Friday, March 27, 2015

The Aspie Traveler: Day 5

After thinking I had slept the entire night, I looked at my iPad and saw that it was 12:02 a.m. Great. Not again. Thankfully that was the truth as I closed my eyes and then I looked at it again and it was 6:00 a.m. Finally, a full night's rest! However, there was some angst as I realized I didn't know if I'd even have a flight much less when. I checked my email and had four different emails regarding travel but they all said the same thing; I did indeed have a seat on a KLM flight and I'd actually be getting back to Amsterdam a couple hours earlier than originally planned.

Wil came by with his dog and we walked back towards his place. It was then that I finally realized just how much people in Europe walk. I've walked more in the last four days than a very long time over three times the time span (or more.)

Whilst walking and passing people who were also walking, I once again became entranced in the notion of wondering who all these people were. I was an outsider getting a small, seemingly negligible glimpse into the life of people that live thousands of miles away. With each person that passed, whether they look like they had taken two hours to do their hair, or the 3/4ths of people that had headphones listening to music, or in the midst of a phone conversation I had this deep yearning of simply wanting to know what their daily life is like. I know my life, I know my routines, but what's it truly like to be elsewhere.

These thoughts were quickly replaced by the sensation of hunger so we went to a pub for breakfast (who knew?) and we both ordered the "traditional breakfast" which was one fried egg, bacon, toast, baked beans, one sausage, and an oddly placed tomato. It was all delicious.

We did a quick lap of some sights and then hopped on the train to get to the airport because the emails implored me to get there early, which I did, and I was fearing this long process of talking to Lufthansa agents, then KLM, then back to Lufthansa in an never ending back and forth game. Thankfully this didn't occur as when I went to the self-check in kiosk of KLM and put in my confirmation number and it worked, I got a boarding pass, and that was that.

Wil and I said goodbye and he was a most gracious host and I will be thanking him for a long time for his time and generosity on my journey to England, but now it was time to return to Amsterdam.

Or was it? First off, the Birmingham airport lacks a lot of essential things that I'm used to such as informative departures board. There's only one, but to get to it one must pass through a conveniently placed duty free mall where the people there are more than willing to squirt cologne or perfume whether you recalled wanting it or not. Once through that there is one, count them, one board. At least that I saw. My ticket said what gate I was at so I went to the gate where there were no workers and the video board had a generic uninformative message so I waited. My flight was supposed to leave at 1:40 p.m. and it became 1:00 p.m. and still there were no employees at this gate. I was now concerned because I'm used to the boarding process beginning at 40 minutes prior to departure, but still nothing. I went to the highly informative boards, which I forgot to mention DIDN’T EVEN GIVE DEPARTING GATE NUMBERS, and it said my flight was boarding in "Ten minutes".

Ten minutes? I started to panic and I checked my phone to make sure 13:40 was 1:40 p.m. (I'm new to the 24:00 hour system) and I was right, which meant the board was right which meant, "Where was my gate?" I remember Wil telling me KLM doesn't have a major presence at this airport. I came to the conclusion that the only gate must be the one with the KLM signs.  Ok, I was waiting but where was everyone? Were my fears from yesterday coming true? Would I not be able to get back to Amsterdam? My panic was now at full acceleration.

As with the day prior, communication was minimal. In the US, when there's an agent at the counter who says something. With the jet bridge thing in Amsterdam, and now this it leaves a lot to the imagination as to just how bad the delay is going to be.

At 1:50 p.m., ten minutes past scheduled departure time, an agent finally opened the check-in desk and I went up and showed him my boarding pass to ask if I was at the right gate and he said, "Yessir, the plane is 40 minutes behind." Whew! At least I now had an answer, but why did it get to this point? I saw a sign on the wall that said, "Announcements are not made at this airport please consult signage boards". Okay, yes that would work IF THERE WERE PLENTY OF BOARDS! Sorry to shout, but it was all so frustrating. Sadly, my day was about to get worse, which means good for you because I've got my entertaining stuff to write about.

The 40 minutes was more like 70 minutes and we started boarding. When I got to my seat I fully misjudged the clearance of my head to the ceiling above the seats and I slammed my head with full walking force into it. The impact knocked me down and I instantly had a headache, but also five different people saw it (yay self image!) and I heard in five different languages, "Are you okay?" or that's what I assumed they said. I was and I sat down and after the pounding headache ebbed I got out my iPad and started to write the conclusion to yesterday's blog as well as the start of this one. There was a problem though, I was three wide in the middle and the seats left no elbowroom. While I typed I kept brushing up against my row mates. The guy on my left didn't care because he had fallen asleep and was resting against my shoulder, but this businessman headed to Shanghai was getting a little aggravated as he tried to finish his Sudoku puzzle.

The snack cart came by first and here's another observation about Europe compared to the US; in America drinks come before food, but here it's the opposite. Also, when a soda is ordered at dinner you're given a glass that is 300mL or 11.5ish fl. oz., which is a stark contrast to your 20oz bottle or you free refills. I'm used to taking a drink after every bite, which simply does not work over here with the prices of drinks. Anyway, the snack came but I continued to write until the drinks came and when they came the businessman was borderline irate so put the iPad away and as I got my drink I thought I'd do a good deed. This good deed went horribly wrong.

When opening a can one usually has to move their arms outward, or at least I do. To prevent this, I figured I'd have the can partially in the cup and open the can while it was tilted a bit. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, have you ever seen a victory ceremony like a podium presentation in F1 or anytime a baseball team clinches something and champagne is sprayed? Yeah, if you have you'll know what I'm talking about because when I pulled the tab an explosion of soda flew everywhere. Thankfully none got in my eyes but my glasses were covered, but not only that I managed to drench the businessman, the sleeping man, and all three occupants in the row in front of me. The flight attendant simply said, “Sir, I'll get you a napkin. Or two." (Haha, humor at my expense.) I deserved it, however, but the fun wasn't over. When it came time for the trash to be picked up, I wanted to be real careful as to not touch anyone when I handed the cup and can to the lady. So I put the can and napkins in the cup, which made the can wobbly, and when I lifted it up to hand it to her the can fell out and it was only a few drops but the sleeping man once again had soda on him.

For the two people beside me, they will always have it in their minds as the worst flight they ever had and the worst passenger they ever sat by. Not the distinction I wanted but each thing happened so innocently. When we landed and I deplaned it was a sense of pure liberation and I'm glad I will probably never see them again because they will probably just give me the evil eye for making a one hour ten minute flight much more interesting that it had to be.

I caught a shuttle this time to save money and got back to the hotel and had one of the best tasting burgers ever (Amsterdam is totally going to ruin food for me when I get back) but after that I was finished. It was only 7:30 p.m., but after all the days of walking and the minimal sleep my body had given me every sign in the world that it was, indeed, exhausted. Besides that, I needed my rest because tomorrow could be a long night as I live out a dream as I attend an event. What event is that? You'll find out tomorrow; but I can say I'm bursting at the seams waiting for it.

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