Okay, I’m really back now. Jetlag is jetlag and I’m awake at odd hours so I might as well write as it helps me process better than dreams. To complete my euro transition, I’m listening to Kate Ryan as I type away. Sparky’s theme for my birthday this year was “Jen loves Euro trash” hence two Kate Ryan CDs. And I do love euro trash.
My flight home was so horrible that if I had had this experience when I first started traveling, I would have stayed in San Francisco. The good thing was that all the Tylenol PM I took on the plane might not have induced sleep, but it did create a dream-like state that lessens the miserable memory so that I may fly again. Like an epidural for traveling.
I got to the airport 3 hours before my flight like the good international traveler I am. Like the good traveler I am, I was ever so courteous to the agent assigning me my seat and taking my baggage. I asked if my Lufthansa agent friend was working. Like everything else on this trip, she was not there. She usually can get me an upgrade or at least a couple of seats to myself. And she never checks the weight of my bags. Seriously, checking my bag weight is almost as bad as checking my own weight. I’m almost always within an ounce or gram or whatever of the limit. I usually have Sparky holding up one side if I think I might be over. And I usually try to hide my carry-on.
This agent, Herr Nützlich, was either new or German. He was so by the book. Even his smile was the measured to the specific specifications of his employee handbook. I was within the weight limit for my two checked bags so things were going fine until… he looked over the counter and told me to put my carry-on on the scale. It was like my doctor asked me to step on the scale with my shoes and handbag and not hold on to the wall. The horror. And of course it was 15 kilos as opposed to the 8 kilos you’re allowed.
“The bag MUST be checked. This time it is free, but you must be aware that you are only allowed two free checked bags.”
He did not mention the extra bag fee I paid for a 1 lb kitten. But then we had not gotten to the cat part yet. No travel story is complete without a cat, right?
An aside: I got this kitten in California. It was a weird crux of circumstances. I went to a pet store to get Miranda’s dog a food/water bowl set that rats could not get into and lo and behold there was an orange cat at the register. I made a comment about wanting an orange kitten and the lady ringing me up offered me one she was taking to a shelter. At that point I was still planning on a five day New York stopover. I couldn’t imagine doing that to a kitten, but I took her number anyway. At 16:45 the day before we were to leave, Mim’s oncologist called and college plans went out the window.
The day after, I called the woman with the kitten and Mim and I picked him up. I’ve always loved redheaded babies and my redheaded sister named him Phineas Fog. He was a great distraction and is the cutest, snuggliest kitten ever if not the most expensive kitten ever.
And he almost did not get on the plane.
Apparently, in all my googling on importing a pet to Germany, I missed the “needs to be micro-chipped before flying on Lufthansa” part. So, Mr. voll von der Hilfe told me, with his specifically measured modulation, that if I did not get my kitten chipped before the flight, we would not be allowed to fly. I swear, I was so flabbergasted that his pronunciation of chip (ship) confused me. I kind of knew what he was talking about, but I just couldn’t believe him. I am not that person who leaves stuff up to chance. I’m organized. I research.
Standing in the SFO International terminal, searching for a vet in the area is why I research these things. I do not like the unexpected. I guess it was par for the course. Nothing happened the entire four weeks that was expected. So, 2.5 hours before departure time, I raced to a vet via taxi to get a 7-week-old kitten chipped before my flight. Between the rattrap and subsequent Brazilian wax, health certificate, carrier, micro-chip and airplane ticket he was a rather expensive free kitten. But like expensive shampoo, he’s totally worth it.
Since our friend was gone and Herr Glücklich Sie im Esel zu dienen was not going to give me a free upgrade, it was peasant class for me. I asked what the cost would be to upgrade. My visa card did not have the $4,427.00 available and I doubted I could get that much for a blowjob. Mr. Glücklich als Sie Schmerzten did not seem the type to trade tit for tat.
Alas, life behind the blue curtain is a cruel one. I sat in seat 55B. For those who don’t know, 55B is the second to last seat at the back of the bus. And this was more of a Latin American bus ride. The turbulence, the kids between 5-9 who are too young to drug correctly and too old to get away with Robitussin and the constant chatter of unseasoned international travelers created an environment akin to that of Kathleen Turner in Romacing the Stone. All it needed were chickens. The kids in the seats in front of me were the bouncy kids. You know the bouncy kids. They jump up and down, throw their heads back against the seat, push back the seat a thouseand times before the sleepy and worn down parent uselessly requests in a resigned voice to stop. Bouncy kids always make me long for business class.
Then there was the very proper and very portly German gentleman seatmate. We made a great couple; A fat, cat-hording American and the older portly German man in a hat. Okay, this is where I suck. I am a girl of larger proportions and make a lousy seatmate for anyone who doesn’t love me. My ass is way more suited for Business Class than Peasant. Unfortunately, our bank account does not match the width of my ass. I’m also fidgety. And I had a cat on my lap. And Herr Hut und Strickjackeweste was extremely attached to the armrest between us. My window seat sucked as the window was a good foot and a half away from my drooping head.
The good thing about peasant class is that there is really no reason to stay awake. The hot towels are paper and don’t hold the heat longer than necessary to scald your fingers. The food is worse than a high school Home Ec menu and the movies are on screens hanging too far away for my myopic vision. Sleep is my escape of choice in Peasant class.
Well, it would be if not for the bouncy kids. I’d be asleep for maybe an hour before the BKs in front of me would jump up and down and start screaming. And Tylenol PM is really only good for the initial “put me to sleep” part. It never keeps me asleep unless the world stops moving and silence is the loudest noise.
And it seemed that my fellow back of the bus passengers were newbies and had no idea that after the dinner slop was thrown out, it was time to turn out the lights, put on the headphones and be quiet. I felt like I was in the Hippodrome at Oktoberfest with the amount of flirting and macking that was going. I’m sure Herr Hut und Strickjackeweste was just as appalled. Light from the opening and shutting of the window shades were migraine inducing strobe lights.
We landed early. Then waited the 45 minutes we saved for a terminal space. I was itchy with frustration by the time we were allowed to unbuckle our seatbelts.
Fast forward. Baggage claim. I get a cart and put my sleeping and confused kitten, in his carrier, on the top and grab a choice spot near the mouth of the monster and wait. And wait. And wait. The room cleared out god only knew how long before I noticed. Going round and round, the carousel is empty. The only sound is the grinding of the carousel belts. I’m standing alone in the baggage area wondering how long it’s going to take for my three bags to come through. Then it hits me. They are not coming.
I went to the LH baggage kiosk to ask if any more bags are coming through for flight 455 from SFO. The woman looks out into the empty arena and says, “Uh, probably not.” She takes my luggage tags and informs me that my luggage decided to take a detour to Munich.
Maybe I was cruel, stuffing as much as I could in them, so the bags took off for France where women are thinner, but could only catch a ride to southern Germany. Maybe they got business class on that flight. I would have skipped out on them if I could have gotten business class. Regardless, they were not there. I was empty carted. I’ve never been empty carted. It was kind of liberating in a weird post flight dementia way.
I walked out of customs with my handbag and cat carrier to a worried Sparky. We kissed for ten minutes in front of the customs doors then he took me home to a shower I did not have to clean and a toothbrush that spins on its own. And two pissed off cats. And I realized, with a clarity that only comes within a stupor… I was finally home.
I might not speak the language very well, I might not understand the culture or the way things are done. I might not have my family close by and I might hate Germany at times, but it is where I live and it is where I’ve created a home and a fashioned a family of sorts rather than the home and family to which I was born.
Its good to be back.