Remember my Indonesia journey post? How I raved about the beauty of missed connections, of being stuck not in translation but transition, of just accepting that life sometimes comes with inevitable delays and how we should enjoy them instead of fighting a fruitless fight against them. Yeah, I take that one back!
As you may or may not know, I am an innate planner. It's partly curse and partly pleasure that comes with every trip. For my Indonesia journey, I thought I was all set. I had chosen a flight with my favorite airline, Emirates, a great itinerary (shortest travel time not cheapest ticket this time!) and given myself two extra nights in Jakarta to acclimatize. I had organized my hotel, my airport pick-up and put my pj's on top of my backpack for easy access at night. Priorities, I have them and what could go wrong, right?
The travel gods were laughing at this little planner when I eagerly strolled to the airport on Wednesday evening, hours to spare as usual.
After an Emirates plane had crash-landed and caught fire in the morning, I was more than a little nervous for a change. But as the lady in the hotline had reassured me I would leave Hamburg on time and arrive in Dubai safely. So I had dropped the keys to my brother's flat where I had been staying while he was on holiday in the mailbox and shut the door. With me dive gear, backpack and a weekender bag whose zipper broke before I even left the city.
The airport was mayhem, even at the priority check-in counter. My flight to Dubai? Delayed until the morning.
I took my place in the queue, right behind a family with too many kids, all lying on the floor, and one confused guy from Yorkshire; behind me a nosy passenger who needed a lesson in minding his own business. An hour and a half later without a cocktail, it was my turn at the counter. It took another 30 minutes, and I was rebooked on the delayed flight for the next morning, got a ticket for a flight to Jakarta with the 4 am machine, and a hotel voucher because I was not sure if I could retrieve the keys from the mailbox. I had also as graciously as possible pulled my pj's and a fresh pair of underwear from my luggage and stuffed it in my hand luggage which didn't close anymore with or without broken zipper.
Three taxis who wouldn't take me to the airport hotel and two fruitless attempts to walk I was finally on a shuttle to take me to my bed for the night. Check-in was painless, the room was spacious, and a little later I had managed to order a carb-free burger and no wine (don't ask, let's just call it the 'trying to fit into my wetsuit again' diet).
While I was commiserating about the whole situation with my father the English guy, happy to see his friend – me – again, decided to sit down. He was only a little drunk as he proudly told me. Germans are not known as a nation of teetotalers, but a little drunk seems to mean something very different in England than it does here. He was pissed and had brought gifts in the form of a meal voucher well spent on a bottle of white and two glasses. My retort that I wasn't drinking was ignored not once but twice, and a very full glass was put in front of me.
The waitress wasn't sure if I didn't care for the guy or the wine, but offered to help me fight off unwanted advances either way. I gratefully declined and just used his bathroom break to sneak away.
My alarm was set for 6 am and with six hours of sleep ahead of me I was only slightly irritated when I got a call from reception a few minutes after I had dozed off. My flight had been further delayed, which meant two hours more sleep, putting me in a slightly more forgiving mood for being woken up. Mind you, the two hours didn't help, I was awake at 6 am and the term bleary-eyed suddenly had meaning to me.
At 10 am I took my bleary eyes and my non-zipping, overstuffed bag to my flight, yet further delayed. After 14 hours I was finally off to Dubai. Unfortunately, I didn't have the company of Tarzan but only Mowgli, and while I had a lot of extra leg room, I was also in the row next to all the children and babies. And what is it with grown people not knowing how to open the door to the plane toilet?!
Six hours of flying and another hour for the buses to remember us, fetch us, and take us to the terminal, and I was in Dubai.
I thanked my lucky star for having my boarding pass to Jakarta already as the local transfer counter was barely visible it was so crowded.
Immigration was almost as much fun. Another 40 minutes, two singing teenage girls, and a lady who kept on pushing her stroller into my heels kind of fun. When some guy tried to cut in line, another guy told him bravely off and sent him to the back. People started applauding; apparently, I wasn't the only one not appreciating the immigration fun. While I suspect, those are the same people who'd applaud when planes land I was tempted to join in.
A taxi took me to the one place that could make my day better: the Manzil Hotel in downtown Dubai. I was greeted with smiles, the most sparkling view of the Burj Khalifa, a proper dinner, a cocktail, wetsuit be damned, and more pineapples! I even managed to sleep comfortably for three hours and almost cry when the night was over, and I had to leave my bed.
Back at the airport I made a brave attempt at the counter, “Any chance for a complimentary upgrade or ahem, you know, a seat at the emergency exit?”, I whispered, smiling my most charming 3 am smile. “Oh, but you are in business class already!”, the lady smiled back at me. While declarations of love in the middle of the night are usually not my thing, the occasion clearly called for an exception. Which turned out made her day after she had made mine.
After a brief but scary immigration issue – Please go to office 4, you are not in the system! - I was in the lounge and shortly after in my seat. I snuggled in a real blanket and pillow with the voice of David Attenborough lulling me to sleep.
Before landing a last moment of panic after the lady next to me had mistakenly put my iPhone in her compartment and I had considered it stolen or lost, doomed to fly business class forever. Then I was in Jakarta.
Now, a total of forty-something hours later, freshly showered and fed I am contemplating my new relationship with missed connections. Love them or hate them, here is what I've learned:
On any given trip, always take extra patience (or Valium), extra underwear, and enough entertainment, so you don't need to rely on Alexander Skarsgård to be on a plane with you. And of course, remind yourself always to be grateful when your plane gets you to your destination safely. Even if you miss a connection or two on the way.
Do you have any other tips for making missing connections more bearable?