Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kaffee und Kinder

Having survived British Airways’ attempt to bump passengers to a flight leaving the next morning, I started boarding the plane only to discover that my seat mate was a boy of maybe seven or eight years old. His entire family had been separated, leaving him by himself on my row. Ordinarily I would have switched seats so the mother could sit next to him, but it was a seven hour flight and her seat was in the middle of the row, whereas I had the aisle. I figured I could keep an eye on him and make sure he was eating and buckled up and all that, and that would make up for my unwillingness to sacrifice.

As soon as we took off, we were served dinner. Due to some mix-up, I ended up with a “Hindu Vegetarian” meal instead of the “lacto-ovo vegetarian” that I had ordered. The entrĂ©e was a lovely curry with rice, but the side dish was an Indian-style, spicy granola-type thing and dessert was an unrecognizable white, grainy blob. The blob was actually quite tasty once you got past the appearance and texture, so all in all I was not disappointed in my meal. I also utilized the complimentary alcohol service in an attempt to drink myself to sleep for the rest of the flight. Karma, however, had a different idea in mind, clearly punishing me for my earlier unwillingness to move.

The child did not buy into the “sleeping during an overnight flight” concept. When the flight attendant came by with tea and coffee, the kid ordered a coffee! Clearly taken aback, the properly British flight attendant exclaimed, “excuse me!? What did you want dear?” “Coffee.” The kid was a straight shooter – no look of surprise, no indication that he was getting away with murder, which as I later found out he was. The flight attendant composed herself, took his cup and put coffee in it. Then the kid continues to watch Rango while drinking his coffee black, with no sugar.

After dinner, his mother comes over to check in on him. “Are you drinking coffee!?” [‘Drinking’ was really the wrong choice of words, since at this point the kid had clearly already ‘drank’ the entire cup.] “You know you can’t have coffee, what were you thinking?? Do not get coffee again.” I would have laughed, except that this now meant I was sitting next to a caffeinated eight-year-old. Sure enough, he was awake and messing around on his tv screen, or fidgeting around in his seat, or getting up to go to the bathroom, for the rest of the seven hour flight. The few times I manage to doze off, he managed to whack my side with an errant elbow or flailing foot.

I pride myself on being the type of person who will offer to move for families without being asked, since I know how aggravating it can be for parents and children to be separated. This time, however, I really, really wanted the aisle seat and had even made sure to reserve it online earlier in the week. Just because a total stranger neglected to plan well does not mean I should have to sacrifice my comfort. That being said, I will most definitely be switching seats in the future regardless of where I’m sitting. When you mess with Karma, she comes back and slaps you in the face.

The Sins of Our Luggage

Getting to Berlin proved more challenging than expected. The last time I moved to Germany for the longer-term, I was going for school. Since I didn’t own any winter clothes (coming from California) and since I didn’t need any work clothes, the trip was completed relatively easily with two, perfectly packed suitcases. This time around, I stuck to two suitcases again. Only throwing in winter clothes and work clothes meant that the two suitcases were overflowing and overweight.

Arriving at Dulles, I looked around and quickly grabbed the insanely overpriced moving cart and brought it over to the shuttle. I had already plastic wrapped and taped one of the suitcases shut because I was afraid it might burst open in transit. What I did NOT expect was that the other suitcase would be the traitor, and that its treason would have nothing to do with the zipper. As I started to lift the suitcase onto the moving cart, I head a metallic *snap*! Looking around the side, I discovered that the stand on the bottom of the suitcase had broken off. On its own, a relatively small problem. However, since the wheels were still intact, I also couldn’t lean the suitcase against anything either. Whenever I tried to lean it on something, the wheels would start to roll and the suitcase would casually slide to the ground like a drunk hobo. Unable to deal with the issue at the time, I simply got into line and checked my bags. I would deal with their problems of obesity and public intoxication when we arrived at the other end.