And here’s a preschedule blog on account of me being in…uh….Washington D.C. today. Woo!
One Monday morning in 2005 my boss said to me after the weekly department meeting: “Hey Olli, I have to talk to you about something.”
Of course the usual routine of “Oh shit, what have I done?” kicked in, but I couldn’t think of anything. Back in the office the following exchange happened:
Boss: “I’ve been invited by [partner company] to an event in Rome. Everything is booked, but I can’t be there. Would you like to go?”
Me: “Yes, sure.”
I took care of some things, my boss took care of changing all the bookings to my name. He gave me the e-ticket on Tuesday.
Me: “Um. Is there an agenda or anything? Contact data, adresses in Rome?”
Boss: “Nah, you’ll meet people on the way, and even if not, they’ll pick you up at the airport anyway”
On Wednesday morning my dad drove me to the airport in Cologne. I took my cellphone out of my pocket on the way, and when getting out of the car I totally forgot about it. I must have knocked it out of the car in the rain or something. Grabbing my luggage I waved to my dad driving away and entered the terminal building.
That’s when I realized I had no cellphone. I thought I just forgot it in my dad’s car so I didn’t even bother checking in the gutter of the street.
The problem was: I didn’t even have a wristwatch with me.
I walked up and down the airport but didn’t even find a shop to buy one.
Here I was. No cellphone, no watch, nothing but my luggage, camera and a ticket to Rome.
Time running shorter I checked my baggage and went through the security check before I decide asking random passers-by if they’d sell me their watch.
And bing, in the duty-free area there’s a Swatch-shop. I chose one that is neither pink nor 150 bucks.
Time to enjoy the comfortable part of the journey. Since [partner company] paid for a business class trip I got a whole row to myself, nice breakfast and whatever newspaper I might want.
Layover in Munich. I grab my stuff and head towards gates 43+, since my flight leaves from gate 50. At 48 I realize there is not gate 50 in Munich. Glancing at my boarding pass I realize I must’ve misread. U-turn to gate 20 it is. I arrive in time for boarding another business class flight across the Alps.
flying across the Alps
Just after noon we land in Rome. After a quick detour through the bathroom I head to the baggage claim and spend 30 minutes watching piece after piece of luggage pass by. Is that mine? No. This one? Nah. Hm, everyone has left and there’s only one…it has the same color…. I grab it, check inside. Oops. Mine..
I head towards the exit. Ok, there’s someone supposed to pick me up. Maybe holding up a sign or something. No. Nothing. Nobody. I walk up and down the two terminal buildings, clutching my luggage with one hand, fending off taxi drivers with the other.
Nobody to be seen. No agenda, no names, no adresses no cell phone. I ask at the information desk, but all they can do is offer to call a taxi and tell me that there have been no announcements, the system is only for security. Well, duh.
I’m not panicking or anything, though. If anything I did laugh at myself and the situation a lot. Taking matters into my hands I buy an international calling card and try to call my boss at the office.
Danielle, our front desk girl at the time, picks up at the phone. I try to explain: “Hi, it’s Olli. I’m in Rome and there’s noone here to pick me up, could you please get me the boss?”
She replies, a slight edge of panic in her voice: “He’s not here, he’s on his way to a meeting somewhere.”
“Uh. Well, patch me through to his cell, the number is on our intranet.”
I explain to my boss, he tells me to ait 15 minutes and call another boss, he’d have information for me by then.
I do what any sensible person would do. I go buy postcards. 15 Minutes later I call the office again, and the other boss gives me the number of someone in Rome who should be able to help me. I call that guy, get passed to someone from the admin team who is more than puzzled but tells me to wait under the large clock next to the snack bar.
A few minutes later a girl comes in, looks around and finds me. We chat a bit. She triplechecks her paperwork and we find the reason for the whole mess. The flight booking was changed. The hotel booking was changed. But the list of people to be picked up at the airport only contained my boss’ name. And the note “cancelled”. She tells me the name of my hotel and gets a driver to bring me to the venue.
In the evening the whole group has a luxurious dinner at the Palazzo Brancaccio, followed by expensive beer at back at the hotel and getting drunk with Norwegians on the roof.
I explore the city for most of the next day since my flight home wont leave until 9 PM
Fontana di Trevi / Trevi Fountain
when in Rome
But that wasn’t the end to the shenanigans. I still had to get home. Back at the airport I went to the check-in counter and handed over my ID and e-ticket. The clerk looked at both, entered something into his computer.and gave me a puzzled look. “Where do you want to fly?” – “Cologne, via Frankfurt…” I pointed to the ticket. He started calling various people with a mobile phone and landline at the counter. I was able to make out two words, repeated over and over. “Volo cancellado.” Hm. Volare, to fly. Cancellado. Interesting.
Finally another Lufthansa employee arrived and adressed me in German, to tell me my flight to Cologne had been cancelled. Well, you wouldn’t have needed a translator for that. They offered me train tickets and apologized a lot, it took some convincing to make them check my baggage for Frankfurt and just leave it be. Back in Frankfurt I manage to reach the last bus towards home and manage to borrow a cellphone to call my parents so they could pick me up. Yes, I still had that international calling card, but they didn’t pick up because they were busy renovating and had loud music on. Gee.
But I DID make it home