Getting Here

I must be doing something right. On the flight and so far off the plane in Frankfurt I have been addressed in German. It’s fun to see their faces when I quietly respond in English, as I don’t even have the slightest idea how to tell them in German that I don’t speak the language. Other than the language barrier, the flight went well. The inside of my eyelids are as interesting as ever, especially compared to the upright, dreamless, and not-so-restful sleep that airplanes have to offer.

I thought ahead and bought dinner and breakfast in Boston so that I wouldn’t have to choose between “chicken” and “pasta” for dinner or eat a “buttery croissant” brick for breakfast. I noticed too late that the passengers who were awake the whole flight were enjoying a free drink-fest on board. By the time I caught on it was breakfast and probably unacceptable to ask for a drink since the local time was 5am instead of the 11pm my iPod suggested. Before then I could have had my choice of red wine, white wine, cognac, Baileys, or beer the entire flight.

Although I missed out on the drinks, I was excited because it was my first time on a plane with a second floor. It made me wish that I was obscenely rich and could afford a transatlantic first-class flight on the upper floor of the plane. I pictured it having huge comfortable seats complete with real pillows, blankets, and an open bar that served food instead of “food.”

Now, sitting at the gate I still feel relatively calm considering my next flight boards in less than an hour and I have no apartment. Maybe it will hit me on the taxi. Or when I go to the beach later and think about the apartment search I should be doing instead of lounging on Mediterranean sand. Oh, and Spanish? Catalan? Ha! They speak English here! I have plenty of time to get used to Spanish again before classes start.

If there’s one thing I didn’t learn through this whole process of moving abroad, it was to stop procrastinating. Or, maybe what I learned was about the Mediterranean timing of things.

That was before my flight got cancelled. Here’s the rest.

Lufthansa went on strike from 5am until 1pm. Most flights did not have a crew and therefore most flights were grounded. Thousands of people were in multiple lines trying to rebook flights. I waited in one line for over an hour when a Lufthansa employee directed me to a “shorter, faster” line. I waited in that line, the longest line I have ever seen, for over three hours when a Lufthansa employee referred me to the automated check-in kiosk. The kiosk would have a boarding pass for me already set up for a later flight.

One hyphenated word explains the rest of the day: stand-by. Oh, I stood by. I stood by 55th on the waiting list that had everyone from the earlier flight to Barcelona on it. Over a hundred of us stood by.

There is a sort of camaraderie that comes out of being in a situation like that. I would not use the term friend because that suggests a different kind of bond of doing things for each other that didn’t exist. Everyone was patient with my Spanish; they gave me suggestions for how to find an apartment. One lady even gave me her number because her mother-in-law is looking for a renter. The bond that did exist was a nice, but competitive bond. If someone found out information about possible spots on a flight, they were reluctant to tell you. Waiting in line to talk to Lufthansa to ask about the waiting list? Chaos, there was no line. Every man for himself. But, even competitively, we were all in the chaos together.

The chaos finally cleared on the flight to Barcelona when I fell asleep again. The German man next to me woke me up when the attendant came by with drinks and this time I didn’t miss out on the free beer. We drank beer and talked Barcelona as we looked at it through the plane window.

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