I never thought one of my ambitions would be to carry a 37 lb (16.7 kg) kitchen mixer through the Atlanta airport. Now that I’ve done it, I must say I guess I feel a bit more accomplished. After all, it’s probably not an endeavor that anyone would want to undertake. If given another option perhaps I wouldn’t have chosen to do so either. It was the tragic mistake of misreading a decidedly misleading text about the transportation of fragile and bulky objects that led to the start of this enormously heavy adventure. The Belgian half has been talking a lot about mixers lately so we discussed the idea of seeing if it would be possible to bring one back during my recent trip to the US. A Kitchenaid mixer in Belgium is much more expensive than in the US so we thought it would be worth the effort to see if it would be possible. I looked up information on the Delta website to learn about our options. After three sets of eyes looked at the Delta website to confirm what I thought was a positive response about transporting this fragile and bulky item, I decided to purchase one and give it a go.
Well… I should have used four sets of eyes I guess because the women working at the Delta counter immediately shut down any hopes I had that the venture would be a simple one. After a bit of a discussion, the manager invited me to climb (yes, climb) over the luggage scale and have a look at the website with her. It took her a while to locate and explain exactly what she was trying to get across but in the end she was right and the website was still very misleading. I argued my point and she conceded to allow me to take the mixer as a piece of carry-on luggage. It was the only bone she was throwing me so I was going to take it.
Of course, at this point a lot of things were going through my head. How on earth am I going to accomplish this? How can I consolidate all of my carry-on luggage into one small bag? What if my bag gets lost again like it did on my travels into the US? What if they don’t allow me to carry this mixer onto the plane? What if it doesn’t make it through security? What if it doesn’t make it through customs?
The first stop was security. I waited in the line, nudging the box with my foot a few inches closer to the x-ray machine every few minutes as all eyes were on me and probably all paired with thoughts wondering if I would succeed in passing through security with such a peculiar item. The TSA agent immediately said he would need to cut open the box. I had really taped it up well when I had originally thought it would be checked as a fragile/bulky item and as he sliced through the tape it became blatantly obvious to me that this day was going to be a very long one. After a few more minutes in the x-ray machine he said it all checked out fine and handed me back the box with the flaps now open. I politely asked if he had any tape to re-secure the box and he put three measly strips of tape across the top, but they displayed the all-important TSA emblem so I now felt a bit more legitimate. I hefted the box up and made the trek to gate 2 to wait for my flight.
When it was time to board the flight the same woman that said I could take the mixer as a carry-on item was waiting by the gate. She was not my favorite person of the day and I clearly was not hers either. She gave me a pink tag used for gate checking carry-on items that I was supposed to attach to the box… a box which had no holes or loops to attach said pink tag to. I looked at her, about to ask how I was going to attach that… and she just said rather grumpily, “Oh, go ahead. Go try it.” I didn’t have to be told twice and shuffled down the ramp to the plane as fast as I could while carrying a 37 lb box. The mood improved when I was greeted by a very friendly flight attendant who assured me, “Oh honey, you’re going to love that mixer.” Then a look of concern came over his face as he realized we were flying in a very tiny plane and there was no way that box was going to fit in the overhead compartment. He took the mixer from me and shoved it between his personal suitcase and his coat in the closet at the front of the plane. Ah, relief for two hours.
We landed smoothly and I retrieved the mixer from the flight attendant’s closet at the end of the flight. Immediately after emerging from the ramp and entering the Atlanta airport I asked the woman working at the Delta desk if there was a cart that I could use to push the mixer to my next connection. She frowned a bit and said there weren’t any carts but then her face lit up as she shared her idea with me and said I could push it in a wheelchair. So yes, that’s what I did. I had only a little over an hour to make my connection for my flight to New York so I loaded up my mixer and blazed through the questioning looks coming from strangers in all directions. I felt a bit guilty while waiting in the line to take the elevator with all the actual people traveling in wheelchairs while I was repurposing their form of transportation to move my mixer… but, they all seemed content as they stared at my mixer and probably imagined what I could have possibly been thinking when deciding to take it on a plane.
I had to change terminals. This is when I had to make a decision… the sign on the door of the shuttle to the other terminals said that no carts could go on the shuttle. I had just seen another woman push an older lady into the shuttle in a wheelchair. I contemplated my dilemma, trying to decide whether my wheelchair was a cart or not. I was using it as a cart but it was still technically a wheelchair. Time wouldn’t allow me to make any other choice so I just went for it. I pushed my wheelchair into the shuttle and no one said a word. I waited 2 terminals, then 3 terminals, then 4 and I had made it. I took the elevator back up to the gate level, sharing it with a pilot and some flight attendants who all commented on how unusual it was to be traveling with a mixer. I laughed and confirmed that yes I had discovered that it was quite unusual. As I exited the elevator I saw that I had a very long walk to the gate that I needed to reach. Time was running low and I was beginning to worry that I was going to be late for boarding so I pushed the chair faster until I was jogging through the airport in my dress and high-heeled boots, pushing a mixer in a wheelchair. If I wasn’t drawing attention before then you can be sure that I was now…
I reached the gate, panting a bit from my wheelchair race. I made it with a few minutes to spare. I sat down for a couple of minutes to recuperate. The woman working at the gate announced that she would be checking bags from zones 2 and 3 on because the plane was completely full and there would not be enough room for all of the carry-on luggage. I was zone 3. I knew there was no way I was going to succeed in taking the mixer on the plane and finding space to fit it in the luggage bins. I went up to her and asked if I would need to check it and she immediately confirmed my suspicions. As she had instructed me to do, I came to the gate during pre-boarding and she printed out the tickets to check the box. She was unbelievably nice and helpful, especially in comparison with my previous experiences of the day, as she looked at me with a smile and said I could pick it up in Brussels. Finally, my mission was accomplished and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The mixer was checked and I wouldn’t have to carry it through JFK airport in New York. As a bonus, I was the first passenger to board the plane since she allowed me to procede onto the plane directly after checking the mixer.
I arrived in Brussels the morning of the next day, waited at the luggage carousel for about 15 minutes and then my mixer came down the luggage ramp and onto the carousel followed immediately by my only suitcase. This was a bad idea that ended up turning out successfully and now we have a shiny new black Kitchenaid mixer sitting on our counter that I will have a very unique appreciation for during many years to come.