The travel Gods saw my ego growing. He is getting full of himself, they said. And it’s true. I said, “It’s easy, a piece of cake, nothing to worry about, smooth as butter.” They had to do something to ground me. First order of action: make his flight experience hell! While checking in for my flight the receptionist told me all flights to Newark were delayed, so I might have to switch connecting flights to Dublin. She told me just to keep in touch with the boarding desk. Between my flight from Seattle to Newark and Newark to Dublin I had roughly 2 hours. I knew I was cutting close, but who would have thought I would be delayed for weather in May?
As soon as I got to my gate I went to the boarding desk and let them know my situation. We had already been delayed with no current boarding time. They said not to worry yet, I still would have enough time. After an hour of no new boarding time I returned, already giving myself a reputation. “Are you the Dublin kid?” they asked before I spoke. “Yeah, will I make it?” “As long as we board before 10:45, which we should be doing, but it’s not official.”
When the time reached 11 and we were not boarding, I had already been to the desk enough that they knew my face but kept telling me I’d be okay. The final word I got was rather disappointing, “Your flight to Dublin is probably delayed.” Probably! I need a little more certainty than that.
We boarded and I took my seat. So far I had always been flying with a window seat and this time was no exception. The person in the aisle seat sat down and put his hand out. “Since we are going to be sitting next to each other for four hours we might as well not be strangers. My name is Israel,” he said shaking my hand. “No kidding, my name is Carter,” I said. No one took the seat between us, so we put up the arm rests and got to relax a little more. We talked a little about where we were going, where we were from and how ridiculous we thought it was that we had been delayed 2 hours for rain. Soon after, I fell asleep.
I woke up a few times and gazed out the window, almost always to see a blanket of clouds. And even though I knew it was raining under them, the weather looked fine. All we had was blue sky. But I got frustrated with not being able to see to the ground and fell asleep again.
I awoke again to find the flight attendant asking me what kind of drink I wanted. “Water, please,” I responded just barely coming to my senses. Israel and I starting talking again. He had been in the Navy for some time, port hopping all along the Mediterranean. He had lived in a few different states but he said Seattle was his favorite city in the world and even though he was from Alabama, he told everyone he was from Washington. “We are spoiled,” he told me. I forget how, but we got on the subject of Cuba. “95% of the country is literate, can you imagine that? Can you imagine what America could be like if we had that kind of literacy rate? And to be homeless is against the constitution, they take care of their own. No one is without a house, the government ensures it. And free healthcare and education! What a world. Fidel made sure that there is a doctor for every three blocks,” he told me.
I told him how frustrating it is that we don’t get any positive information on countries on our shit list. And how the media makes people think everything is awful everywhere else. “I don’t think I’ll ever see a positive picture ever come from the Middle East in my lifetime, but I’m sure there has to be happy people there and wonderful things somewhere,” I told him.
“Fidel Castro was lawyer, you know? Before he became president he knew his country was being abused by the rich American celebrities as a vacation spot in the 50s. He saw his government forgetting about their own people and just catering to the rich. He became a lawyer to fight for his people. But he knew it was too small, that he would lose. So he went after the Presidents position to save the Cuban people,” he said. “Fidel has an organization that sets up people from places like Harlem and puts them through medical school, granted they practice where they are from, so the people on the streets have someone from the streets helping them.”
We landed in Newark at about 7:45 PM. My flight indeed had left on time. So I walked around trying to find the ticket desk and get myself a flight. But both Alaska and Continental (who my tickets were through) put the blame on the other. No one wanted to help me get onto another flight. I ran back and forth between desks to desk telling each one that I needed to 1) get my bag and 2) get a flight to Europe that night. After about an hour of arguing and finger pointing I got a flight. But not to Dublin, to London. I was going to fly out at 10:45 that night to London and catch a connecting flight from London to Dublin. And I still had to make it in time to get to my flight to Croatia. If I missed my flight to Croatia I had no choice but to stay in Dublin for at least 3 days, because the flights only run on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
I slept for most of my flight to London, only waking to eat and get my drinks. Then began more trouble. I got off the plane, knowing I had to find the ticket desk and ask for a boarding pass, because the great people at Continental told me they could not print it off. After getting lost at Heathrow and avoiding immigration I found my desk, got my ticket and headed to my gate. I had a window to email the folks to let them know I made it. I figured I head to my gate a bit early since it was a ways away. Apparently they have a special process for people flying to Dublin, which I was unaware of, and that includes a special line of immigration that takes your picture and requires another run through security…which I had already been through twice while getting lost. So at the pre-boarding desk they made me aware that my ticket had not been activated because I missed this process. And she made it very clear that I had to run. So I ran up the stairs and was amazed at how close I was to the area, so I figured it was no big deal. Of course I had to fill out an immigration card detailing the areas I was traveling and the reasons why. I ran through that and was mocked for saying it was silly because I was only staying for an hour. They took my picture and I ran back to the where the stairs were, but it was a one way walk through. I tried to talk to the girl and have her let me back in but she said it was a special process…no argument would change her mind. All she said was “If you run you probably will make it.” So I did.
I went through security again and dashed passed the mall that is the airport. I reached my gates pre-boarding boarding desk to see the same girl. “Are you alright?” she said. “I think so,” I said. I made it to my gate on time sweating and smelling of pee. I asked the boarding desk if they could tell me if my bags were on the flight and they said, “Not us, but we can try when we board.” Of course they didn’t know even when I asked when we boarded.
I landed in Dublin and I ran to baggage claim. Amazingly, after a lot of hoping for airport mercy, my bag rolled off the conveyer belt and I ran to retrieve it. I had no idea what time it was but I knew I was cutting it close and had to catch my flight to Croatia soon. I ran to check my bag which was about a 10 minute line then was told I needed to have my passport validated, so I ran to that 10 minute line and ran to the security line which was about 20 minutes long. And then I got lost, and had no idea which gate I was at (because I’m an idiot and couldn’t find reader board. Eventually I found it and sped to the gate to find I was about an hour early, which was actually relieving, so I went and bought a smoothie to relax myself and fill my stomach with something.
All was smooth on the flight. Although at the beginning the captain said “We are having trouble starting the plane, it will be a slight delay, we are going to the mechanics to get it fixed.” I tried to not freak out and hoped we didn’t lose power midway and crash into the snow capped Alps.
After landing in Zadar I took the shuttle to Zadar’s bus station and bought a ticket to Zagreb. It was 10 pm and the bus was not to leave until 1 am…so all I had to do was wait. I ate some of the food Nate and Michelle had given me for my air rides and listened to my iPod. Mistakenly people kept coming up to me asking me things in Croatian and since I had no idea what they were mumbling I responded with “Ne govorite hrvatski” which I thought was “I don’t speak Croatian” but is actually “Don’t speak Croatian.” Looking back I can understand why they gave me such rude looks.
I arrive 5 hours later in Zagreb, three hours ahead of schedule. Completely in one piece and with all the things I left with, I considered it a pretty successful beginning. But my ego has definitely been down sized a bit, so perhaps next time I will be a bit less cocky about how easy it is for me.
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