It began at the Tegel Aiport, a place where the architect had to have been influenced by bus stations. I planned to get there two hours early, far more than I was sure was necessary, but I had a logistical problem last year (being dropped off at the wrong terminal and then getting in the wrong line...), so I wanted to be safe. As it turned out, the person from our group I shared a cab with had an even earlier flight, so I got to Tegel 2-1/2 hours early!
With so much time, I figured I should catch an earlier flight to Frankfurt. Not only is it very large with three big terminals and much more convoluted to find your way around (they have buses and trams to help get you between terminals), but I figured the Frankfurt Airport would be much, MUCH nicer to wait around in than Tegel. My bathroom is basically nicer to wait around in than Tegel. There's a radio and reading material, and a nice place to sit.
I got to Frankfurt with 3-1/2 hours for my connecting flight in the Z terminal area. I had no idea which terminal it was in, or where in the terminal it would be, but I knew I had plenty of time to find it. It turned out that I had more time than I thought -- I started walking...and there, 50 feet away was the Z terminal area!! I couldn't believe it was the right Z terminal area, and kept asking the the gate guard to confirm it was the right place. It was the right place. It had taken me 20 seconds to get there.
But then I had to go through customs. However there was no one ahead of me in line. I don't mean metaphorically, I mean...no one. So, that took about 30 seconds.
Now, I had to find my gate. But I had 3 hours and 27 minutes for that. In fact I was so early, my flight wasn't on the board yet. But a TSA guard was very friendly and helped direct me where to go. (He was overwhelmingly warm and considerate, oddly the only one who wasn't curt in any German airport I was at, in either direction. That wasn't true at all of all Germans I crossed paths with on the trip -- it was a mix of friendly and distant...and of course, Frau Berthe of the Sausage Police. But apparently curt is the standard in German airports.)
So, I had a LOT of time in the Frankfurt airport.
Boarding the Lufthansa plane back to Los Angeles, though, I almost asked the flight attendants if I could get off and take another flight.
There was a belligerent American woman pissed off that she and her husband were separated in their seating, and when she asked the guy across the aisle from me if he's switch with her, he said he had paid extra for his aisle seat. "That's bullshit," she spat out at him. And when he kept insisting it was trying, she just kept telling him off. (I was sure it was true because I had paid extra to get my aisle seat.)
The flight attendants tried to find people who would move so that she and her husband could sit together, or at least get her an aisle seat. It was a jammed flight, though, and there were no takers. So, she came back to take her assigned seat.
Next to me.
And yes, you know what's coming next. She wanted me to switch my seat with her. Well, not only had I paid extra for the aisle seat, but sitting in the center seat for 11 hours was not high on my list of Things to Do -- which is why I paid extra.
"I'm sorry," I said, "But I paid $25 to have an aisle seat."
"You're lying," she said.
"No. I'm not. I paid extra for the seat. Just like he did."
"You're just lying."
"I'm not lying."
"I don't believe you."
And this was the woman who would be sitting next to me the whole 11-hour flight. It's what I refer to as the "Why me, Lord?" Syndrome. Because I knew we'd be in close quarters for so long, I tried my best to be polite, but it was hard gritting my teeth.
"Honestly," I said, "I don't care if you believe me or not, but..."
"I know you don't care," she interrupted.
"...but I know that I paid extra for my ticket. I really did."
"Then you were taken," she snarked.
"Actually, no," I smiled. "I wasn't. I got an aisle seat."
But the topper had yet to come.
"I should warn you," she said, "that I get up a lot to go to the bathroom."
The one thing I'll say in her defense is that she was telling me the truth. She did get up a lot to go to the bathroom. Probably at least eight times during those 11 hours. It tends to have a limiting effect on trying to nap or watch movies. But life is short, and there are real problems, and this was not one of them. I knew it would be over in 11 hours, so I tried to be as polite as I could.
Later, she did at least apologize for being stressed, and at the end of the flight even thanked me for being so nice. It had been tempting to be snarky, but I figured it would make the flight go smoother if I just smiled and played along...
(The food was okay. Nothing great, but tasty. I got pasta for both meals, since I like pasta and there's less than can go wrong. I also watched a whole bunch of movies on the flight. The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is not for everyone, very highly stylized, but I loved it. Million Dollar Arm, a true baseball story I had followed when it took place, about an agent finding two cricket players in India and training them to play baseball. To Catch a Thief, the Hitchcock movie I hadn't seen in decades. And the last hour of Draft Day, a film I had much enjoyed, but especially loved the last hour. On the way over I watch Chef, which was a total joy and highly recommended. I did more sleeping going east, and also had problems with my "entertainment center," hence the only one movie.)
And then finally we landed. No hugs and goodbyes to my seatmate. Just her thank you. And I was free...