Saturday, January 13, 2007

How not to get to Denmark

Normally I'd say a flight across the Atlantic wasn't worth retelling, but my trip over was both the worst I've ever had, and a somewhat rewarding experience.

My plane was supposed to leave Dallas for Chicago at 6:13pm on the 4th of January, but due to weather in Chicago (heavy fog I think they said), our plane wasn't allowed to leave Dallas until close to 8pm. By the time we hit Chi town my connecting flight to Copenhagen was probably almost out over the water. This meant trying to find a new flight, and eventually meant sleeping on the floor of Chicago O'Hare International Airport Terminal A (It's more comfortable the benches for a guy my height, trust me).

In trying to find out what my options were, I ended up very naturally bonded to a young Guatemalan lady named Maria, and a middle aged Danish couple whose names I was told, but couldn't possibly remember. They had all three missed the same flight out, and shared my fate of sleeping at O'Hare. Maria, at least is a petite little thing and was able to curl up on a bench, but the others got the floor treatment, just like I did.

It's a situation wherein you've done nothing wrong, but can't help feeling like there's more you should do to try and get out of it, even when you've reached the logical end of what you can do. No one is really able to help you much and, at least the way things work right now, there's no accommodation for someone in this pinch. It sucks. And the only thing to do about it is wait, keep trying and try to laugh about it.

We did, and by morning we all had solutions to our travel woes of one kind or another. Mine would take me through Newark, while Maria ended up in Boston and Munich before getting back to Copenhagen and back to her studies at business school.

Spending this time with a sweet, cute little Guatemalan certainly made everything a lot easier to bear, and trying to help her figure out how to get past her own traveling troubles seemed to take my mind off my own... at least enough to take the stress off a little. Before I head back to the U.S. I'll spend a weekend in Copenhagen, and we're supposed to get together for a beer. I look forward to it!

Once I got to Newark Liberty Int'l, I was pretty much on my way, although, as anyone who's ever taken a transcontinental flight knows, 8 hours sharing an armrest and recycled air with a stranger in an uncomfortable seat leaves you with a special kind of gross, stiff, tired feeling that's hard to love. I was boarding the plane already covered with that particular layer of badness. I had no change of clothes or access to a shower. Not feeling my best.

I got to Copenhagen, and was rewarded with a fantastic cup of coffee and a croissant for 65 Danish Kroner (around $8). Much better than the fare offered by O'Hare or Liberty. I had this feeling of accomplishment, even though all I'd done was suffer for the decisions of some Air Traffic Control official. Still, I felt like I'd paid my dues getting to Europe this time around.

All I had left was a few hours in the Copenhagen Airport (a beautiful facility), a short hop to Karup, and a 20 minute taxi ride to my final destination - Viborg, Denmark where I was scheduled to teach 2nd year animation students for the next 8 weeks. Aside from one last hitch that caused my luggage to be 3 or 4 hours behind me, I was through it.

All told, my planned 18 hour trip to Viborg took about 40 hours and left me a memorable experience and a new friend. I don't regret any of it, but I do hope the story of the trip home isn't worth telling.