journey journal | airport

Friday, May 3

5:01 a.m. For the first time in my life, I leap out of bed before 8 a.m. I’m picking up my best friend at the airport today! Andrea has been flying all night to get from Washington State to Frankfurt, Germany, where I’ll meet her in a few hours, after taking a two-hour train ride north from Freiburg, where I live.

8:35 a.m. Pacing at the arrivals gate. Any second now I’ll actually see her! We haven’t been in the same place for two years. I’m still making new friends in Germany since moving here a couple of years ago, so I’m beyond thrilled to get to spend time with a dear old pal. I feel like a coke addict and she’s my crack. If she doesn’t walk through that door soon, my vibe is going to start setting off the security alarms.

9:23 a.m. Still no Andrea. Our reserved train tickets to Freiburg are for 10:02 a.m. I’m trying hard not to deflate and trying even harder not to imagine what might have gone wrong. I shove coins into the pay phone. No answer on Andrea’s cell. I leave a cordial, yet somewhat demented message.

9:52 a.m. Sweaty from sprinting all over the airport to figure this out, and having spent my weight in coins for the pay phone, I call my husband for the third time. At the exact same moment, we both look at our printouts of Andrea’s flight info and see that although she left Seattle on May 3rd, she doesn’t arrive here until May 4th. I’ve come to pick her up a day early.

11:20 a.m. More sprinting and sweating. When talking with people in the airport, like the nice lady at the info desk, I notice that my schtick includes saying, “I’m such an idiot!” My right ear is damp from extended union with the phone receiver (ick). Taking the train home today and coming back tomorrow would cost more than a hotel. Yes, we can still use our reserved train tickets tomorrow. Yes, I have a place to sleep tonight (Albatros Airport Hotel; shuttle available after 4:00 p.m.). I leave Andrea a message advising her to never mind all previous phone messages.

12:40 a.m. Aided by my trusty airport shopping map, I now know these things about the Frankfurt airport: 1) there are (apparently) no drinking fountains, 2) the super-cool, full-length, reclining lounge chairs in Terminal A make me nauseous, 3) the seniors/handicapped waiting area is a secluded oasis of peace, sunlight, plants, and comfortable chairs, 4) there is no toothbrush for sale in any store in the entire complex for less than €4.57 ($5.80), and 5) arguing with a German official about the effectiveness of signage for their official “Meeting Point” is entirely futile.

1:40 p.m. Thai food take-away on the train level, eaten at a shared table while reading a novel.

4:15 p.m. I have absolutely no idea how I spent the past two and a half hours.

4:50 p.m. Reading my novel in an obscure area I discovered. I’m the only person around, queen of all 50 empty chairs. For the first time, this unscheduled stop of a day feels like a blessing, a respite from productivity.

4:52 p.m. Now that Andrea’s awake, I call her. She’s eating breakfast at home (the thoughtless bitch). I ask her why she changed her flight to a day later. Ha ha. Then I forget to wish her a good flight.

5:20 p.m. Shuttle to the Albatros Hotel, via more highway on-ramps and off-ramps than a cross-city drive through Los Angeles.

6:15 p.m. Walk to nearby grocery store, locate toothbrush, then spend a ridiculous amount of time carefully choosing three food items for dinner, which, I realize when I get back to the hotel, are totally inappropriate for hotel room camping.

7:45 p.m. Revelation while brushing teeth: I have decision fatigue. In October 2010 my mom got sick and then died and then my husband and I moved to Germany. I’ve made so many big, serious, important decisions for such a long span that my decider mechanism is worn out. Today’s forced foray into the barren, dull-witted airport timescape turns out to have been a perfect cocoon of an antidote. This error is so wrong it’s right.

“Sometimes what keeps a person from
going through with a change
is the inability to rewrite an autobiography.”
Alan Deutschman

8:00 p.m. Showered. Figured out the curtains. Ate “dinner” (don’t ask).

8:15 p.m. Vegged out to Jurassic Park on TV (dubbed in German, which doesn’t affect my opinion of Jeff Goldblum).

9:12 p.m. Can’t keep my eyes open. Turn off TV. Drop into a well of deep sleep.

Saturday, May 4

6:30 a.m. The alarm goes off. I wake with the thought that I am not an idiot and this whole thing is actually pretty funny. I consume vast amounts of the hotel’s spectacular breakfast buffet, then take the hotel shuttle back to the airport.

8:36 a.m. Ta da! Much-anticipated, tearful reunion of best pals. We spend the next hour in the seniors/handicapped waiting area debriefing the past 24 hours and grinning like maniacs, then catch the train to Freiburg and spend the next ten days perfecting the Best Pals Mind Meld, which I highly recommend for whatever ails you.

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6 comments to journey journal | airport

  • Katie

    I love this so much! Thanks for sharing this story. It’s great to see your thoughts. I love the progression.

  • I never did listen to those voice mails. I had to delete them…I was too afraid your rising sense of panic and frustration would undo me. “My decider mechanism is worn out” describes your state perfectly. And yet you continued to write, and create, and host, and lead a lemming up hill and over dale with aplomb. See how much good you do when you turn your brain off? :-) Much love to you. xoxoxo.

    • I actually loved that airport adventure. And your visit, lemming or not. What I didn’t say in the article is that throughout that day at the airport I wrote a many-paged letter to a good friend in the U.S., which helped immensely with processing things. I sent it off and a week later got an email from him wanting to know how things turned out. I’d mailed it minus the punch line that you’d arrived safely and all was well!

  • When I started, I never would have predicted I’d keep reading this posting. Hysterical and touching and true. Loved it, every word.