17 July 2008

Leipzig to Munich to London to . . . London?

Don't criticize the photo. You would look like that too if you'd been through what I have today/the last few weeks building up to today. Many probably already basically know the drama of my day today. For those of you who don't like to hear details/don't like me, just know that I missed a flight and had a miserable day. For the rest of you, let me give you a detailed play-by-play of the nightmare. After all, I have the time.

This story starts earlier than today. In preparation to leave before classes were over and essay-writing and test-taking began, I posted a lot of blogs ahead of time in order to try to write my three final essays while still attending classes, which has been murder (or should I say suicide?). My sleep as well as my social life have been limited, and I took on carpal tunnel syndrome in the process. So the last four weeks have been C-razy.

Within the last two weeks, four people have contacted me to see if I could bring things to Utah for friends of theirs. "Sure," I said, being the usual willing helper that I like to be. I planned on bringing just my backpack, mostly empty, because I have clothes and everything I need in America. To make a long story short, I have a carry-on completely full of chocolate and other items, with another box of chocolate at the bottom of my backpack. And if you haven't thought about it before, think about it now: chocolate is heavy.

Last night, after packing and losing miserably at two games of Settlers (which I could blame on the fact that I was still working on my least-wonderful essay), I stayed up until my computer was almost dead. That way I could plug it in to charge while I was sleeping and the battery would last longer while I was traveling. When it got sufficiently low, I attached the plug. Then I realized I had given Mike my handy, so I didn't have an alarm clock. I set the online alarm clock to 5:15 and went to bed.

This morning, around 5:55, I looked at my watch and leapt out of bed. I quickly realized why the alarm hadn't gone off: I hadn't plugged in the other side of the cord, so my computer was dead. Luckily I made it to the train on time, which made it to the airport on time, but I was made at myself for having been so stupid.

At the airport, I played the usual "Yeah, so you've seen my American passport and you want to speak to me in English but I'm going to always answer in German" game, which was fun, but a painful wrist made it hard to swing my backpack onto my back and lift my suitcase.

I tried to make a phone call, but got cut off in the middle of talking to my professor, but then I had to board. The flight went well. I got a lot of good reading done (the first purely pleasure reading in a loooooong time) and even fetched some shut-eye that rejuvenated me enough to eat my delicious sandwich.

When we landed in London, a surprise waited for me: I had to go through customs since I had booked flights through separate companies. The line took a while, and I was the last one left there. The woman spent some time talking about how she hadn't heard of Northwest before and didn't know which terminal it was in and she even lectured me on printing out this information, though I had the flight number and times. Then she sent someone to find out which terminal. (She asked me if I was Mormon upon seeing the contact cards I keep in my passport. I offered her one, she declined.) The other lady took quite a while and came back without an answer--she told me to go ask at the information desk myself once I'd retrieved my baggage. I also asked how to get to that terminal and went through mazes to find the connecting train. I hurried onto it and found it was the wrong one, but I was able to get back to the starting point. However, I paused to listen to someone else who was also looking for the right train, and the guy pointed as it left. The next one wasn't due for 22 minutes! (Wouldn't you believe it, in my stress, I gnawed at some potatoes I had boiled yesterday. I bet people thought I was eating raw potatoes.) Then it was announced that there was a signal outage and the train would be late. Needless to say, I ran to check in and was told I was too late, though the plane didn't take off for another 45 minutes.

At the ticket counter, I was told that they couldn't get me on a plane until tomorrow and I would have to buy a new ticket. This was bad in many ways: I already couldn't afford the first ticket so my dwindling amount of American dollars wouldn't cover it, I would miss my flight from California so I'd have to re-book that too, I didn't want to sleep/sit miserably in the airport for a night, and I would miss the wedding shower that I was supposed to be throwing and had already delegated to my mom. After the hardest academic last few weeks of my life and little sleep, I couldn't help it; I bawled. A couple of guys tried to see if they could help me somehow, but they left saying they were sure the ticket agents could figure it out for me. Then another guy let me use his phone, but I couldn't get a hold of my parents. Besides, I don't think they can afford it either. Finally, my dad answered and kindly gave me his credit card number and promised to check his email often for info. But how to pay him back? The lady then told me he would have to book it at a KLM/Northwest counter if they were going to bend the rules and apply the tax I'd already paid to the new ticket. She said there was no possibility of flying me directly to Salt Lake. There is no ticket counter for them in Salt Lake, she then told me. I was still crying when I told the lady I would think about it. The guy who leant me the phone tried to buy me a phone card, but the machine wouldn't take his money. He generously gave me 25 pounds and called his agent about transferring his miles into a ticket for me, which didn't work out. I assured him I could find a place to use the internet and I would figure it out. I thanked him and gave him a Book of Mormon contact card.

The HotSpot at Starbucks didn't work, but I bought 24 hours of access from "The Cloud." I couldn't think straight; crying had worn me out. I looked through a lot of websites and got nervous as my battery ran out and no outlet was in sight. I called Paul to ask about nearest airports, he gave me good advice about checking Virginatlantic.com. I chatted with my sister and debated the benefits of turning around to go back home. Finally, my battery (and my bladder) could take no more, so I walked to the bathroom. I found an outlet outside of it and somehow managed to show my adaptor into it. Using my suitcase as a seat, it also served to hide the fact that I was mooching power from the airport, whether acceptable or not.

What do you know, an hour or so later, a nice-looking young man came up to me and said, "Are you member of the Church?" You know, "the Church" said in a way that leaves no doubt in your mind which church. "Yes, how did you know?" He pointed to the contact card with Jesus in my computer case. We chatted for a bit. He was from Pool, he'd served a mission in Manchester, he knew one of my friends in Leipzig, and he was at the airport to pick up a friend from his mission. He introduced me to two others before they went off to eat something.

Back to the drama, I decided that the price the lady had quoted me was the best I was going to get, and there were cheap enough flights from San Francisco to Salt Lake, though they had ridiculous numbers of transfers and some were overnight if I wanted to make it to the shower on time. I called Northwest and you won't believe what happened. The guy said he could work it out, but when I asked about the price, he said it would be $4,000. No, just kidding. You thought it would just keep getting worse, but I'm here to tell you it has to get better some time. He said it wasn't policy to refund the taxes (what the lady at the counter had promised), but if I could hold he would see what he could do. He came back and told me an even lower price for a new ticket, a ticket that leaves twelve hours earlier than the one the others had found, a ticket which would get me to San Francisco airport two hours and 15 minutes before my original JetBlue flight leaves from Oakland. I'm glad Amy was online. With her Bay Area expertise and willing taxi skills (she told me her driving would be faster than me walking or even swimming across the Bay), she advised me not to book another flight to Salt Lake. We're gonna try for it. I just might make it to Salt Lake at the same time I was going to since I had planned a day in San Fran. If I miss the flight, I think I may just give up and go for a drown in the Bay. (Okay, not really.)

All in all, I'm a few more hundred dollars out (though debates from friends are going on about fundraisers and donations to my checking account), 25 pounds richer, the acquaintance of a few more British Saint friends, ready to sit in the airport (I don't have M'Kynzi's number and I think I'm done with transit for today) instead of sleep at Amy's house, and haunted by a sore back and wrist and that feeling you have in your eyes after you've cried.

So, here I sit on my red, chocolate-filled Swiss Gear suitcase against a random wall outside of the bathroom, with the noise of the escalator running on my left (it squeaks every time it gets to a worn-out part of the hand grip) and an electronic ad circulating on the right, my adaptor stuck into the wall, and my stomach grumbling. 11 hours to go. The Cadbury vending machine is calling my name (I'd always heard addictions were harder to resist during stress), but at least I have internet and my computer to keep me busy. I'm going to make it. I hope. Pray for me (and make checks payable to Michelle Glauser).


  1. Wow, this sounds like such a nightmare. Good luck getting home (surely you'll be blessed for passing out pass along cards in the middle of your misery ?)

  2. If you read this please make your wedding gifts in paper and written to Michelle Glauser, and if there is any extra to the Glauser family!And I'm not kidding.

  3. Your very own odyssey. See you soon, Odysseus.