A Stranger In a Strange LandBy: Ann PetersAug 11, 2016
Home, sweet home! Germany was lovely, but the trip was very much less so. I have determined that I am under a curse, and am seeking a nice Catholic priest who will bless me and drench me with holy water, even though I am a Protestant. And maybe a smudge stick or two wouldn't hurt, either.
My luggage was lost on my last trip to Germany. You wouldn't think it would happen again, would you? No such luck. I had to collect my suitcase and recheck it in Frankfurt after going through Customs. I waved goodbye to it at the Air Berlin desk in Frankfurt, but it did not arrive with me in Berlin. Somehow they lost my big purple suitcase (I believe in accessorizing to match my hair) for four days. How can you lose a purple suitcase??? So each day after waiting fruitlessly to hear from the airline, I went out to buy another set of clothing and undergarments — sorry, Air Berlin, I can't wear the same clothes for four flippin' days - that is nasty!
We had a lot of fun in Berlin - I looooooooove me some castles; we went to lots of them! (Segue: we need a castle in the Tri-Cities! Or a pyramid. We're in a desert, and deserts have pyramids, right? We should have a castle AND a pyramid - come on, Chamber of Commerce, let's get on that!) We went to museums and exhibits; the Body Works exhibit at the Menschen Museum almost made me regret our visit to the Fassbender & Rausch Chocolaterie, and all the good German beer and sausages I had consumed. Almost. So lots of fun stuff with the kids all over Berlin!
It was the Hell Trip Home that did me in. It started with the very early flight from Berlin to Frankfurt, which was delayed. A lot. The three hour layover time disappeared, and by the time we landed, changed terminals (a looooooong way away) and RAN through all three security points, we arrived huffing and puffy and sweat pouring off our desert accustomed bodies (it is extremely humid over there, not used to it) only to find that our flight had already taken off - without nine of us. So we had to go back through all the security points to exit, change terminals again, and cry at the Air Berlin officials. Many hours later, we had our new flight itinerary in hand and at a hotel for the night - without our luggage. And in our now nasty, sweaty clothes. And guess what? This hotel was in the middle of an industrial area - no stores nearby. No gift shop. And no toiletries. They had soap in the bathrooms, and that was it. We had our carry on bags, but they only contained our souvenirs, our prescription medications, and my sauerkraut (more on that later). My grandson and I took turns in the bathroom (which had a clear glass, sliding door, so no privacy) bathing and washing our underwear with soap and water and then drying them with the hair dryer. We got up at 4:00 in the morning to try again.
The first hotel shuttle was at 4:45, so we were out there at 4:15 to make sure we got on. There was an orderly line of folks, and everyone was polite and civil until the shuttle bus arrived. And then all hell broke loose - it was worse than Black Friday! Even though we were at the front end of the line, my grandson and I got shoved back by the suddenly savage and bloodthirsty fiends who were determined to get on that bus; the bus driver came out and I thought he was going to demand good behavior, but instead he said the bus was full and closed the doors and took off, while the rest of us stood around with our mouths open, wondering what just happened. We finally caught the second shuttle, but by then I was starting to stress again, because our plane was departing at 7:15 and it takes a loooooong time to check in at Frankfurt. We made it with fifteen minutes to spare; not enough time to buy a fresh t-shirt or jeans in any of the shops, as I had hoped, but at least we didn't get left behind this time. So we thought we could finally relax, as the worst was behind us. We were headed to Paris to catch our flight to SeaTac, yay!
Not so yay. This plane was also late. See what I mean? I am cursed! We got in to Charles de Gaulle Airport, past the scheduled arrival time. We were supposed to change terminals, check in and get our boarding passes, and get through security. All in an hour and a half. We ran. We have bruises from where our carry on bags bumped and bounced. We made it to the other terminal - and stopped. It was backed up and we couldn't get through, because the police were apparently searching for someone and all the area had been evacuated. There were soldiers everywhere with machine guns. For a couple of folks from Tri-Cities, Washington, that was scary stuff, which is why I decided not to confront them and explain why they should let us pass to go get on our plane. I thought about it very hard, but their white knuckled grips on their guns and nervous expressions gave me second thoughts. Finally we got the all clear and ran some more. We checked in and got our boarding passes; the Delta folks told us to ask Security to let us through because our plane was boarding. We asked. Security said no. He looked about as understanding as the police, so I didn't argue with him. I didn't kick him in the ankle or anywhere else, either. But I wanted to.
And once again we got in a freaking long line, just to get our passports checked. We finally got checked and got in another line for security, which was about five miles long. Okay, I'm exaggerating. The line was only three miles long. At that point, I snapped. Oh, hell, no! Our plane was leaving in a half hour, and I was A Desperate Woman. I have never, ever, ever in my entire life done anything like this before (I am polite in real life, honest!), but I grabbed my grandson by the hand, held on to my carry on bags with the other, and I hauled him under the ropes and around and THROUGH all those hordes of people. I still can't believe I did that; it was so incredibly rude! But I did it, hollering at the top of my lungs "I'm so sorry, our plane is boarding now, please excuse us, I'm so sorry!" One guy tried to shame me and said "our plane is boarding now, too," but it didn't work. I just told him to grab hold and come with us. I did not have time to look back to see his expression, but I'm guessing it wasn't a nice one. I'm sorry mister, really! Or in France, I guess it would be Je suis désolé, monsieur. Mais je le ferais sans hésiter une seconde!
We got to security, and they dumped out our bags. Literally. Pawed through everything. Opened our prescription bottles and shoved them back inside without the lids on, so they spilled. And. They. Stole. My. Sauerkraut!!!!! This sauerkraut made it through Berlin Security. It made it through all three checkpoints in Frankfurt — THREE freaking times!!! But in France, they told me it wasn't allowed, and they took it! I personally think the reason the security people there were so cranky is because they were hungry, and I hope they felt better after eating their ill gotten gains. Actually, I totally lie. I hope it gave them serious and urgent digestive issues and disgusting gaseous emissions from their nether regions. Jerks!
Again, no time to stop at a shop for fresh undies or t-shirts. Or toiletries. We were in Paris, and no time for shopping. Was this fair? It so was not!!! But I have to say, my urge to return to Paris for a second travel experience is pretty much in the negative zone right now. If I want to shop, I'll hit the mall or go to Amazon! Take that, Paris — I will spend my tourist dollars elsewhere, where they don't steal sauerkraut!
We made it to the final security checkpoint at the gate (if anyone was youtubing, that was me hollering "don't let the plane leave without us" and fantasizing about a buff, handsome and heroic flight attendant physically pushing on the nose of the plane to keep it from departing). I don't know if it was our wild eyed looks of mania and panic, but they searched our bags AGAIN, and also searched my grandson's person — who looks like a young Harry Potter, by the way, not a drug runner or terrorist. They took his passport and held it, probably to prevent the scary grandma from tucking her grandson under her arm and running for the plane. They did look nervous when they finally gave me back his passport; they were wise to be nervous. My gritted teeth were the only thing saving them from savage bites on the knee caps (I'm told that's the height I can reasonably expect to reach). And since I hadn't been able to brush my teeth in two days, those bites would have been toxic.
So we finally made it onto the flight to SeaTac, whoot! My grandson and I settled down in comfort into the teeny, tiny little seats (thankfully we are not big people), buckled in, and let our aroma waft into the cabin area. Remember, it had been two days of little sleep, little food and no toothbrushes or deodorant. All the panicked running about and stress sweat had permeated our persons and dispelled any pretense of personal hygiene — the shower the night before was an exercise in futility. I am truly sorry for the people who had to share that flight with us; it can't have been pleasant. Blame it on Air Berlin who started this whole thing. Also blame it on the security people; especially the ones who stole my sauerkraut. Yes. I hold grudges. I hope Karma bites them in the butt real soon. Thieves! They stole My Precious!!!
The beverage cart came around in very good time. I told the attendant that I was badly in need of alcohol. She gave me a glass of wine filled to the brim. I am assuming it was generosity on her part at the sight of a very frazzled woman. I'm sure it had nothing to do with not wanting to come near our aroma again. Really.
We arrived almost eleven hours later in SeaTac. And of course, The Curse held true, and this flight was also late. I really, really, really need to find a nice Catholic priest! Fortunately, at SeaTac you don't have to exit the gates if you have connecting flights, and thank you God for that! After we got through Customs (who didn't like my nice German soaps but finally decided they were not really explosive devices, and really, we smelled like we really needed to use them), the wonderful folks at Alaska took our bags right back, checked us in, and sent us to our gate. Where we made it with ten minutes to spare, yay! Once again, not enough time to buy any fresh undergarments or toiletries...but thankfully, this trip was only forty five minutes.
Forty five loooooooong minutes. No beverage service because of the turbulence. I dry swallowed my Dramamine, but it was still a close call. Flying through the nasty wind storm and the smoke from the many fires in the region made the plane shake like a kid in a bouncy castle. My grandson was edging away from me; he said the green in my face made him nervous. Ingrate.
And then - we arrived at the Tri-City airport! My husband met us there and immediately recoiled. I am assuming his offer to let us drive home in the back of the truck was a joke. Right? I am so grateful we have two bathrooms at home; my grandson and I each took one and had made good use of the showers. And then I threw our clothes in the washing machine and washed them with Pinesol. Twice. I am not kidding.
We are home safe. And I still miss my sauerkraut.