Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Travel Adventures, Part 1: Lost in the Airport

I hope to get this post done quickly, as I gathered up everything I would need to work in the free WiFi zone in the hotel lobby...except for a plug adapter. We're racing the capacity of my laptop battery, so let's get to the first of Bilbo's Adventures in Germany...

This was a bit of a screwed up trip, as Agnes and I, our daughter Yasmin and granddaughter Leya, and Yasmin's husband Vin had to travel on three different dates because of work commitments. Agnes and I left first, last Tuesday; followed by Yasmin and Leya the following Saturday; and Vin, who arrived today. Since Yasmin was traveling alone with Leya (look up "Terrible Twos" in the dictionary and her picture is there), it was decided that I would travel from Reutlingen to Frankfurt to meet them when they arrived and help Yasmin entertain Leya on the train ride from Frankfurt back to Reutlingen.


We carefully studied the train schedules and selected connections that would get me to the Frankfurt Airport at 8:38 AM, a half-hour before the scheduled arrival of Yasmin's flight at 9:10. Anna dropped me off at the Reutlingen station shortly before 6:00 AM and I made my leisurely way to track 1 to catch the 6:17 to Stuttgart, there to connect with the Inter-City Express to Frankfurt.

So far, so good.

Everything worked perfectly, and I arrived right on time at the Frankfurt Airport at 8:38. I made my way to the international arrivals area and discovered ... that Yasmin's flight had arrived at 8:17!


I stood at the exit from customs in a seething scrum of people, scanning everyone who came out, but no sign of Yasmin and Leya, and no sign of them anywhere in the crowd. Suddenly, my phone rang.

It was Agnes.

"Where are you???" she wanted to know.

"I'm right here at the arrival area...Yasmin's flight was almost an hour early!"

"She's already there!! Find her!!"

"Where is she?"

"I don't know!"

At this point I hung up and started looking for a place from which to page Yasmin. Naturally, this could only be done at Information Station 14, located in the next hall.


I ran there and carefully spelled out Yasmin's name for the lady who made the announcements. As she was picking up her microphone, my phone rang again.

This time, it was Yasmin.

"Where are you?"

"I'm at Information Station 14 trying to page you. Where are you?"

"I'm at the train station. Leya is melting down and I can't wait around for you. I have to go! I have tickets to Reutlingen already."

"When does your train leave?"

"9:20 to Stuttgart. We're in the compartment for parents with small children."

I look at my watch.

It is 9:15.

If you have never been to the Frankfurt International Airport, it's big. It's the size of Belgium, with the population of Beijing. It sprawls out over various halls, bridges, escalators, and elevators, all carefully marked with a bewildering array of pictorial signs that look like something Carl Sagan designed for an interstellar space probe. The long-distance train station is about three time zones from Information Station 14.

I have not done any serious running since my days of mediocre performance on the North Allegheny High School cross-country team, but I ran that morning. I raced from Information Station 14 to the upper level of the airport, down hallways, through the Sheraton Hotel (getting lost twice), up to the railroad station level, and through the station. I flew two steps at a time down the escalator to track 6, where one door still stood open on the train to Stuttgart. I leaped through the door as it started to close and collapsed, gasping and streaming with sweat, on the floor as the train pulled slowly and stately away from the platform.

Now the question was this: are they really on the train, or did they wait for me on the platform?


I figured that the compartment with parents with small children would be in the second class part of the train, toward the rear, and so I headed off in that direction, scaring young women and children with my wild-eyed and disheveled appearance. I finally reached the end of the train, without finding the compartment.

Panic begins to set in.

I retrace my steps and eventually find a conductor who, after looking down his nose at my appearance and carefully examining my ticket, patiently explains that the compartment for parents with small children is at the front of the train, between the restaurant car and the first class section. I dutifully head off in that direction, scaring still more people, and finally find a compartment which contains Yasmin and Leya, who screams, "OPA!!!"

And it's all better.


We finally got back to Reutlingen without further incident, and I swore a mighty oath that if I ever have to do this again, I'm sending Agnes.

And now, it's time for bed.

Have a good day. More adventure stories (with pictures) coming.



Mike said...

Too bad you didn't have a helment cam for the run. That would have been some interesting video.

John said...

a little rest, a little oxygen, a big granddaughter hug...all is well.

Amanda said...

AW!!! It really sounds like a morning full of anxiety but you're a great dad for helping your daughter out. I'm sure all is well now.

KKTSews said...

Don't you know rule number one of meeting up with folks on international travel? Have a backup plan. Have a backup, backup plan. Plan C for me was always "phone home" (in this case, Agnes), to try to connect. Even without a backup plan, you did pretty well. Only 45 minutes wandering Frankfurt airport! I spent 4 hours once wandering Rome looking for my sister and I wasn't greated with enthusiasm, hugs and kisses like you were :)

Anonymous said...

At least you speak German. Think how much fun it would have been in say, Beijing!

You gotta look at the bright side.

And remember to think of your wild run through the airport as not some panicked schmuck looking like a madman, but more like Arnold Schwarzenegger in "True Lies" chasing the terrorist through the hotel lobby on a horse, apologizing to all the patrons he scatters. Keep that for your self-image, because grandpas like you are real heroes.

Eminence Grise

Leslie David said...

What a great story. I'm glad you were able to find Yasmin and Leya before the train left. I have been through the Frankfort airport, in my case I was trying to find a no-show boyfriend and unlike you, I don't speak German.