It all started with a little change of our scheduled flight out of Rhodes from 6:40 am to 7:10 am. The airline said we wouldn't make our connecting flight in Athens to Munich, so we changed our departure time to 9:40 pm the night before and planned to make the best of staying in the Athens airport for nine hours overnight.
We searched for seats without armrests and found them already occupied by other travelers spending the night. Jeff finally gave up and slept on the floor. We managed to get a few hours sleep before an irate group of French speaking people arrived around 4:00 am. They were certainly angry about something! We got up and had breakfast at the McDonald's Cafe on the third floor. It was quiet and we discovered a museum nearby containing some great artifacts they found before the new Athens airport was built on the archeological site.
We arrived in perfect time at our departure gate to find all the seats filled with passengers waiting for the flight before which was delayed because of weather. They moved us to another gate and still our flight was delayed 25 minutes. So much for our heroic efforts of staying in the airport overnight so we would be on time!
When we arrived in Munich, we anxiously went through check in and the passport check line and then RAN with our heavy carry-on luggage to gate H-36 for our flight to Chicago. We missed the flight. Walking back to the Lufthansa help desk, we were uncertain what would happen next. The lady there was so helpful, she was determined to not only get us a flight to the USA, but a good flight schedule. An hour later, we had plans to fly to Frankfurt in the morning and then a direct flight to Denver. She also called Aegean Air and they agreed to pay for our hotel for the night. Our helpful angel was a bit frustrated when she couldn't get our ticket from Denver to Alberquerque to print out. Writing us a handwritten ticket, she warned us twice not to lose it.
Waiting outside for the shuttle bus to the Sheraton Hotel was a chilly proposition. It was around 35 degrees and damp. The Germans gave us some puzzled looks since we were not dressed for the occasion. My bright purple flannel shirt was strange among all those black and dark blue coats. Our hotel stay included a lovely dinner and light breakfast and we we were so grateful not to spend our few remaining Euros.
The flight to Frankfurt was perfect and we had plenty of time to catch our next flight to Denver. Our concerns started to rise again when we got to our gate and there was a huge crowd of people and nothing was happening. Eventually, instead of boarding the usual way, they led us down several stairways and down a long hall, and finally loaded all four hundred of us on buses! After a long ride, we boarded the airplane from the tarmack. The pilot apologized that for some reason the airplane had not been cleaned. He said that it looked like a "frat party" had occurred on board and that was the cause of the delay. Thankfully in the ten hour flight, the pilot was able to make up ten minutes of the 20 minute delay, so we landed in Denver almost on time.
Unfortunately, several other international flights arrived at the same time and the line to go through customs was huge, plus we had to claim our checked bags and recheck them on United to go to Alberquerque. Again, we were running to get to our gate and arrived just in time to watch our airplane backing away from the boarding dock! Arrrgh. We were not late, but they left a little early because they didn't know to look for us because we were not in the computer because the ticket wouldn't print in Munich and we only had the hand written ticket!
Back to the United Gate, who sent us to Lufthansa, who sent us all the way back to the Lufthansa Desk in the main terminal, where we encountered a line of about 30 unhappy Germans who had also missed their flights.
Jeff was supposed to leave for Chicago in the morning for work, but after some discussion and several phone calls, we decided to stay in Denver. The airline wouldn't pay for the hotel, since they were only nine minutes late, but we did get a substantial discount which helped. We were so tired and jet-lagged that we waited in the wrong place for the shuttle bus. Finally, we got to the hotel where Jeff fell asleep with the t.v. remote in one hand and a bag of uneaten cookies in the other.
We arrived at the airport the next morning optimistic and with a nice two hour time cushion. While we were going through the security check, we were flagged and given the full TSA search with the body x-ray and our carry-on baggage completely unpacked and searched. We were flagged because our flight plan had changed in the last 24 hours!
Finally, we go to board the train that will take us to the concourse we need to be to board our plane. We realize the terminal is filling with people and the trains are not running. Our time cushion is slipping away! Eventually the trains start moving, but it takes several before we can get on. I actually have a small laughing fit because this is all beginning to feel completely ridiculous. We arrive at our gate just as they are beginning to board the plane. Whew!
We experience a miracle in Alberquerque when our checked luggage actually show up on the carousel, we had no idea where it might be. Our three hour drive to Taos is pleasant, the weather is lovely. We stop to get some groceries in town and then go to drive the last nine miles home up Taos canyon. At the entrance, we find there are police cars and an angry officer that won't let any one pass. Eventually, we learn there was a fatal accident and it may be a three hour wait or more.
Considering our options, we decide to take the gravel forest service road that goes over the mountain and comes out about a mile from our house. An hour and a half later, we come to the junction where the dirt road meets the highway, and find an angry, frustrated fireman who won't let us past. Amazed, Jeff parks the truck on the side of the road and we wait. It's getting cold, I feel like crying, and Jeff is wondering if we could walk that last mile. Finally, the fireman comes over and apologizes. He thought we were just more people trying to go down and get a look at the accident. After promising that we sincerely just want to go home, he lets us pass. We arrive home 81 hours after we left the apartment in Greece! A full two days later than planned.
We have really discussed and pondered what all this was about. I have decided that perhaps I was to learn that delays do not necessarily mean you won't get to your destination. Staying calm and having a sense of humour are invaluable. I am keeping this is mind as I consider my art career and the recent financial crisis. I am grateful that we were fine, even though we didn't know what would happen next!
Jeff's corner: The Odyssey by Homer Simpson: "D'oh!!"