Le retour

July 22nd, 2003

Due to circumstances outside my control, this year I was forced to get home through Gdansk airport, which represents no form of convenience for travellers from Lodz. My ticket was a round trip proposition, via Copenhagen, so far it doesn't sound too bad. But it turns out the outward flight was at 7 am and getting to the airport at that hour turned out to be tricky. First of all, the Gdansk airport is tiny, they have about 10-20 flights a day, to 3-4 different destinations. As I was informed, the airport is closed at night, as is the railway station in Gdansk where I would be exiting the train just before midnight. So much for taking the 4 pm train from Lodz, turns out there's a night train from Warsaw at 11.30 pm.

Getting to the capital should constitute no paramount task, but it would be too good be true had the time tables evened out. Thus at 7.30 I got on the train for Warsaw, there I would be stuck for 2 hours. Meanwhile I had been told countless stories about how insecure the trains are these days and how people who have fallen asleep (and some even conscious) have been mugged. Getting on that first train I was nervous already but the ride is just an hour and a half. Incidentally, I found a 24h net cafe in the Warsaw railway station to kill an hour before my next departure. Strange as it sounds, apparently two trains head for Gdynia/Gdansk at 11.30 pm on a Monday from Warsaw. The one I was about to board turned out to be a sleeper and 5 minutes later my train arrived. Amid all the stories about crime (the guy in my carriage had plenty of them), the 5h journey was boring and eventless. Nothing wrong with that. At some point we did stop at a bridge for a good half hour just after passing Malbork, god knows why. Meanwhile I was nervous about missing my flight, when there's plenty of time to spare, lots of things seem to happen to dramatically cut down on the margin. I did in fact fall asleep on the train, I'd given up on staying awake but it was the lightest kind of sleep, when you're trying to get some sleep but you're not getting any cause your seat is uncomfortable. In that condition however, that is a big help and an hour of sleep gives passing to the most intense tiredness.

It seemed I was in luck, the train was marginally late and I found my bus ride immediately after stepping out of the station. At that point I was quite relieved. Once I got to the airport, however, things started to go wrong. I was informed that my reservation had been deleted, guy at the counter told me I hadn't shown up for the inward flight, which was true, and thus I wasn't entitled to a place on the outward flight. I was told I would get on if someone didn't show up. Meanwhile, all the other flights for Copenhagen (2 or 3) that day were fullbooked as well. I spent a very anxious 45 minutes of waiting but then I did get on thankfully. In a worst case scenario, I would not have gotten on any of the flights that day, the ticket would have definitely been invalidated and I'd have to dish out for a new one and do hours and hours of more waiting at the airport. Phew.

I was delighted to be on that flight, my day suddenly seemed a lot better, despite it being 8 am and not having slept through the night. Good old SAS again, I was on my way now. It's funny the slogans that they have on the condonments in the planes. The sugar packaged reads "as sugar dissolves, it spreads happiness". This isn't just regular sugar, this is special sugar. I also recall the salt and pepper bags had some kind of slogan like that. It's funny how they're trying to enhance your flying. First they charge you, then you come to cash in and they want to make themselves look good. And fair enough, here they drove all over town trying to find the smallest food products ever, instead of just getting beer for the whole airline, that's responsible airline policy. What I found less responsible was how the door to the cockpit was wide open through most of the flight, I would think that with everything we've seen, security would be upgraded not downgraded. They did screw me on the coffee refill they always have though...

Yes, they do try to make everything as pleasant as they can for us on the plane. The stewardesses have to smile all the time, they talk slow and try to be helpful, it's kind of nice to be catered to after making sure you get to the airport on time and not invalidate your ticket. One thing I did find a little distressing was that the stewardess wore high heels. On a plane. Meanwhile it was a small rotor propelled jet that took in a lot more turbulence than a larger one would. The stewardess was trying to steer the cart in a straight line on the floor and the heels were not helping. Are these women requried to wear heels, does that improve our flight experience?

But what's with the captain though? Everytime you get that little safety demonstration, the stewardess will read the text from some piece of paper and they've done this so many times they're quite good at it. I understand the safety instruction in English, it's fine, I don't have a problem with it. But everytime the captain wants to tell us something, I can't hear shit. It's the least legible language of all, somehow his voice blends so well with the noise from the microphone, it's impossible to make out whole sentences. I think they should have it all down on paper and practice it, like the stewardesses do. The stewardesses probably practice at home too. "Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seat belt and fold your chair into an upright position". "What's that, honey?", "nothing, it's just work stuff, you wouldn't understand". But that's what the pilots need too, practice. And sorely I might add. They should have another pilot talk through the intercom and try and understand the words, it's like they're talking to themselves. In which case Jerry Seinfeld's theory comes in handy, they're only doing it for their own benefit, it makes sense now. Well it still doesn't but a little more perhaps.

All in all, the flight is alright, I get to where I'm going and that's what counts, they even put me in first class, otherwise I probably wouldn't be entitled to that yoghurt. And the orange juice had pulp, a pleasant surprise. But why do we have to be strapped in our seats until the aircraft comes to a stop? We're not doing anything, the guy is doing 20 on the tarmac yet we're "advised to keep our seatbelt fastened so long as the indicator lamp tells us to". This guy, like any other 17-year-old with his first car, is trying to impress the chicks by taking this baby for a spin around the block, why else would he drive in circles instead of going where he has to go right away?

Of course when you get on another flight it's the whole thing over again.. but I notice that the people who have been flying a little are very fluent in the routines. I'm in the aircraft, they gave us some lunch and they guy next to me knows the exact moment for starting to prepare his little plastic cup to get coffee. Sometimes I see Norway as a nation of conformists, people are so quick to fall into a pattern, follow the rules and just exist in that state. I'm hard pressed to say whether I consider it a good quality but conformism definitely offers a lot of upsides, people obey the law, they live within certain ethical norms, it's all kinda structured. There is that lack of innovation and originality but you never get something for nothing so maybe it's for the best?

I finally get to my destination and realize I don't have a dime on me, how the hell am I gonna get home? God bless the ATM! I get home and it's 1 pm. Had I not made that first flight in Gdansk, I still would be at the airport waiting...

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