A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 19, 2019
“Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone?”

"Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone?” is an airport saying that has been printed on many images. The saying is usually credited to American humorist Erma Bombeck (1927-1996), but it doesn’t appear that she said it first.

Lewis’ Law of Travel: The first piece of luggage out of the chute doesn’t belong to anyone, ever. —Dave Lewis” was printed in the Chicago (IL) Tribune on December 26, 1982. This was written by Paul Dickson, who wrote the book The Official Rules (1978) and its several sequels.

“The first piece of luggage out of the chute at the airport never belongs to anyone” was printed in “The Quipmaster” column of George Roberts in The Jewish Advocate (Boston, MA) on November 24, 1983. Roberts sometimes gets credit for the saying.

Bombeck used the joke several times. “The (Back—ed.) Pepper experience is nothing more than a ritual without meaning—like watching the first piece of luggage come off a carousel at airport baggage. Ever see anyone claim it? Of course you don’t. Because it doesn’t belong to anyone, that’s why. It’s just an exercise to give you hope that more luggage is on the way” was printed in an Erma Bombeck newspaper column on December 11, 1983. In her column on July 24, 1988, Bombeck called the first piece of luggage down the carousel the “Suitcase of Hope”: “It’s a suitcase that doesn’t belong to anyone. They just send it down the chute to let you think there’s more to come.”

Erma Bombeck wrote in her book When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home (1991):

“I was trampled to death by a man who believed his luggage would be the first piece off. If he were an experienced traveler, he would know that the first piece of luggage belongs to no one. It’s just a dummy suitcase to give everyone hope.”


26 December 1982, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “How the world really works” by Paul Dickson, Magazine, sec. 9, pg. 9, col. 2: 
Lewis’ Law of Travel: The first piece of luggage out of the chute doesn’t belong to anyone, ever. —Dave Lewis

9 January 1983, Sunday Journal and Star (Lincoln, NE), “Offbeat” with Don Pieper, pg. 2A, col. 2:
Lewis’ Law of Travel: The first piece of luggage out of the chute doesn’t belong to anyone, ever. (Dave Lewis)

9 January 1983, The News-Leader (Staunton, VA), “Out of order,” pg. A-4, col. 1:
Did you ever notice how the first suitcase that comes down the chute never belongs to anyone, ever?

24 February 1983, ”Courier (Gibson City, IL), Against the grain” by Russ Metz, pg. 2, col. 3:
Dave Lewis’ Law of Baggage Claiming: The first piece of luggage out of the chute at the airport never belongs to anyone.

29 August 1983, The Richland Beacon-News (Rayville, LA), “Something from the start” by Marilyn Lee, pg. 4, col. 4:
The airport law-The first piece of luggage out of the chute at the airport never belongs to anyone.

24 November 1983, The Jewish Advocate (Boston, MA), “The Quipmaster” by George Roberts, pg. 17, col. 1:
The first piece of luggage out of the chute at the airport never belongs to anyone.

11 December 1983, The Daily Herald (Provo, UT), “Anyway, Pepper Is Bad for Skin” by Erma Bombeck, pg. 47, col. 3:
The (Back—ed.) Pepper experience is nothing more than a ritual without meaning—like watching the first piece of luggage come off a carousel at airport baggage. Ever see anyone claim it? Of course you don’t. Because it doesn’t belong to anyone, that’s why. It’s just an exercise to give you hope that more luggage is on the way.

24 July 1988, Manhattan (KS) Mercury, “Big suitcases are packing trouble” by Erma Bombeck, pg. F8, col. 2:
If I’ve told him (Bombeck’s husband—ed.) once, I’ve told him a million times, the word “carousel” is a misnomer. By definition it is a revolving belt or track on which items are placed for you to retrieve later. Trust me when I tell you that later there will be nothing to retrieve.

“So how come I always see a suitcase slide onto the carousel within minutes after the plane has landed?”

“You little fool,” I said. “That’s the Suitcase of Hope.”

“What’s a Suitcase of Hope?”

“It’s a suitcase that doesn’t belong to anyone. They just send it down the chute to let you think there’s more to come.”

Amazon.com
When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home
By Erma Bombeck
New York, NY: HarperCollins
1991
Pg. 273:
I was trampled to death by a man who believed his luggage would be the first piece off. If he were an experienced traveler, he would know that the first piece of luggage belongs to no one. It’s just a dummy suitcase to give everyone hope.

January 2001, St. Anthony Messenger (Cincinnati, OH), “For the love of Erma” by Donna Palmatary, pg. 34:
Hope at Bage Claim
She provided plenty of laughter in her numerous best-sellers, including When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home. In that 1991 book, Erma jokes about the all-too-familiar baggage-claim ritual lived out by those who choose airline transportation as their mode of travel.
(...)
Those who stood in the area closest to the carousel “were the last to have their luggage come down the chute. Don’t ask me why that is. It just is.

“I was trampled to death by a man who believed his luggage would be the first piece off. If he were an experienced traveler, he would know that the first piece of luggage belongs to no one. It’s just a dummy suitcase to give everyone hope.”

Google Books
Big Wings:
The Largest Aeroplanes Ever Built

By Philip Kaplan
Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen and Sword Boos
2005
Pg. 125:
‘The first piece of luggage on the airport carousel never belongs to anyone.’ - George Roberts

Google Groups: alt.humor.puns
Puns of the Weak 02-07-05
Stan Kegel
2/8/05
(...)
I was trampled to death by a man who believed his luggage would be the first piece off. If he were an experienced traveler, he would know that the first piece of luggage belongs to no one. It’s just a dummy suitcase to give everyone hope. (Erma Bombeck)

13 August 2008, St. Cloud (MN) Times, “They Said It,” pg. 1C, col. 1:
“Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone?”—Erma Bombeck

Twitter
Lyndsay Wright
@lyndsaywright
Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone? -Erma Bombeck
1:44 PM - 20 Nov 2008

Google Books
Travel Tips:
Safer Cheaper Happier

By Derwin Kitch
Bloomington, IN: Booktango
2014
Pg. ?:
Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone? Erma Bombeck

Twitter
Arabinda K Padhee
@arvindpadhee
“The first piece of luggage on the carousel ‘usually’ never belongs to anyone.” 😐
12:55 PM - 26 Apr 2019 from New Delhi, India

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityTransportation • Sunday, May 19, 2019 • Permalink


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