Bostjan and I woke up at 3:30am to have adequate time to make it to my flight. I really wasn’t looking forward to the trip, but I was looking forward to getting home. In order to get a flight so close to holidays under $1k, I had to do a lot of homework and in the end have two connections. Ugh.
We arrived at Trieste airport in Italy the standard two hours before an international flight. As we pulled into the drop-off zone, we looked at the lobby and then looked at each other. “Why isn’t the airport open?”
We both had a moment of panic when we read over my flight details 10 times. TRS Airport. 6:40am departure. January 3, 2012. It’s correct. What is going on?
Slowly the lights came on inside and other travelers started to arrive around 5:15am. The check-in counters remained unopened for some time and security was somewhat lighter than the States (you can keep your shoes on through the metal detectors) but the plane boarded quickly and my 55 minute connection to Munich went by just like a blip on a radar screen.
I had a longer layover in Munich, so with little to do I was psyched on the free coffee bar and newspapers. This excitement ended quickly when 1 1/2 coffees deep, my heart started to palpitate and completely overreact to this unforeseen wave of caffeine. I blogged about Slovenia from my iPhone and boarded the connection to Zurich at 11:20am.
I have a strong distaste for boarding planes because it’s pretty much like herding cattle and the entire process takes far too long. We’re all going to the same place, really, on this same plane, so I don’t understand why people get all out of sorts about trying to get on first. In my opinion, I think all airlines should allow ME to board first, because I never bring any carry-on luggage, I always ask for a window seat, and I just get on the plane and sit the hell down. I always end up waiting behind these slow old people on the little walkway that connects the terminal to the airplane, usually in the middle of winter and freezing my ass off. I present a new policy for airlines: smaller, more agile passengers first. No matter what the freaking row assignment.
Since I am already not a fan of the whole boarding process, I was less than thrilled when I got on the plane and noticed that this little twat stole my window seat. A seat is a seat and I try not to sweat the small stuff, but to put things in perspective: I got up at 3:30am. ALL I WANT TO DO ON THIS PLANE IS PUT MY HEAD ON THE WINDOW AND GO TO SLEEP. I let it go. I didn’t ask him to move. I just got a bad kink in my neck and may or may not have drifted off into aviation slumber in this guy’s own personal space. Really, I don’t know.
For me, when I’m traveling it’s a consistent struggle to have any concept of time, so when I landed in Zurich and tried to figure out how much time I had to make my connection, I couldn’t completely figure it out. I didn’t know if Zurich was in a different time zone than Munich (it’s not) and I didn’t know why when I looked at the time on my phone it said I only had 25 minutes to make my plane to JFK. The short answer: the plane to Zurich took too effing long, and now it’s time to find out where the correct boarding gate is and HAUL ASS.
For anyone who frequents airports, it’s common knowledge that in most cases, a 1pm flight departure means that is the time that the PLANE departs. The gate often closes much earlier. Arriving at the gate at departure time is not an option. But being that the flight to JFK was going to be close to 10 hours long, I had two things only on my mind. In order of priority: 1. get to the bathroom and pee first. 2. actually make the flight.
And so I ran. I ran around human road blocks with their rolly carry-on bags, I ran up escalators, I narrowly escaped head-on collisions, and all I could think is “right now, I am totally that person everyone sees running through the airport. I am “that guy.” I was totally fine with being “that guy” as long as I could 1. make it to a bathroom and 2. actually make my flight.
I thought I had a good 15 minutes til departure when I turned the corner and was faced with Swiss Customs. Damn you guys. Dammit. Why won’t you just be a part of the EU? I asked one of the uniformed agents from the back of the line, “Hey, so, my flight boards at 1pm. Do I have time?” I was hoping he’d put me at the front of the line. He took about 8 years to look at his watch before responding, “Oh, you have time. It’ll take about 5 minutes to get to your gate. This isn’t like the US.” I don’t even know what that means, but I said “Oops, I meant, it LEAVES at 1. Not boards, it boarded already.” “You’ll be fine.”
Waiting for the line to even budge in customs felt like years. Of all the lines, I picked the slowest one, while every other line had an agent who stamped the passport and said “NEXT.” I waited behind people who searched in their bag for their passport like they didn’t know they’d have to show it and now couldn’t locate it. This airport was hot. God, I am sweating. Why is this line moving so slow? I felt like I was in the opening scene of Office Space. If I change lanes, all the other cars will start moving.
I went through customs and with time not on my side decided to run, again, down the escalator stairs and over to… oh… there is an airtrain to the other terminals. Running is useless here. I just missed one. The next one arrives in 3 minutes. Megan, these 3 minutes will be the longest 3 minutes of your life. No one should ever have to feel this way in an airport. This isn’t a pregnancy test.
I was hoping that once I arrived in my correct terminal that I’d be almost there, but for whatever reason I was still without a boarding pass and I really didn’t know where I was supposed to get it. Still worried about priority #1, I ran up the stairs at the terminal to the closest restroom and… there was a line. Seriously? I don’t even have to go that bad, I just have to go NOW. This connection is killing me.
I ran in the direction of my gate only to be considerably more confused when I saw a desk with a sign that said something like “Transfer Desk.” What is this “Transfer Desk?” What does it meaaaaannn?!? The signs were so confusing and although I was convinced that this is where I needed to get my boarding pass printed, I ran onward, figuring at least if I made it to my gate and needed to go back, they wouldn’t leave without me. I ran about 4 gates down (which in airport terms is something like an entire NYC block) and came across another, line-free Transfer Desk. I looked at the lady behind the desk from 3 rows of velvet rope away and blurted, “I’m not sure, I booked through United, I just got here. New York.” She looked startled and said “They’re waiting for you!” I almost felt relieved. “I just got here.” “I know.”
The lady behind the desk phoned my gate (still quite a bit away) and I gave her the information for the luggage I checked what felt like days ago in Trieste. Oh god, I hope my baggage makes the flight too. She handed me some form of a ticket, pointed towards the gate and told me to run.
By now I am completely over the fact that I am “that girl running in the airport” and run even faster than before. I throw my passport at another lady who is standing at a desk that reads “Passport Control” and proceed to the desk at my gate. Everyone knows I’m coming, but no one has any idea what to do with me. I need a boarding pass. Even more, I need a seat. I watch the women go back and forth on the computer, entering data codes and speaking in a language I didn’t understand. I’m still sweating. I must look gross by now. This fleece, this fleece is so freaking hot. My seat was given away already. I already lost my window seat on that last connection. I’m picturing myself “sitting bitch” for 10 hours in economy class, in the middle seat scrunched between a lady with a baby and a fat man and with no armrests. This! is my nightmare.
Finally a woman with a big smile hands me a boarding pass and says, “You can sit in business class. But you must not talk about it to the other passengers.” I was immediately grateful. Lady, your wish is my command.
I found my seat and shoved my coat under the seat in front of me. I sat down and instantly realized how strange doing that must have looked. Everyone else had nice coats resting on hangers. I just threw mine on the floor. Honestly, who brought this girl? I wasn’t wearing my Sunday’s best (or Monday’s, or Tuesday’s) but I praised my own decision to wear a blazer over my t-shirt today. I don’t look old and rich, but maybe I could fake this. Maybe if I just own this, I won’t spend the next 10 hours feeling like the girl whose seat was given away and normally wouldn’t be sitting in a seat in transatlantic business class.
The hours that followed were some of the most pampered hours of my life. A 5-course meal served on PLATES! With real silverware! A true luxury on an airplane. Soft thick blankets and fluffy pillows, big comfortable headphones, fully-reclining chairs that fold into a bed, and a maître d’cabin to fulfill any of my heart’s desires. At one point I really thought, “I wish they’d leave me alone now. All this service is getting annoying.” I threw an internal fit over not having a window seat on a 90-minute connection, but who needs sleep now? I’m enjoying myself! I snacked, sipped my sparkling water (I know, a crime when the liquor is free) and watched movie after movie from an altitude of 39,000 feet. What window seat?
Arriving in New York wasn’t met without even more hiccups (my iPod not working, getting off the train a subway stop too early, and having the PATH train doors close in my face) but it was easy to overlook them. My bag arrived in New York with me, and we walked down Grove Street towards home with an entirely new sea of memories.