A long ride

So, back in Germany after a whirlwind trip back to the States. I don't know how many blog entries I wrote in my head, but somehow didn't get published. But the episode on March 14 at Newark Airport needs writing down.

Yes, there was a storm the night before. A few hundred trees were blown over, and that kind of put a crimp in people's style, as overland electricity lines and falling trees don't go together well.

But the Internet said that everything was hunky-dory down at Newark, so off we drove. There were some delays for trees being cut down and lanes closed for flooding, but we got to Newark just as the 1 1/2 hour suggested time to be at the airport arrived. I jumped out of the car, waved, and went to get in line.

I entered the building to a mass of humanity. The line stretched way past the winding waiting area in front of the check-in desks. I went to get in link, but was informed that I was cutting in - this gentleman had just gone to get a drink of water and no one touched his suitcase. So there was a gap. The line started *way back there*. I got into line, hoping for a fast moving line. They use online check-in and seat assign. I just hadn't gotten mine on account of you only being able to do this 24 hours in advance and I didn't pack a printer.

We crept. I was uneasy. At this speed I didn't see me making my flight. There were a few self-check-in machines, but they were very seldom used, and then by people coming from the line. I didn't know how to use them, and being alone I didn't want to leave my bag to check them out. So I waited.

About 45 minutes before flight time, I still had not reached the windy queue even. A gentleman about 10 people in front of me took his bag, looked around, got out of line and into the FastExpress lane (which was empty). From there he went to a self-service, and was off. He must have made it, because he was on my flight back.

I began to be close enough to observe what was going on. The four clerks were embroiled in all sorts of discussions with angry people. They were rebooking passengers as they came up, each needing 5-10 minutes. Many flights where apparently overbooked because it was the end of Spring Break.

But instead of sorting out 2 lines, one for people they could hopefully still get on their flights, and one for the rebookings, they just handled one at a time. Of course, some very pushy people just shoved through, using the self-service terminals, or even just shouting at the agents - and getting answers. As we got closer, the guy behind me got nervous - he had come 2 1/2 hours early, and was in danger of missing his flight. The woman in front had been there early in the morning, only to have her flight canceled and be rebooked on a flight in the late afternoon - 3 hours after my flight. She was even getting nervous, as she was a teacher and had to be in school Monday.

We let the guy behind jump in front of us, he made his flight (and his check-in only took a minute). My flight was long-gone (or so I thought), turned out that it had been delayed. If I had gotten pushy half an hour ago, I might have made it..... So they rebooked me on the night flight.

As I walked to security, I saw that the line was still as long as it had been. More rebookings in store! I turned the corner and found the next mass of humanity, wanting through security. Well, I had plenty of time now, so I got a candy and a tea. But there is no place to sit this side of security, except on the floor. Luckily, I have my towel in my backpack....

"Security" was a joke compared to Berlin. First my passport checked by a frowning guard and given a scribble. No computer check involved. Then I do the security undress show and dance, and go through the machine. The guy is making jokes for everyone, but somehow I can't laugh. No pat-down. They didn't care about all my electrical equipment. I even had my keys in my pocket and my lipstick (gel!) in my backpack by mistake. Ho-hum, they liked their uniforms, but weren't really doing much.

I had some overpriced food and then staked out a chair at the gate. The flight was already showing a delay of 45 minutes. Darn. Then an hour's delay, and I got nervous. The rental car place was only open until 12.30 am. I called, they assured me they would be there. The delay got to be an hour and 15 minutes, and I called my brother. He had some ideas for hotels not too far from JAX, should the rental cars not be available.

We finally boarded at the posted take off time, then spent half an hour waiting for take-off.

So we didn't get to JAX until 1 am. I raced for the rental counter, fearing the worst - and there they were. All waiting for us. Thank you, Alamo, that was the best news of the day! I got my bag and my car and headed out.

The car was a crazy-looking Nissan Cube. But it drove, and I found my way where I was going. Except when I got there, there was no room reserved for me. So in desperation and utterly tired, I parked, slid the back seats way back, lowered the passenger seat, put on my coat, got out that towel and folded it for a pillow, put on my sleep blindfold, locked the car, and actually slept about 5 hours.

Getting up I headed out for the nearest Starbucks for a freshen-up, a soy latte, some breakfast and a real newspaper (the New York Times, what else). I do believe this is one of the longest trips I've taken to get somewhere that is only 2 flying hours away...

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