Is Miami a third world country?
When I arrived in the International baggage claim in Miami International Airport off of my flight from Barbados last week, I was in for a not-so-pleasant surprise.
My bag wasn't there.
I hate checking baggage, and it seems that 98% of the time that I bite the bullet and do it, something goes terribly wrong.
Exhibit A: When checking my bag for my flight to Pensacola in May, I missed my flight because I missed the check-in deadline.
Exhibit B: When checking my bags for a visit to New Mexico, the airline lost my luggage and I had to wear my husband's clothes for two days until it arrived.
Exhibit C: Repeat occurrence of exhibit B.
Exhibit D: When arriving home from Barbados, they left my luggage on the outside baggage ramp in the rain for three hours.
But I digress.
I checked my bag because frankly, it was really freaking heavy and I didn't want to have to drag it up and down the stairs to the airplane at the Barbados airport.
So, after sneaking past the other 500 passengers arriving from various international flights to get through immigration quickly, and then sneaking past about 300 people in the US Citizens line to make it to the baggage claim to retrieve my bag...my bag wasn't there.
The clerk assured me that they were still unloading our bags and it would be there momentarily.
20 minutes later...it still wasn't there.
As I walked around the baggage claim searching for my bag - just in case someone had taken it off the carousel - I realized that the ceiling in the baggage claim area was leaking.
And the airport personnel were doing NOTHING about it. The water was not only leaking all over the floor, but onto people's luggage that had been set aside. There was literally piles of luggage sitting where the water was gathering in puddles.
I kept thinking, "surely, someone will come mop all of this water up..."
But no one did. Instead, they did this:
Yup. They stacked luggage carts around the bigger puddles.
Now, I live in Miami, but most of the people that were waiting with me in the international baggage claim were not locals. They were waiting for their luggage to go off and grab their connecting flight to wherever they were from. For most of them, this was their first experience with Miami.
It was not a great first impression.
At first, everyone was patient. They realized when they saw the incredibly long lines that it would take a while.
An hour passed, and then we all realized....our bags still weren't coming.
And the puddles were getting worse...and the airport clerks still weren't addressing the issue.
It got to the point that my new friends and I were picking up the luggage and setting it upright, since the airport clerks were just throwing them in the puddles. I saw bags and car seats get completely soaked, and I wasn't going to just sit there and watch traveler's things get ruined.
After about an hour, the airport clerks finally announced that the reason we hadn't seen our baggage yet was because it was raining outside and they had to stop the baggage operation, due to risk of lightening...
That's when it began. The other travelers started laughing and joking around that they felt like they were in a third world country.
I actually heard someone ask another person, "Is Miami a third world country? Do you remember that article a while back?"
Someone joked that they were afraid to go to the bathroom because there probably wasn't indoor plumbing.
Someone else joked that they probably closed the baggage operation because an alligator was sitting on the baggage ramp.
I started to get a little pissed off. Miami is my home! Sure, it's not perfect, but it certainly isn't a third world country!
Or is it? I had to admit, I saw their point.
I tied to explain to them that Florida has the highest rate of lightening strikes, and that's probably why they can't handle the baggage in the rain if there is lightening.
They just rolled their eyes.
After waiting for two hours, our bags still hadn't arrived. People were missing their connecting flights home.
At that point, whenever an airport employee walked through the door, the alarm went off - and they didn't bother to fix it or turn it off. One of my fellow travelers got up each time and shut the door to make the alarm go off.
I wish I were kidding.
The fact that each airport employee these guys tried to talk to didn't speak English? That didn't help my case any.
After about 2 ½ hours of sitting there, with the international baggage claim area totally flooding due to the rain and no one even bringing a mop to clean it up, I was starting to see the point being made.
I was disappointed in my city.
It broke my heart to hear these people joking "is Miami a third world country?"...then hearing that laughter leave their voices when they actually started to mean it.
I heard some say that they would never come back to Miami, that they would never fly through Miami again...it was disheartening and discouraging. I've flown out of Miami at least 20 times and this was my ONLY negative experience!
Unfortunately, it only takes one bad experience to taint a person's view on a new place.