptop and on its way to Massachusetts. Another two days passed; Fernando had stopped answering his telephone and the tracking option offered by UPS could do nothing but tell me that I had purchased the pre-paid label. I was as patient as possible overall; but Fran and I decided to change numbers, codes, and passwords just in case the machine was being taken apart by a gang of bad guys who intended to steal all the information in the computer and become a middle-class, rather mundane, couple from Cape Cod.
One morning UPS told me that at 10:23pm the night previous, the package went from Los Angeles to Ontario California. It was great to know there was a package. I had paid for two-day-air so I was hoping to see the package soon. It then went to Sparks, Nevada, and then to Louisville, Kentucky. The next day it went to Windsor Locks, Connecticut where it spent a quiet weekend. On Monday it came to Yarmouth and on Tuesday the package arrived at my door. (Incidentally two-day-air does not count either Saturday or Sunday as one of the days – as it was posted at 10:23pm it was actually on UPS’s second day that it arrived – though the fifth calendar date) I paused in the raking of oak leaves and brought the box indoors.
The tape was sliced, the box opened and the computer inside was mine! It was a miracle. I do lead a great life – but this was almost beyond belief. A friend of a friend was a State Trooper stationed at Logan Airport and she has very few good things to say about how lost (and left behind) goods are handled by TSA staff. However, it was my computer and it was here. The arrival day was Tuesday; the tenth day after I passed through Los Angeles International Airport.
Overall I am very pleased with the result but I do wonder: why was there only one security line when there were several flights taking off at about the same time; why it was so hard to reach and communicate with the TSA staff; why it took two days to post; why UPS counts so differently from me, and …. how I could be so dumb as to forget to get the computer no matter what the circumstances.

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