A 10-minute play by
Edward Crosby Wells

1 M/1 either, Customer service counter, 10-minutes.
An irate traveler is missing his luggage. A customer service representative tries inventive ways to pacify him. The man’s weapons are demands and threats, however the clerk remains imperviously invincible.

MAN and CLERK (M or F)  are at an airline service counter, conversation in progress.

CLERK: I told you, sir. It’s almost here. You’ll only have to wait until the plane from Dallas arrives.

MAN: (Shouting.) Why is my baggage in Dallas?

CLERK: Please, sir. Shouting will get you nowhere. Besides, it is not in Dallas. (Looking at watch.) It’s in the air.

MAN: I’m going to sue you!

CLERK: That will be nice, sir.

MAN: Did you hear what I said?

CLERK: With both ears, sir. You’re going to sue me, wasn’t it?

MAN: Are you retarded or something . . . backwards?

CLERK: My life is so backwards that I find myself standing on my head when I least expect it. In the service industry it is often required.

MAN: Standing on your head?

CLERK: I’m very good at it, sir. I find myself in that position one or two times a day. Shall I show you? (Begins bending to show him.)

MAN: Stop it. (Looking around.) You’ll embarrass me.

CLERK: I cannot imagine that, sir. You can only embarrass yourself, sir.

MAN: I’ve never embarrassed myself.

CLERK: As you say, sir. Most people do, you know. I see it every day.

MAN: I am not most people. I’m a person who is missing his baggage.

CLERK: Most people would find that a distinct advantage. It lightens their load . . . makes them more agreeable.

MAN: All I want is my baggage. I’m not here to be agreeable.

CLERK: Indeed, you’re not.

MAN: You’re taking a tone with me, aren’t you?

CLERK: I certainly am not, but if I were taking a tone I wouldn’t know where to put it.

MAN: I can tell you where to put it!

CLERK: And I would gladly, sir. Then you shouldn’t mind if I bend over backwards for you. (Starts to bend backwards.)

MAN: Stop it! Are you insane?

CLERK: It’s this job, sir. It’s required of me.

MAN: What am I supposed to do without my baggage, huh?

CLERK: It’s almost here, sir. It will be here within two hours.

MAN: I have a meeting in one.

CLERK: Will it be a short meeting?

MAN: Relatively.

CLERK: Relative to what?

MAN: To how long I’ve been waiting for my baggage.

CLERK: The plane will arrive in almost no time—barring incident.

MAN: Incident? What kind of incident?

CLERK: The usual. One never knows. Chances are everything is honky-dory, or is it hunky-dory?

MAN: I don’t know.

CLERK: That’s too bad. I’d hate to be the purveyor of ill-used words.

MAN: Honky and hunky mean two entirely different things.

CLERK: Yes they do. Anyway, barring “incident,” your baggage should be on the plane.

MAN: Should? Aren’t you certain?

CLERK: Unless there is an incident, as I said, or there was a mix-up, sir.

MAN: (Shouts.) Mix-up!

CLERK: Please keep your voice down, sir. It could be an act of God.

MAN: What could be an act of God?

CLERK: Just about anything, sir. MAN: What has God got to do with my baggage?

CLERK: Well . . . maybe the time is up for everybody on the flight and . . . oops . . . the plane goes boom. Are you a God-fearing man, sir?

MAN: Maybe.

CLERK: Well then, maybe you weren’t meant to have that baggage. You certainly won’t need it when you meet the man upstairs.

MAN: I have no intention of meeting any man upstairs.

CLERK: Almost everyone does, but I can see how you might be an exception . . . Now. Should I stand on my head?

MAN: Go ahead. Stand on your head. What do I care? I’d rather talk to your feet anyway.

CLERK: Too late. Maybe you would like to watch me bite my tongue, instead?

MAN: Do you actually work here?

CLERK: Where’s that, sir?

MAN: Here, here. Are you really a customer service clerk?

CLERK: Indeed I am. I have a badge to prove it. (Proudly showing badge.) See?

MAN: (Spotting something some distance away.) What the . . . What is going on over there?

CLERK: Over where, sir.

MAN: Down there? (Indicating.)

CLERK: (Turns to look.) Oh, that’s nothing, sir.

MAN: Nothing? He’s beating him with a piece of baggage.

CLERK: They do that sometimes.

MAN: You’re crazy!

CLERK: I certainly am, sir. Crazy for Italian food and hot dogs from a cart.

MAN: Look. There’s a man being beaten with his baggage by a Sky Cap.

CLERK: They do it all the time. At least once or twice a day. Death by baggage.

MAN: What are you talking about?

CLERK: D-B-B. Comes with the territory. Sometimes those Sky Caps just get overwhelmed by all that—

MAN: Baggage. You’re kidding.

CLERK: I never kid, sir. Sometimes Sky Caps forget to turn the other cheek. Would you like to see me turn the other cheek? MAN: I’d like you to call security.

CLERK: Is that man being beaten your brother, sir?

MAN: No.

CLERK: You’re uncle, your father or your grandmother?

MAN: What is wrong with you?

CLERK: I’m trying to establish a relationship between you and the victim . . . some sort of connection.

MAN: There isn’t any.

CLERK: Please excuse my impertinence, sir—but if there is no connection between you and the victim, why is it any business of yours?

MAN: That man is a human being and he’s being abused.

CLERK: You care about human beings?

MAN: I course I do!

CLERK: That comes as quite a shocker, sir.

MAN: It shouldn’t.

CLERK: Can’t argue that.

MAN: You don’t know what it’s like to be abused in a public place.

CLERK: Is that different from being abused in a private place?

MAN: You know what I mean.

CLERK: Presumption has never been my strong suit, sir. (Repeatedly turns head, showing his/her profile first one way and then the other.)

MAN: What are you doing?

CLERK: I’m turning the other cheek, sir.

MAN: Why?

CLERK: That’s what I am paid to do.

MAN: You’re paid to make yourself look like an idiot?

CLERK: I don’t think I make myself look like an idiot. Do you see me that way?

MAN: Almost, if not totally. And stop turning your head. You’re drawing attention.

CLERK: I don’t think so, sir. That man down the concourse appears to be dead. Ah, yes. The medic is zipping up the bag as we speak. Death by baggage.

MAN: He was murdered by a Sky Cap.

CLERK: It wasn’t his fault, sir.

MAN: Of course it was! He beat the man to death with his own baggage!

CLERK: Sky Caps do not receive the same training as customer service representatives. It’s the fault of the system, sir. Bad training. That’s why they didn’t arrest him. See? He’s walking away and the police are leaving. Look at all that stuff that was in his baggage. People have no consideration. They leave all their stuff behind for someone else to clean up.

MAN: This is insane. People getting away with murder.

CLERK: Only the Sky Caps, sir.

MAN: What do you mean?

CLERK: It’s common place, sir. It’s all a matter of training. Would you like me to apologize profusely? I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, sir. I understand your predicament and I am truly very sorry. Have you had enough?

MAN: I want to get out of this insane asylum!

CLERK: I am so very, very sorry you see it that way, sir. How can I ever make it up to you? How about a free ticket to down under? I hear it’s very pleasant this time of year.

MAN: I don’t want a ticket to down under. I don’t want a ticket to anywhere. I want my baggage. Where is my baggage?

CLERK: It isn’t here, sir. I told you, it’s almost here. It went to Dallas. Shall I call a Sky Cap to assist you?

MAN: NO! No Sky Cap!

CLERK: He can assist you when the plane from Dallas arrives.

MAN: I don’t want any assistance. I just want my baggage! Can you tell me why it went to Dallas? I was not even going in that direction.

CLERK: Why indeed. I’ve never thought Dallas an agreeable destination. But then one man’s paradise is another man’s hell.

MAN: Or the other way around.

CLERK: If you look at it backwards. Did I tell you that you look very smart? Nice shirt. Great shoes. Quite the fashion plate, aren’t you?

MAN: I try to be.

CLERK: And you succeed splendidly. I admire you, sir. I am required to wear this same uniform day after day. But then that is why it is called a uniform, isn’t it?

MAN: Look! I just want—

CLERK: (Removing can of brown shoe wax from under the counter.) Yes, yes, yes. I know what you want, sir. And you deserve to have it all. (Applies a bit of the brown shoe wax to the tip of his nose.)

MAN: What are you doing?

CLERK: Brown-nosing, sir. It’s one of the things we are taught. In fact, it is the first thing we are taught. I think I’m going to bite my tongue now. Stand back.

MAN: Stand back?

CLERK: I don’t want to get blood on you, sir.

MAN: I certainly don’t want your blood on me either.

CLERK: Did I mention mine?

MAN: I want my baggage and I want it now!

CLERK: (Glances at watch.) It’s quite close, sir. It’s almost here. If you can wait just—

MAN: Almost ain’t quite! Never was and never will be!

CLERK: About your baggage, sir— (Retrieving MAN’S baggage from under the counter.) Would you look at this! It was here all the time. I can’t imagine what I could have been thinking.