Saturday, May 23, 2009

Flight Over

Well, I'm back in Poland. I was greeted by overhanging clouds and a steady rain.

There's no real need for me to talk about my trip in great detail, but I will anyway.
It all started when E gave me a ride to Logan Airport. The day was searing hot; not a cloud in the sky or even a breeze of any sort. He had his little Garmin GPS set to avoid toll roads, so I got a pleasant tour of previously-unseen Mass, guided by some mechanical voice with a British accent (it even used the word 'roundabout' instead of "rotary.')

E dropped me off at Terminal A (NWA used to fly out of Terminal E, but ever since they were bought out by Delta they've switched to Terminal A.) I checked in with almost no problems (my first bag was two pounds over weight. I had to rummage in it and take out my tiny tripod and my paperback copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach. It ended up being two pounds under the limit. Great success. The automatic check-in machine was also kind of a piece of shit.)
My flight was at 7:05 PM, and I arrived at the airport at four, so I had some waiting to do. No problem, I watched some lectures from my online class and sat it out by the window, watching the ground crew load the A330. At 5:30 there came an announcement that our aircraft had a large mechanical problem (something to do with the nose landing gear.) They estimated that it would be fixed by 10 PM and that we'd fly out at 11:15. A short while later they announced again that the mechanical problem could not be fixed tonight and that they were flying in another plane from Minneapolis, which would be here around ten, and that we'd fly out at 11:15. I began to somewhat panic, since I was originally due to arrive in Amsterdam at 8:00 AM local time, and fly out at 9:45. Now they were saying that we'd arrive in Amsterdam no earlier than 10:00.
A long line formed at the gate desk, and stood up and joined at the back, intent on finding out when I was able to get a connection. While waiting in line I chatted to some fellow travelers and got my voucher NWA passed out. One was $25 off my next flight, another was 2,000 frequent flyer miles, and another was for a $10 voucher that could be used to buy some food in the terminal. I waited in line for about ninety minutes. When I was about two people away to speaking to representative, one of them got on the speaker and announced that Delta was not running the connections, on KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines was doing that, and Delta had no idea what we would have to do. We were directed to speak to KLM representatives when we arrived in Amsterdam.
Seeing as I was being picked up at Chopin Airport, I tried to find a way to contact them saying I wasn't arriving. Internet at Logan costs like $8 per day, and I wasn't about to do that. Strangely, I could access,,, and YouTube (I was only able to watch one video, the rest had 'errors.') A guy sitting next to me inquired about the internet, and I replied that these must have been a fluke. He let me use his Blackberry Storm (it's kind of crappy, really. Not really a good GUI) to send an SMS.
I used my voucher at the nearby Game On bar. They were out of food (the kitchen had just closed), but they had to Sox game on. I got a pint of Samuel Adams Summer Ale (a fine pint indeed) and watched the Sox for a bit.
The plane arrived and we finally boarded. I got an aisle seat, sitting next to an older woman. I read a bit from a complimentary Wall Street Journal (Mexico's economy has taken a hit to the balls) and waited for take off. We sat on the plane for a bit, and the pilot announced that a circuit breaker had blown on a minor system and shouldn't cause much of a delay. It took a short bit, but we were airborne a little after 12:45 AM—over six hours later than our supposed take off.
I slept through most of the flight, missing breakfast. We landed in Amsterdam around 1:00 PM. The pilot had gone up to 39,000 feet and gunned the engines, cutting the seven-hour trip down to six. Going through customs was fairly easy, but the line was exceedingly long. The customs guard was smiley and pleasant. After seeing my old student visa for Germany, he asked, "You were in Germany? Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" I replied, "Ein bisschen." He gave a nod, "Ein bisschen."
It's strange, these days almost all check in is automatic. You get your tickets from a machine, and now they have these automatic transfer machines. I scanned the barcode from my original boarding pass and it printed me out a new one. My new flight was at 2:50, landing in Warsaw at 4:50. I could only hope that my luggage would follow me there.
Follow me it did. It was some of the first luggage to be unloaded onto the carousel. I had unfortunately gotten a middle seat between some fat old guy, who had terrible breath and smelled like an alcoholic, and some middle-aged woman. Halfway through the flight, the guy got up, and I suspected he went to the bathroom. He left a carryon bag under the seat, but he never returned. Either he had to take a massive hour-long shit, or he just moved to another open seat.
No one was there to greet me at the terminal, so I headed straight out to the bus stop. I was exceedingly fortunate when my bus arrived just as I walked up. On the way to the apartment there was a girl and her mother going for the First Communion (they got on at a different stop.) The little girl was dressed elegantly all in white, with a white wreath of flowers on her head and white gloves, white shoes, and a white purse (even a little fur-lined white shawl.) It was quite a clash and contrast of the prim and proper against the background of the everyday riffraff (like last summer at the wedding in Sosnowiec, where there was a a grubby beggar and her children on the church steps while everyone stood in their Sunday best in line to congratulate the bride and groom.) I really wanted to take a picture, but I didn't want them to get angry (I wasn't sure how the mother would react.)

Well, that's pretty much how I got here. Jet lag still eats at me, but I'll manage.

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