Because I speak Spanish, I often work flights to and from Latin American countries. In the commercial aviation community, these flights are well known for the passengers’ tendency to bring immense amounts of luggage with them; most of it gifts for family members and friends.
Some of the gifts are unusual in nature since many items we can't easily find at a big box store, can be difficult to come by or are very pricey. I have seen car bumpers, refrigerator repair parts -- even a baseball catcher's equipment -- all stuffed into overhead compartments.
Yet, the strangest thing I ever saw in a carry-on bag actually happened on the way back to the states...
I was working a flight from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, which is a smaller city on the northwest corner of the island. Most of the passengers on this route are either surfers who have flown to Aguadilla to visit nearby Rincón, a famous surfing beach, or locals from the small towns that dot the western part of the island.
An elderly Puerto Rican lady had boarded the plane first since she required assistance to get to her seat. I offered to store her small duffel bag in the bin, but when I tried to lift it, I couldn’t even get it off the floor. I found one of the ground agents, a large man, who was willing to help me. He got it up into the bin, but even he struggled with how heavy it was. As the other passengers started to board, I quickly forgot about the bag as I started my duties for the flight.
After the 3 and a half hour flight was over, the passengers deplaned and the elderly lady patiently waited for her requested wheelchair assistance to arrive at the plane.
Then I remembered the bag.
Again, I solicited the assistance of one of my more strapping co-workers, and decided to chat up the passenger about what could possibly make that bag so heavy.
“Señora,” I asked her in Spanish, “I have to ask you… What is in that bag that is making it so heavy?”
She smiled and said, “A dentro hay tres pollos, dos conejos, y una docena de aguacates.”
What?! Inside there are three chickens, two rabbits, and a dozen avocados?!?
She unzipped the bag to reveal exactly that. Three headless, un-plucked chickens; two bloody, freshly killed rabbits; and a dozen shiny green avocados. She went on to tell me how her husband harvested the animals and avocados fresh from their farm to bring to their son and daughter in New Jersey.
That takes “home cooking” to a new level!
I can only imagine what the X-Ray screener thought seeing these little skeletons rolling across the conveyor.