Archive for December 2010

Many Salty Returns

December 9, 2010

I’m travelling to Canada from Berlin today. With 3 flights (Berlin–Frankfurt–Montreal–Saint John) it’s not a trip that can really be done in less than 18 hours. I thought I’d post a few thoughts along the way.

6:40: Can’t believe my luck! Should have had to pay about $100 for 1 extra suitcase plus  6 kg excess weight on the other one…the woman who checked me in though let me off without paying anything because the line-up for the Lufthansa special services desk is so long she says I’d miss my flight if I had to wait in it….

6:45 Through security and I think I’ve identified the first Canadian of the day. Some dad-type on his mobile phone telling whomever that the chances of the flight to Frankfurt leaving look good. He makes a joke about Swiss bank accounts and that and his distinctly casual—if not at all sloppy—attire, & Jack Layton-esque facial hair makes me feel like I’m in a Saturday edition of the Globe and Mail.

6:55 A man who just walked by on crutches walks past me again a few minutes later carrying them both under one arm. Truly a miraculous morning!

7:09 I’m sitting next to a window and freezing cold but I think I won’t put my coat on because it’s good to save up a little bit of a chill as I usually find flying an experience characterized by uncomfortably stuffy and warm air.

7:22 Uncle Canada just walked by me with his honkin’ big book (hrm….what do we think it is? My guess is a biography of a british explorer or an Arundhati Roy novel). He looks at me suspiciously. He must know I’m onto his Canuck DNA….

7:24 They’ve called our flight. Gotta go get my Canuck ass to Frankfurt. Xo bis dann!

7:28 I’m sorry–I’m back. Just to say–to ask, really. Who drinks Diet Coke at 7:30 in the morning???

7:32 No. Not really actually. Because of course just because they call your flight it doesn’t mean you don’t still have an hour of sitting to go. I will be a great sitter by the end of this day. I will be a champion of sitting.

On that topic, I am at the moment sitting next to an extraordinarily large teenage boy, his moderately less large mother and her incredibly tiny dog. My favorite of the 3 so far is the dog.

Mom has on an interesting combination of peach fuzzy shirt, with crushed velvet skirt. She’s like a texture fair. The boy’s attire on the other hand is not worth mentioning, though his posture is remarkably like that of a bear on a sofa. Just imagine a bear on a sofa—upright, but y’know…a bear. You’ll know what I mean.

Puppykins meanwhile has been given a yellow and light blue t-shirt to wear. I don’t think that it goes particularly well with his brownish-grey fur, but then lots of people shoot for comfort rather than style while traveling.

On that topic, I’m always amazed when I travel to Frankfurt at how well-dressed so many of the men on the flights are. Well-cut suits and well-chosen shoes abound. It’s like they came out of a good taste machine or something. Too bad most of them are probably devastatingly boring.

I still can’t get over the fact that the woman didn’t charge me anything for the extra baggage. Do you know how much I’m allowed to bring?? 23kg. And do you know how much I’ve got with me??

8:27 They have delayed our flight by 3 hours. The problem lies in Frankfurt, where they are not allowing planes to land just yet. The captain told us that only 15 flights an hour are leaving—which would be just great for the Saint John Regional Airport—but I guess in Frankfurt that counts as a major reduction.

So. Don’t know what, if any flights I’ll be able to get from Frankfurt today—for that matter I’m still not sure if they won’t cancel our flight altogether (they said it’s the only flight to Frankfurt that hasn’t been cancelled so far) but more than this, y’know what really pisses me off?

I am sitting at the illy coffee place in Tegel, drinking a stunningly indifferent cup of coffee. While waiting in line for that 4€ of guaranteed disappointment, one of the girls working behind the counter dropped and broke a bottle of something. I then overheard a pair of business men (not speaking german, but I don’t know what language they are speaking) saying ‘bravo, bravo’ in what can only be described as a scornful tone. I can’t tell you how much I despise people who would show such contempt for a couple of young girls who have to work a shitty job in an airport that on this morning is bursting with pissed off, angry people. It’s a small thing, but I think it’s so telling. Scorning her for breaking a bottle! Truly I consider such people of the sort who cheapen the human race.

Anyway, in other news, depending on how this whole debacle pans out you may get to witness (in the helpful format of a timeline, no less!) my mental disintegration today, so, y’know—stay tuned!

8:37 I watch more people arrive in taxis, as if they think they’re going anywhere….poor saps, I think…..pooooor saps. Also—why doesn’t Goldhahn und Sampson have a liefer service?????

8:41 I have Weird Al’s song ‘Jurassic Park’ in my head. Good description of what we’re dealing with here right now.

8:47 A man just sat down next to me and is eating from his own private stash of peanuts. He doesn’t look offensive, but I can’t help but find the smell slightly nauseating.

8:50 I’m watching a happy little crow amble across the islands of snow in between the taxis. Happy little crow. He makes me feel happy. Little crow. Actually he’s big. But he’s small compared to me 😉

11:08 They cancelled our flight to Frankfurt saying that nothing had landed or flown out form there during the preceding hour. We were told to collect our baggage and told as well that we could get vouchers for a train to Frankfurt. After collecting my bags I asked the fellow who was overseeing that operation where I should go to get those vouchers. He pointed to the line that extended behind me and indefinitely through the airport and said I’d just have to wait. I told him that I had thought I heard a specific desk mentioned in the advisory and with a very satisfied shake of his head he said ‘no! everything getting done through Lufthansa goes through that desk over there and you’ll just have to wait in line’ I still, however, didn’t quite believe him. So I went back to the original check-in desk for my deceased flight, and asked about the train vouchers over there. They said that they could give me one right away, and that I didn’t need to wait in the line—the line which they estimated was approximately 3 hours long.

Ha.

Voucher in hand, I took my baggage and got in a cab to the Hauptbahnhof. In the meantime my mom called me with a number for Air Canada’s offices in Frankfurt and I managed to get on to a flight from Frankfurt to Toronto leaving today at 5. Then they put me on a flight to Saint John leaving at 9:40.  At the moment I am on an ICE to Frankfurt. They’ve announced that this train is running a bit late, so given that I still have to check my bags again in Frankfurt, get my new boarding passes, and go through international security making my way through the hoards of people likely to be swarming around in the chaos of all the flights delayed and cancelled due to the weather, I am still not sure if I’m going to make it. In addition, of course, there is the question of the weather itself—whether the flight itself will go.

For now though, the train is a very civilized place, even if the phone call I just got from my accountant telling me I may have to pay a sizable amount on the grant I received from the Canada Council in 2009 did sort of make me want to scream and cry and tear up the furniture.

Yes, there is always the landscape from which to be comforted.

12:40 I seem to have been blessed with the best traveling companion ever. A middle-aged woman with whom I am sharing one of these little glassed- in train compartments. I asked her at the start of the trip how it worked with the seating as every seat seemed to have cities indicated over it. She clarified for me that this meant that someone had reserved that particular seat for the duration of the trip between the two cities indicated. She said that she hadn’t booked a seat either, but indicated that the seats in the adjacent cabin were not to be used until further down the line.

Having been taking and making numerous phone calls to my mom and Air Canada’s Frankfurt offices, and my accountant, I appreciated her not seeming to mind the occasional ringing of the phone, though from the third call or so on, I started going out into the hallway so as not to disturb her.

She has short sort of elven hair and nice glasses. Her features are strong and you could probably say that she is a handsome woman. She is wearing a nice knitted or crocheted (I’m not really sure which) sweater in various shades of green. It’s quite nice.

She has been alternately knitting and reading from a large book next to which she takes notes. We just had a nice little chat about how pretty the landscape is, and how—in some ways—it can be nice to have nature remind you that it’s in charge. I very much agree with this on the whole, however I do hope that nature will let me fly out of Frankfurt later on…

The train was an hour late, which meant that I had to speedwalk (with 40kg of luggage running was not an option) all the way down the platform and through the very crowded Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, out to the taxis, which had been the recommendation of two fellow passengers after some debate on the speed of a taxi vs. that of the S-Bahn. I arrived at the Frankfurt airport shortly after 4, still needing to check in, get my tickets and check my baggage, get through security, etc. After some aggravation with a maddeningly slow service–wherein, having need to be reissued tickets and check my baggage I had to pay for the excess weight  this time–I ran through the Frankfurt airport and made it onto the flight.

The flight itself had been booked full, however due to all of the disruptions, it was less than half full in the end. I was, by this point, so flattened that I actually managed to sleep on the plane, which I seldom do.

4:04 a.m. (Berlin time) I sit with a glass of Inniskillin (Canadian) Pinot Grigiot in the vast grey halls of the Toronto airport. I would have missed my flight to Saint John, but as I was being told at connections that I’d have to stay the night in Toronto, a change was registered on the computer, saying that the flight had been delayed an hour. Finally; a delay that worked in my favor. As I walked into the gated seating area of ‘On Stage—Casey’s Toronto’ I saw a girl sitting on her laptop in yoga pants and Uggs. Truly I knew I was in Toronto…

4:14 a.m. I ask the waiter for the bill and when he brings it to me and puts it down next to my still half-full glass. He says ‘look! Look how perfect it is!’ I struggle to see the perfection in a $6.99 bill for a glass of wine. ‘Um….’ I respond, tentatively. ‘Do you see it?’ he asks me with excitement. He shakes the glass of wine by the stem, and a rainbow reflection on the receipt wavers back and forth. ‘It’s the wine! Look what it makes on the receipt!’ ‘Ooooh! Yeaaaaaah!’ I respond, relieved to know what the hell he’s talking about. ‘Hey! Hey Tom come over here! Do you see that?’ he asks his co-worker. The co-worker is mildly interested. ‘Ah yeah cool, it makes a reflection.’ He says, blandly. ‘I didn’t know what it was! I looked up and thought there’s no light flickering up there, and then I realized, it’s the wine!!’ he says, his excitement somehow charming in my fatigue. I thank him and make my way over to the gate.

4:20 ‘We’re not in Los Angeles anymore,’ says the fat dad of a crying boy. In the 6 minutes I spent writing the above note, a small child in an argyle sweater went from squirming, worm-like around the carpet to crying his head off. ‘Yeah we’re not in California anymore, we have to go home’ echoes the even fatter mom as she struggles to put his coat on the squirming child. I fail to see how leaving California should comfort the whimpering brat.

4:23 They’re calling the flight. I suppose it would be silly to miss it at this point…

I arrived home around 2 a.m., making it 26.5 hours, door-to-door. Not bad, considering.