How Ferrari scrupled to return my suitcase from Italy and what might happen next

To get my suitcase back, I had to sign some customs forms declaring the bag was coming from Italy. I stated the contents: clothing, toiletries, shoes, and a computer mouse.

To send it to me in Ann Arbor, Ferrari had to write a letter on their stationery declaring they weren’t exporting pornography. In asserting this, they took no risk, for I certainly don’t travel with pornography, although I always carry scissors.

I had failed to declare the scissors but hoped this omission wouldn’t result in any further snafu. My titanium scissors globetrot with me so I can snip baggage stickers, news articles, price tags, labels from hotel towels, and even, if necessary, disputatious bellhops. I had stuffed the mouse into the suitcase because my laptop satchel was overfilled with magazines, stationery, and, because I detest paperbacks, a hardcover book. At least this book was only about 300 pages; I had previously traveled with Daniel Yergin’s 876-page blockbusting doorstop, “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.”

So around midday on June 29, I arrived at Bologna’s Aeroporto G. Marconi. The terminal was rather small, and about a quarter of the men on my commuter flight from Amsterdam showed their superior experience by hurrying toward the tiny restroom ahead of me.

After a while, the baggage carousel started up. It was a single-level conveyor of the type that originates in one kennel door and makes a U-turn before concluding at another, with every indication of hellhounds on the other side. I jockeyed into position, neither trying to be first on the run nor wanting to be last. By the time I’d found a suitable place about two-thirds of the way along, no new bags were coming out. The crowd quickly dispersed but for six or eight others.

I kicked myself about having checked a bag instead of carrying on. The little brown case on our storage rack at home had simply looked too small. My editor, who’d made the last-minute assignment, strongly recommended a carry-on, saying he’d perfected the art of including just enough clothing for a trip like this. My usual shaving kit, which if hurled at a silver-haired old lady would knock her over, would have taken up about a quarter of the brown case.

Another thing my editor said: “They’ll be waiting for you at Ferrari in order to get started.” The writer originally assigned to this story had suddenly been unable to go. I was one of three reporters in a convoy from Italy to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, in West Sussex, England.

In fact, it had been preferred that I catch an earlier flight out of Amsterdam, if possible. Without international calling capability on my Nokia dumb-phone, I wasn’t going to risk it, even if an earlier flight were available.

Queuing at the luggage claims office, if one had even been apparent, would have held up the party even more, so I headed for the reception area. (Maybe I was also just a tiny bit mindful that, at the Bologna station some 30 years earlier, in 1980, when I spent two months riding trains around Europe, an unattended suitcase full of TNT had exploded, collapsing the waiting room’s roof; the death toll was 85, with more than 200 wounded.) I figured Ferrari would find the bag and get it to me somewhere along the route. I wasn’t desperate, for I had a change of underwear, a toothbrush, and toothpaste.

Paying no attention whatsoever to  the architecture of the airport, a usual focus of mine, I concentrated on the placards held up for new arrivals, and relaxed when I saw one that said “Ferrari.”

I got to Maranello in time for a quick lunch. Four cars were then loaded. The crew included three photographers with a hell of a lot of gear, three writers, and two Ferrari employees. It might actually have been a blessing that my large bag hadn’t shown up. These Ferraris had more than 2000 horsepower, but not too many cubic feet of cargo capacity. I threw my laptop into the nose of a 458 Italia, which was otherwise stuffed full of photo cases, and we took off. There was something like 450 kilometers to cover before that evening’s hotel in the French Alps.

At bedtime I washed out my Brooks Brothers white Oxford in the sink and hung it up.

That next afternoon we stopped at a Carrefour market in Grésy-sur-Aix. I dropped €46.08 on some razors along with a couple of T-shirts, a pair of tan cargo slacks, some soquettes de sport, and a three-pack of Tex Man bikini underwear that, despite being just my size, have since caused much grabbing and pulling. European men certainly do like their shorts tight!

This was plenty of kit to get me to Goodwood, then to Heathrow and home.

Four days later, Ferrari’s staff in New Jersey received a message from Italy:

“We are glad to inform you that Mr Ahrens’ luggage is here in our office.”

Another week passed before a tracking number came. Searching it revealed that my bag was enjoying a stay in Paris.

Finally, the other morning, a FedEx truck pulled up. The driver said, “I’ve got a big one for you, and they sent it priority!”

The moment of truth had come a few days before. I found myself standing in Staples, the office supply store, looking at the display of titanium scissors. I knew those I already owned would soon be home from their pleasant fortnight in Europe. Yet a new model had joined the lineup. Its blades were magically coated to prevent adhesive tape and other sticky things from sticking. I wondered if it was time to upgrade. But I walked away empty-handed.

Thanks to the wonderful people at Ferrari, my titanium scissors are once again at hand. But I’m inclined to take the Ferrari upgrade. I’ll be heading back to Staples for a pair of the no-stick ones.

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2 thoughts on “How Ferrari scrupled to return my suitcase from Italy and what might happen next

  1. Since this happened to you, I can find the itinerary of your bag hilarious. Somewhere I have an ancient suitcase with the labels they used to slap on to brag about your globe trotting. This one saw far more places than I ever did.
    As I was reading this, FOX did a story about a woman suing Continental for luggage that was permanently lost. What finally caused a call to a lawyer: the airline refused to refund her checked luggage charge.

  2. FYI, the only one time I was flying out of Bologna with KLM, connecting in Amsterdam to come back to NY, my suitcase was not loaded on because ‘there was no space in the airplane’ (mine, together with dozens of others of people that, unlike me, were about to board a cruise line, hence screwing up their whole vacation). After a week of vain trials of having that suitcase back on another plane, I told KLM that I would have paid for a Fed ex out of my own pocket, which I did… Since then, I never used Bologna airport: I am from Milan originally anyways, so it is easier from NYC to take the many non-stops to Malpensa, and then drive to Maranello ; )
    — A Ferrari guy

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