My Trip Home - Day 1, Part 1
I can plan for something different but I always have the same outcome. I can do everything within my power to go to bed early the night before I fly to the US but I always end up too excited and full of anticipation for it to happen. I got to bed at 2:00am and had to get up at 5:00am to be ready for my flight. Gerd had said about 496 times that he and my MIL would be here at 6:30am for him to take me to the airport in Hannover and so getting up at 5:00am would be plenty of time for me to shower, wash my hair, dress and have a bit of alone time with B. So what time did he and my MIL show up? 6:05am. And I was in the bathroom. In my undergarments. Where were my clothes? In the back room on the other side of my apartment. What a great start to my day!
After streaking through the hallway in a mad dash for my clothes I finally shooed them away from B long enough for me to say bye to him and begin my crying and hiccuping jag. It's always the same. I leave for more than...say...four hours and I go into a whining fit. There were kisses and hugs and promises to call each day and to take care of ourselves and reassurances that each of us would be all right and when 6:30 rolled around I dragged myself away and into Gerd's car for the trip to Hannover.
Know how they say the most dangerous part of an airplane trip is the car drive to the airport? Know why they say that? Probably because Gerd once drove someone else to an airport. I'm not saying the man is a bad driver but for shit's sake, did he need to be driving 160kph in commuter traffic? Look, I get the whole Autobahn thing and no speed limits and all that. What I don't get is the idea that you can drive as fast as you want regardless of the weather or flow of traffic or the amount of cars sharing the Autobahn with you. The way to handle a lot of cars is not to insist on maintaining the same speed by weaving in and out of lanes but to slow. the. hell. down. And stop scaring the shit out of me by not realizing that you need to slow the hell down until I'm about to kiss a tail light.
Gerd's insistence that I not miss my plane resulted in me arriving at the airport two hours before my flight. Better to be early though than late so I kindly thanked him and sent his ass back to Magdeburg before he proceeded to yap at me and up my anxiety even more.
I checked in as soon as someone got behind the counter and that left me an hour before I could even go though security to the waiting area for my gate. Too nervous to eat breakfast, I wandered around and around and called B every couple of minutes. I finally had to stop when I realized I was only making him anxious. Eventually they allowed us to go through security and thus began the first leg of my trip to my homeland.
You know how strangers caught in the same place can become a little community within a few minutes? Folks waiting under an awning for rain to stop, people in line to buy tickets, folks stuck in an elevator? This waiting area at the gate was no exception. Within a couple minutes I was happily chatting with a business man from Manchester, England who was flying back home, a German couple who were attempting to fly to Florida - he had been picked in a lottery to get a US Green Card and he was going to show his girlfriend the US in hopes that she'd like it and marry him and move with him to the US - and a German man and his very American daughter who were flying to their home in Connecticut after a visit with his mother. All of us were flying to Amsterdam to connect to flights to carry us elsewhere. We spent our time waiting for our 10:15am flight and the topics were varied and rather enjoyable. That is until one of them - the German man going to Florida - wandered into the duty free shop next to the waiting area and was told by the clerk there that our airplane hadn't even left Amsterdam. This was at 9:55am. Amsterdam is a 50-60 minute flight, depending on the aircraft used. Looks like we're going to be delayed a while.
Most of us had rather lengthy layover - in my case it was about three hours - but others weren't so lucky. As we sat and sat the grumbling started up and not just because we weren't informed by the actual KLM personnel until a good twenty minutes later - we were getting our information from someone who sells booze, cigarettes and perfume - but because they seemed clueless as to when the plane would actually arrive. More time passed and we were informed that those taking the connecting flight to Detroit were shit out of luck as far as that flight went and they'd need to see the transfer desk upon their arrival in Amsterdam. The rest of us? They didn't know if we'd make our connecting flights or not but if you had comfortable running shoes they recommended that you slip them on.
The problem in Amsterdam is passport control to get from the inter-continental side of the airport to the international flights is in one central location and you could either have good luck and breeze though or have bad luck and wish you'd peed first and grabbed a sandwich before getting in the line. I was still okay as far as time went but the guy going to Manchester was cutting it close and the man with his daughter flying to Connecticut was probably screwed as the only flight to New Haven each day was the one he was about to miss. His daughter, who was about 10 years old, was getting anxious. She kept asking her dad how they'd get home and what would they have to do and how would they tell mommy and why did they need to bother to clean the plane after it came in. She didn't need a clean seat or a snack on the plane - she wanted her mommy! Daddy was about to snap so I tried to distract her a little and reassure her that everything would be okay.
Finally our flight arrived and after about 10 minutes they let us board. I think we were all mentally encouraging one another to hurry and sit down and buckle up so we could take off and around 12:10pm we backed away from the gate. We were on a jet so the flight time was projected to be roughly 45-50 minutes and we were advised to check our connecting flights and if we missed ours to go to the transfer desk.
I was still figuring to be okay time-wise and as soon as our plane landed we all ran like freaks to the bus taking us to the main terminal and once we were inside the building, we went into high gear.
Normally I hate escalators. And I don't like those moving sidewalk things either - I stand stock still on them until the end where I try to get off of it without falling and breaking my clumsy neck. That is unless I'm a mile from where I want to be and I'm afraid of missing something very important to me. I didn't just walk along the moving sidewalk - I ran. Okay, I trotted. I wouldn't run if a pack of vampires were behind me, never mind something as comparatively minor as missing a plane. Still, me trotting is an eventful thing and I was determined to get to my gate. Boarding for my plane had already started and my panic was beginning to set in.
All was going well. I was able to trot, pant, and call B all at the same time to let him know there was the slight chance that I may miss my flight and I'd call him back when I knew more. I was feeling pretty confident that all would be well...that is until I had to pee. Bad. I didn't think I could go on so I stopped, peed, washed my hands and got a drink of water in what had to be world record time. There is something to be said for wearing elastic waist trousers while traveling.
Just as I was getting to passport control - and I'd like to thank God and all His chubby little angels that there was no line there - I saw the man bound for Connecticut with his daughter. He told me that as they got the gate, his plane was pulling away. I told him I was sorry but did it quickly as I wasn't going to share his fate.
I made it to the international flight terminal and was thankful to see that for once the gate I wanted wasn't the one at the far end. Boarding had started and I saw folks in line waiting to be quizzed by the screeners. Here's a hint for those of you who may be doing some international traveling in the near future: If you don't want to arouse suspicion, don't show up at the gate sweating and gasping for breath. You'll garner a little extra unwanted attention.
After answering the questions in a way that seemed to please my particular screener - the first one being "What's the matter with you?" - I was allowed to board. I took a moment to switch from my normal shoes to clogs - I always wear clogs on long flights because you can easily remove them and get them back on during the flight - and to call B one last time to say I'd made the flight and I'd call him the next morning to let him know I was in Mississippi.
I made the walk down the jet way to the plane, quickly found my seat, searched for a place in the overhead storage for my carry on bag - and I seem to be the only one in the world who doesn't carry on a bag that's larger than your average 3 year old child - sat down and caught my breath. I still had many hours to go before this day would be over.
Come back tomorrow for part 2 when I meet Uncle Kracker, eat cold cheese, find another reason to hate Lindsay Lohan and am finally reunited with my family.