Trip Journal - Washington DC




Washington, DC - 01 June 1998

On the most beautiful summer day so far, so beautiful, in fact, that we thought we might be fools for leaving, we left on our trip around the world. Colleen picked us up at two o'clock to take us to Dulles International Airport, where we had a Lufthansa flight (disguised as a United plane) to Stockholm via Frankfurt at 6:00 p.m. Colleen left us off in front of the airport with "enough dried mango to make it to Sweden." It was hard to say goodbye, but as our friend, Carla, says, we will be too distracted by all the wonderful things we're going to see to be too miserable.

Since we didn't have seat assignments, we were put on standby and asked if we would voluntarily take a later flight through Toronto. We would have been happy to, but since we had a connecting flight to Sweden, we were considered "not good bumping candidates." We did finally get seats, although not together. There was a huge crush in front of the gate and absolutely no crowd control. But we weren't really worrying, since we weren't fighting the rest of the herd for an overhead bin. The plane was a 777, with 9 seats across in a 2-5-2 formation. Each seat had its own video screen, which was pretty fun, and we had choices of movies and television shows we could watch. Paul used his incredible negotiating skills to get us two seats together. One woman refused to trade her inner seat for our aisle because "you keep getting climbed over the whole time." Some people are hard to fathom. But Paul finally convinced her to move back one row, same place, the man in her seat took our aisle seat, and we had two seats together in the middle. Dinner selections were announced on a real menu that also disclosed the name of the chef who conceived it. I'm not sure if that's an honor or not.

After the first movie (we watched "Wag the Dog", an excellent film) there was a huge rush for the restrooms. Paul and I took our places at the end of the line. Almost immediately, there was some bumpiness, as if the pilot had turned the plane violently, and we were all asked to take our seats. They were quite adament that we all leave the line, which we finally and reluctantly did. Even though there was no more turbulence (and I'm not sure there ever was any naturally occuring turbulence) the seatbelt sign was left on for an incredibly long time. Paul and I finally bolted for the WCs in desperation, blatantly disregarding the warning, which I came to believe was made up in order to make it easier for the flight attendants to get down the aisles, and had nothing to do with danger to the passengers.

We arrived in Frankfurt at about 8:00 a.m. in the morning local time, and 2:00 in the morning our time. We'd only gotten 4 hours sleep the night before and were really dragging at this point. It had nothing to do with the fact that there was complimentary wine with dinner. The Frankfurt Airport is huge; it's the largest airport in Europe. It's also very sterile, loud, besieged with ongoing contruction, and its major flaw is that there is virtually no place to sit until you have passed all the controls, received a boarding card, and have been granted entrance beyond the pearly gates in the waiting room. Once again, we had no assigned seats and the plane was overbooked. When we first got to the gate, we were turned away for being too "early". The ground crew for our flight would arrive in approximately fifteen minutes. So we stood and waited until our crew came, then lanquished while said crew set up to begin taking tickets, all the while obstinately refusing to look up and acknowledge any person seeking information. I find that the Germans are particularly skilled at this aspect of doing business. Meanwhile, we passengers on the other side of the counter just got more and more frustrated, especially those of us who don't do well when we haven't slept. When the crew was finally ready to speak to us, it was to tell us that our gate, which had been B44, was now B23. Sigh. Paul and I ran to the gate to be the first in line. We really wanted to gain entrance to the waiting room and sit down. We failed to realize that our flight crew would take 10 minutes to break down their current station and walk over to the new gate. We were first in line when they finally arrived, however. But the woman who assisted us informed us that she really was too busy to find us seats right now and we would just have to accept stand-by status for the moment. She would call us soon, she said to us as she walked away carrying the weight of the whole world on her shoulders.

By this time, I was sick of standing and seriously considering becoming rude and obnoxious just to get some fair treatment. Instead we waited. And waited. The crew again asked for volunteers to take a later flight and accept a flight voucher for 600 German Marks. Paul and I attempted to volunteer but the line we in disintegrated when the woman behind the counter who had formed it left it again. And waited. Finally, the woman holding up the world informed us with very little chagrin that there were no seats left on the plane. We would have to take a later flight and her colleague would take care of us because she herself was too busy.

The colleague was lovely and impressed us by speaking German, French and English all within the same five minutes. As I listened to her apologize about the flight, I felt my faith in humanity being restored. She gave us two flight vouchers for 600 DM each, told us that they would fax, telex, or call someone for us to notify them that we would be delayed, another voucher for 60 DM that we could use for lunch at the restaurant, and most importantly, boarding cards and seat assignments for the next flight. The irony of the whole thing is that, after we had eaten, we went to our gate and at this one, there were seats everywhere, with no barriers to sitting in them.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We arrived in Stockholm two hours later than planned, but in plenty of time to get lost trying to find Eva's and Daniel's apartment.

Read on to see what we did in Stockholm. Sorry to be so long-winded about the trip so far. We're bound to get less and less so as the trip progresses. Hang in there...
Paul & Johnna with packs
Packed and ready to go
Paul in garden
Paul in the garden
Paul & Johnna with hats
Got to have hats....