Sunday, October 14, 2007

Travelog(ue)I: The Road to Kuujjuaq

Fun fact #1: If you're in another country, say Italy, and you enter as the URL, you get blogger in another language. Italian, for instance.

Fun fact #2: I'm drunk. Please make allowances.

Greetings, readers. I'm on the road to nowhere, come on inside. No, seriously, I was sitting in a self service caffeteria in Firenze/Florence today, and over the restaurant's audio system came the Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere." A sign? Maybe.

But you'll have to wait for tales of Florence. In fact, you'll have to wait for tales of Venice? Why? Because I say so! Which, if you're interested, is exactly what the fraulein manning the snack stand at the Frankfurt airport said to me when I said, "Why not" when she called to me -- very sternly -- "No photos!" when I was trying to catch a shot of the donuts she was selling. President Kennedy's famous declaration of jelly donutdom notwithstanding, one really expects not to see donuts of the very American sort at the Frankfurt airport. But one is, alas, often disappointed at the Frankfurt airport. As we'll see in a moment. Be patient.

By the way, if you're wondering who was triumphant in the donut photo contest, well:

Not for nothing did we win those 20th century wars, readers. (Apologies to my German readers. Ich liebe dich. Each and every one of you. Ich liebe dick, also, but you knew that.)

But enough of reliving the military triumphs of yesteryear. Come with me, instead, to yesterweek, when you would find me departing my office at 2pm (I was mistaken about leaving at noon. In an uncharacteristic moment of sanity, b&c decided that we didn't need to leave Bethesda until 2 to catch a 5:15 flight from Dulles) and arriving in the accursed land of Virginie du Nord. We parked, took the shuttle, used the cute little check-in machines, cleared security, and arrived at the gate in plenty of time for me to get a couple of chapters of The Good Earth (I have been drafted into the office book club. Sorry about that, Sigrid Undset. I promise to get back to Kristen Lavransdatter, and if I don't, I'm guessing she grows old and dies.) read prior to the commencement of the boarding. Which, as you might guess from the syntax, is much like The Silence of the Lambs only not so short.

Anyway, we were happily ensconced in our seats waiting for a take-off that, well, threatened not to come. After twenty minutes of waiting, the captain got on the speaker and said something about weather and windows of opportunity closing and maybe we'd be taking off and maybe not.

At this time, eyebrows were raised. Our travel company had given us precisely seventy minutes between our scheduled landing time in Frankfurt and our scheduled departure time to Venice (or Venedig, as Lufthansa insists upon calling it). If there was too much of a delay, then surely we would miss our connection. This, naturally, recalled our last European vacation, when we lost an entire day because of the British Airways strike, but let's not go there. If I were to go there, though, I would point out that what the BA strike taught us was that the male flight attendants on Virgin Atlantic are orders of magnitude cuter than their BA counterparts. Not that such things matter to me. No more than oxygen, anyway.

Anyway. The plane did leave, about forty-five minutes late. We hoped, naturally, that the crew would flap their little arms tirelessly to cut down on the flight time, and, indeed, as we flew along, the scheduled arrival time got earlier and earlier.

But not all that early. Not so early that, when we were flying across Newfoundland, I didn't take the opportunity to look up at the screen and notice that we were about t fly somewhere north of St. Johns and south of Kuujjuaq (eat it, spell checker!) and wonder whether we wouldn't be better off on a pleasant early fall vacation to Kuujjuaq. I'll have to admit here that I haven't really had much of a chance to check Kuujjuaq out. Internet access is not that cheap here (but not that expensive, for a hotel, really), and I haven't exactly been idle on this vacation. Still, I'm sure that Kuujjuaq is a fine place to visit, though I might avoid going there in October. But maybe not. I apologize if I have insulted any of my Kuujjuaq readers. (By the way, I do get occasional readers from Germany, but I'm not aware of any from Kuujjuaq. Still, if there are any, my apology is as sincere as any that I offer.)

Anyway. It was a night flight, so infrequent dozing happened. Food that did not make me ill was served. Water was consumed. And around the time that the snack most resembling breakfast was served, b&c inquired of one of the flight attendants who said that while he couldn't give us priority getting off the plane -- because everyone was in the same boat, you understand -- the plane had made up some time and would arrive only twenty minutes late, giving us 45 or 50 minutes to get through customs and security and to the next terminal. He thought it would be plenty.

And then. Well. I don't know what to make of the supposed German efficiency, but even though we were twenty minutes late landing, we had to wait twenty-five minutes for a gate. [Insert appropriate German expletive here. I forget them all at the moment. I apologize.] At this point, we were nearly, but not entirely, resigned to missing the connecting flight, but there was a slight flicker of hope, so we impatiently waited our turn to get off the plane, then we ran to the line for customs. It went quickly enough, though I suspected b&c of dawdling a bit because of the very hunky young German (clearly someone who woke up every morning cursing the fact that he'd missed the chance to be a Hitler youth) examining our passports was so obviously a top.

Anyway, through one line, and running to the next, we encountered some erroneous signage but eventually landed in the long, slow queue for security. At this point, we were already late, but I hadn't surrendered yet, so I was quite put off when the single aluminum packaged capsule of Benadryl in my pocket triggered the alarm. I had removed my belt, my keys, my cell phone, etc., but the Benadryl triggered the alarm. I was unable, even, to appreciate that the police officer who was running a wand all over me was rather fetching. In any case, he didn't give me his number, so we were running again, across many moving sidewalks, finally reaching the gate, ten minutes late, the flight was a distant memory. This, after all, was Germany, and the planes must run on time. Except for the next flight, which we ended up on, but at that point we were defeated.

Anyway. Right after we'd missed our flight, we got into the transfer line, and I looked up, and I saw the sight that you see at the head of this entry. Here's a closeup:

Now lookit, people. I was tired. I'd had little sleep, I had run through a huge airport, I'd been wanded by a guy who DIDN'T EVEN OFFER ME HIS PHONE NUMBER, and I'd missed my flight, and, with it, most of a day in Venice. Otherwise, I would have only thought what I said to b&c, which was, "Goddamn motherfucking Germans using the goddamn motherfucking greengrocer's plural. Did we lose the motherfucking second world war and did somebody forget to inform me?" To which b&c calmly replied, "You know, in German,'gift' means 'poison'." This lead to a confirmation (if I have not mentioned it, b&c holds a Ph.D. in German) that the Germans do not form the possessive in the same way we do and that, in any case, since the shop in question was clearly a gift shop (I suppose they might have been poison gifts, but one reckons not, and, in any case, I was in no mood for logical reflection), this grammatical atrocity was clearly a back door attempt by the Germans to defeat our souls and thus win by stealth and intrigue what they could not take by force.

In any event, by the time we reached the clerk (very cute and clearly a bottom) at the transfer desk and were informed that the next flight to Venice was three hours away, I had calmed down enough to say only "That's okay. I'm sure there's no more charming place on Earth to spend three hours than the Frankfurt airport." The clerk chuckled.

We did, of course, make it to Venice, and I did, of course, have a great time there. I will write more about it when I get a chance. For now, though, you can see the view from the window of our room. My hour is about up here, and, even worse, I'm feeling the signs of impending sobriety. By the way, when I click on "Controlla ortografia," I get nothing, so I apologize for spelling errors. I also have no time to proofread, so I anticipate mortification when the opportunity arises.

Fun fact #3. If you know one Romance language, you can figure out enough of most of the others to do things like use vending machines and blogger.


franck said...

As entertaining as this post is, I wish I hadn't read it. You see, I'm booked to fly from New York to Amsterdam (via Frankfurt) on Lufthansa, in March.

The Neighbors Will Hear said...

I don't see what the problem is, Franck. Just make sure you have sufficient time between flights and avoid the donuts. And if you do need to get a transfer, the ticket agent's a bottom, and you're versatile, so have to!