What happened to my good travel luck?

July 29, 2017

Which each international trip I feel less and less prepared; or do I feel most prepared? I can’t decide. When I started traveling overseas I used to meticulously prepare – hours and hours spent on detailed research on each city, language CDs bought and listened to, and packing would start weeks in advance. Now, it seems like I just open my packing list app and throw everything into a backpack days before. Ok, I am being hard on myself; it is not really like that. The packing list I use has been tried and tested before many trips and doesn’t do me wrong (except make me over pack). I am more experienced now – there is no need to stress over every detail; Europe is not third world – you can buy what you forgot to pack. I guess what what has mostly changed I set up the hotels and number of days I will stay in each place ahead of time but all the details are fuzzy until we get there. This kind of travel used to give me anxiety but it works for me now. I utilize the “research time” as the time to rest and revive my energy store. It works.
Before leaving for Germany, I had house guests. This is also something I would avoid, again the stress and distraction from my main job – preparation; but this time it was ok. Plus I really wanted to see this friend (and meet her travel companion). I fortunately was able to schedule a reunion of sorts with this old friend and others during one of my last “mom’s estate” trips to Florida. But now I have finally closed the estate and my freedom has been restored to use my time as I wish. I will still be back to Florida for work, friends and family but there won’t be the urgent need to be down there all the freakin time to take care of business. So this visit from the friend was  very welcome because we normally don’t get to meet up too often. It was a good distraction because there wasn’t too many last minute gotchas that I needed to take care of pre-trip (ok I decided last minute I didn’t want to bring a million pairs of short shorts and needed more pairs of travel type capri pants. I did a last minute shopping expedition too near to my house – which means I came up completely empty in the pants department but picked up two new sundresses and a scarf – which I really didn’t need but brought anyway because they were new.) I digress; I was able to spend at least one evening with my friend before we disappeared to Germany.

The Journey

I arranged a car service to take us to JFK, timing it so we would get there around 2.5 hours early (to my displeasure). Part of my anxiety is that I am afraid of missing a flight and loathe running through an airport with my luggage to catch one. For this reason I most always show up at the recommended time for flying (2 hours domestic and 3 hours international) but when traveling with others I compromise because not everyone shares my travel anxiety. In this case, we still showed up pretty early but it totally backfired (more of that in a minute). As for the car service, they are pretty good value for the money and mostly show up on time but again the way they assign their drivers gives me anxiety. I book my trip hours or sometimes a day in advance but they don’t assign a driver until about 10 min or less before I am supposed to get picked up (I can see all this through their website and corresponding text message). I would be totally cool with this except ONE time they never assigned a driver for a super early airport ride. I watched the screen minute after minute and the driver never appeared under my reservation. I finally called and they sent a driver. Luckily I planned to leave early since I was travelling alone. Everything was ok but I never forgot this experience. On today it was 15 minutes and no driver was assigned. I made the call. Of course I got attitude from the dispatch “You still don’t leave for another 15 minutes” to which I exclaimed “one time you guys never showed up and I am anxious about missing an international flight”. I was probably a topic of conversation in the office after we hung up but a driver was on the way. We took the “busy” way to the airport which cuts through the middle of Brooklyn instead of the long way around the perimeter of brooklyn. Most drivers choose to take the long way since usually traffic is more stable that way. Today it didn’t matter and we were still early so it didn’t matter to me.
When we arrived at the airport it seemed strangely crowded, even for people leaving for a holiday weekend (forth of July was the next week). Lines stretched down the curb and it looked like no one was moving. It was almost like 40 tour buses dropped everyone off at once. We decided curb side check in was not an option and moved inside. Inside it didn’t get better. Wall to wall people and no one was moving anywhere. And no communication what so ever about what was going on. We inquired to a man next to us who looked like he might know what was going on and he informed us of the airport fire at Panda Express at the terminal. Everyone had been evacuated to where I was standing now. So we waited with still no communication. As time went on crowd got thicker and thicker and still no communication. We would see a little crowd movement and thought the crisis was over but alas it was just a false alarm. We were still stuck there, in the crowd. I didn’t start the countdown watch to when we arrived and when we started making progress but I would say initially we stood in the crowd for at least 1.5 hours before security was opened. People were surprisingly calm given the craziness. I was slightly annoyed but cool until one guy got mad at me for hitting him with my backpack to which I replied “what do you expect me to do, I have no where to go and people are trying to get by”. Everyone was getting pushed aside and hit with suitcases and backpacks as people pushed through the crowd trying to get “somewhere” even if they didn’t know what or where somewhere was. Eventually security opened back up. We still were not worried about missing our flight, even though I am pretty sure it took us at least another hour to get through security. No planes were leaving yet, there is no way we would miss OUR flight. They started cancelling the “missed” flights but we weren’t one of them. This did start delaying everything out of that terminal since they had a big backlog due to the fire. We probably got our first delay notice as we were almost through security but I am not quite sure.

Once we finally made our way to the security scanners, my experience was pretty uneventful except my shoes triggered a future search. So much for not having to take the shoes off anymore It was no big deal, not like Carlos getting flagged for a further search. Carlos had to wait for his bags to get searched further. It was taking a while and I had to pee really bad. We agreed to meet close to the gate or a restaurant or something. I went to the restroom then stepped to the side and waited and waited. Did Carlos go to eat somewhere without me? That is so unlike him, maybe his phone wasn’t working. Finally he appears, he just got done with his search. They flagged his protein powder and ask him a few questions about it then let him go. Why so long? Before his bag was search the guy getting searched in front of him was a work of art. Carlos told the story of him watching the security officer take large bottle after large bottle out of his carry-on bag. They took out full size bottles of shampoo and conditioner, they took out large bottles conspicuously wrapped in duct tape, and finally they took took out at least two large spray bottles of Cutter (Yes the bug spray). It was almost comical. The person would almost had to not flown in this century to know all that stuff was a big no no. Carlos tried to get a picture of it all was only able to capture a little.

We started making it toward our gate, eyeballing all the possible eateries along the way. The goal was to pick a place that met our craving requirements that wouldn’t put us too far from our gate. That proved difficult since the flight delays kept ping ponging us from gate to gate. We finally pick a place near the gate that our flight gets assigned to the most but of course we end up not flying out there. After some food and some slow service at the restaurant we finally make it to our flight for an uneventful trip. See you until we arrive in Frankfurt!

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