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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Survival Skills Are Needed At Baggage Claim

The hugs, handshakes, smooches and giddy “there’s that baby!” squeals had already happened.

Those everyday scenes had been played out at an arrival gate at the Spokane International Airport Friday morning.

Now it was time for the passengers off United flight 1055 from San Francisco to descend into the dark pit of human malevolence.

Time to head to baggage claim.

You know the scene. The buzzer sounds, the carousel chugs to life and, like starved lab rats expecting a food pellet, people jam in against the rim of the luggage conveyor until everyone else’s access is blocked.

At baggage claim, body language says something ugly. People bump. People shove. It’s where “excuse me” is a threat. It’s where nice guys finish about two minutes after the absurdly assertive suitcase cowboys who turn grabbing bags into urban rodeo.

It’s the sort of people-watching that fuels fantasies of living way off in the woods.

At least that’s how your Being There correspondent has come to view the experience. But strangely enough, others contend that dealing with baggage claim isn’t quite the bloodbath some, ahem, make it out to be. At least not in Spokane.

So there was only one thing to do. Grab a seat beneath the fluorescent lights, smile at the ignored “Many bags look alike …” sign, get out a notebook and watch.

Sure enough, passengers from flight 1055 and some of the people picking them up immediately staked out near-the-chute positions around the carousel. And one intense young man in a Mickey Mouse T-shirt did whack an old lady on the knee as he yanked what looked like a body bag off the conveyor.

But the truth is, overall behavior wasn’t especially appalling. OK, one guy totally blocked the white courtesy phone by parking his stacked-high push-cart right in front of it. And yes, it probably wasn’t necessary for all seven men and women greeting the fellow in the black cowboy hat to stand right next to the carousel.

Still, most people were easygoing. Maybe it was a relaxed sandals-and-shades vacation vibe. Or maybe it just hadn’t been a crowded flight.

But then a different buzzer sounded. Another baggage carousel jerked into action. And you could see it. Passengers off Northwest flight 611 from Minneapolis started getting on their game faces.

Maybe this would be a real skirmish.

, DataTimes MEMO: Being There is a weekly feature that visits gatherings in the Inland Northwest.

Being There is a weekly feature that visits gatherings in the Inland Northwest.

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