Wednesday, September 30, 2009

There and Back Again

Don and I made it back safely to the U.S. of A. although not quite exactly as planned, but better. Our flight home from Frankfurt had us laid over in Michigan with a quick hour and a half connecting flight. For those of you who haven't done much international traveling, that's not much time to arrive, deplane, clear customs and recheck baggage. That's right, at your first point of entry into the U. S., you actually have to go to baggage claim, retrieve your luggage and then check them all over again. Can't trust those foreigners to screen properly - probably a good idea for homeland security.

To begin with we were more than 30 minutes late departing in Frankfurt. Apparently we taxied for too long so our brakes heated up and we had to sit on the runway for 20 minutes while they cooled down before we could take off. By the time we arrived in Detroit we knew it was hit or miss whether we and our luggage would make it to the plane on time. We made it through customs no problem, retrieved our luggage rather quickly, dropped it off at the recheck point and were on to security screening with our carry on luggage.

I made it through pretty quickly but then was selected for additional screening. So I got to stand in a vorpel tunnel with my arms out and turn seven different directions while they scanned me 360 degrees. Also, despite wearing extra thin socks, they still had to feel the bottom of my feet. Not sure what they thought I might be hiding in there. Maybe some dental floss to try to strangle somebody with? So next Don makes it through security screening but then they need to check his carry on bag. Turns out he had brought two metal dice about the size of an egg that were causing a blip on their radar. Even though it was quite obvious that these were the metal items and shape showing on the radar screen, the attendant still had to go back to the beginning of the line and rescan them three times before she was convinced and would let us continue. Too put it kindly, let's just say that this woman was not particularly fit so she burned about 10 minutes of our precious time waddling back and forth and clumsily thumbing through our belongings. At least they didn't confiscate them as weapons though and let Don have his precious dice back.

Finally we were released and started the long trek to our gate. If you have ever been to the Detroit airport, then you know it is basically one long straight stretch about two to three miles from either end. So we started the mile long sprint to our gate and arrived just in time to join the end of the line for boarding and last call. Despite the fact that we had made it to the gate, however, we discovered as we made it to the front of the line that they had already rebooked us for a different flight and our seats were no longer valid along with three other folks from the same Frankfurt flight. Ooops! Oh, well, at least we burned a few calories trying to make it there on time. While Don and I were actually somewhat relieved to not be immediately boarding another 5 hour flight after the 9 hour stint we just did, the other passengers were far more disgruntled and one girl in particular was making a really big fuss and really rattling the attendants chain.

As she retained her professionalism and started to work trying to see if there were still available seats to get us on this outgoing plane, Don and I offered to step aside and let the other passengers be taken care of first since we had no rush to get back. In that end, the other girl's extremely rude behavior in contrast to our kindness, really paid off for us. After the other customers were taken care of she thanked us profusely and said she would set us up for a very comfortable return flight home. We requested a return flight for the next day. Since Don's grandmother lives in Detroit, we thought it would be nice to get out for a visit and see her. So she gave us a hotel voucher, some food vouchers, and set us up in first class on the first flight out the next morning. What a deal! We had a wonderful dinner with Grandma Early, a great night's rest in a comfortable bed, and we finally got to see what it was like on the other side of the curtain.

A few things about first class. Under very few circumstances would I ever pay for it, but when it comes for free there are a few perks. The seats are certainly more spacious and comfortable. You never have to wait in line for the lavatory since you are sharing with a smaller crowd. The drinks are free, served in a glass instead of a plastic cup, and they never run dry. We got served a nice full breakfast while the rest of the plane got pretzels and peanuts. But my favorite part of first class I think, is that in addition to the tray table, there is also an armrest with a small shelf to set your drinks on so you don't have to have the tray table down the whole flight. Plus, getting on and off the plane first was quite lovely as well.

So here we are now, home safe and sound. While it did mess a little bit with our plan to readjust to the time change by spending that last night in Michigan, I think it will be worth the few extra days it may take us to get over the jet lag. Luckily Don has today off and I just have to hang in a few more days to the weekend. With one day back at work so far, it was a welcome reprieve to come back and find that my talented staff had done and excellent job handling everything while I was gone and I was able to pick up where I left off without feeling like I had ever left. Well one thing feels different. I feel refreshed, renewed, and happy. What a wonderful vacation.


Camille said...

Welcome home! When I'm feeling better, let's do something. I missed you!

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