4:00 am Monday morning (6Aug07). Alarm goes off! Alert as an owl, I jumped off my bed and eight minutes later shaved and teeth brushed. Well done my boy. 4:25 am. Showered and dressed biz atire with tie and all. Have no summer suit so this promised to be a wild sweaty day... but never mind, I thought, airports are modern built and would be cool air all around... Dream on!
4.30 am. Merc E320, cool air conditioned, cruising at 120km an hour in empty dark roads where max 50 and 70 allowed. Almost not a single soul to spot. First, as passtime, I started counting fellow drivers. Ten minutes later gave up the count at two dozen and started singin' the rebetica instead. Still quite dark outside in early dawn, when people are supposed to be early morning shagging and enjoying holidays and be recovering in the aftermath of a bloody hot first real summer weekend this year, too many morons like myself were rushing to work two hours before sunrise (I know that for a fact because as the sun rose at 6.18 later, and its early deep yellow-red rays hit me, I was sitting on 8C on the Airbus 330 waiting to take off ).
The drive to the airport continued, thank God, without any issues that morning, other than lorries already forming long queues on the E40 motorway and some friggin' truck drivers enjoying speeds far above the legal limits, messing up the middle lane. Too early for motorway coppers to show up and give them a fine. Good for me too as I was cruising at the best part of 170km/hour. I got too much bad experience in the past rushing to catch a flight and biting my nails stuck in traffic jams just minutes before take-off. Too important travel today to risk any of that. Screw them traffic wardens. Wouldn't care less!
5.12am. Parked at 3D on Parking P1, and entered the departures hall. Just heard my jaw hit the marble tile floor and my teeth falling off! Jeez almighty! Have mercy on me...There must have been 10 million tourists queueing on the longest zig-zag tail on the planet waiting to check-in at 'my' front desk. Panic and cold sweat covered me whole body. Oh Shit!
Good God heard me prayers and had mercy on me afterall... a faint candle-light idea lit above my scull and I thought... what if I went to a desk for passengers with no luggage to check-in? I got an electronic ticket, didn't I? A friendly ground stewardess ran to my rescue... No problem sir, we'll do all thru this smart terminal... It wasn't meant to be my best day... smart terminal ain't proven that smart after all and couldn't process my data. Fock-it! Sorry sir, you may proceed to the desk 4.5 for regular check in! Oh Shoot! Thank God desk 4.5 was queueless when I arrived and there I was before a sleepy clerk who cursed his miserable destiny for having to show-up so early for work... He looked at me all the way from toes to haircut and wondered what the heck a sod like me, on my age, was doing there so early, among scores of vacationers, in suit and tie and a panic helpless look! He said not much but, out of brotherly compassion, he gave me two of the best seats in town, 8C and 7C. I got both passes you see, one for the morning and a second for the return flight 15 hours later, all at once... good for me, as I witnessed later at the Barcelona Terminal A, desk clerks had to manage check-in queues twice as long!
Long story short, 5:25 am I was past security checks and up in Terminal A, a huge, long, from not so long ago, super modern passenger terminal, built to process millions of Schengen travellers a year. With air conditioning an all. That's what I thought... As I walked down the long and wide hallway looking for gate A69, my gate, I felt the air being rather warm. I looked up to check the huge pipes supposedly blowing cool air in the building... everything seemed normal (see and click picture above to see what I mean). I thought I felt like this as I was dressed in semi-season biz atire... but it couldn't be that. There were crowds around dressed-up like ready to hit the beach but not that many to justify overloading of the conditioner. It was still too early to get an impact from high outside temperatures as well. Lucky me, I got one of these T-Tissot fancy watches with touch screen and loads of useless functions. I clicked and touched it to read the room temperature... 28.5 frigging Celsius! Can you just believe that? In the US, most folks would have cought a cold on a day like this walking down an airport terminal. There I was at the bloody Brussels National sweating my guts out, and dripping and feeling sticky like shit... only an hour after a fresh shower for crying out loud! Are these folks that incompetent? Of course, most fellow passengers that day seemed to enjoy the temperature quite a bit as they were dreaming of even worse to come at their destinations... and as real Northerners they seemed to love every bit of it! Not me though! I dusted my mother-tongue and started cursing at the unidentified responsible of that inferno in Greek! For those who understand it you know exactly what I mean... Xristopanagies and stuff... hard core... not for softies!
Anyways, I finally reached gate A69, almost at the far end of the 600m long hallway (from check-in to airplane seat count best part of a mile and half long, no kiddin'). Under normal conditions I show-up as one of the first at the gate. It was 5:50am for a 6:30 flight. As boarding doesn't normally start until 10 minutes before departure time, I thought I'd find a seat in the waiting hall, wait for boarding, calm down and unsweat! So I thought! Not that morning though. First big surprise! The place was packed with tourists in the process of... boarding (yep, true story!) 40 minutes before departure! C'me oooon! What kinda plane did they put on today for Chrissake? Looked outside and there, second huge surprise, I saw a monster A330. Say what? An A330 for a routine morning flight to bleedin' Barcelona of all places? No waay! I thought people wouldn't believe me if I told someone, so I took a shot with my Nokia. I even mailed it to Rita (the spouse) for her to see this too! 'Big plane' I wrote in the message. I hate them big planes packed with tourists. Tourists are the worst passengers on this planet. Inefficient, loaded with excessive luggage and carrying along bad-mannered spoiled children who act like arriving at an amusement park ("Look Sherridan, that wonderful gentleman is our captain... Sheridan, don't pull his pants... naughty boy!"), acting like the whole bloody place is their own backyard! Hate them. I suddenly got scared of the worst yet to come... I was proven right... Read on.
The air inside the aircraft was fortunately cool enough to at least dry my sweat away. Everything seemed fine for a 6:30am departure. Lucky me, I thought, at least no delays and stuff, Sabena-like style. So I reckoned... Man-oh-man, dream on. "This is your captain speaking", a voice from the ceiling mounted speakers came to wake me up. "We are just about ready to taxi away from the terminal building... but, there is a family of four who didn't show up yet, and, as we'd have to unload their luggage, and risk delaying another 30 minutes, let's wait for them a few more minutes... they may show up any second now. We know that they were very early to check-in this morning and we are sure they realy wanna travel today..." That said, clock ticked 6:34am.
6:50am. "This is your captain again" (the number of times I heard this in my life, if I just had a penny for each one of 'my' captains, I'd be rich by now). "Unfortunately we'll have to unload their luggage... don't worry too much, we'll make up for the lost time during the flight... it won't take more than 10 minutes to find their luggage' (What? he said 30 minutes a few moments earlier', I thought, 'let's now see which time he fed us with BS').
7:15 am. Plane still parked at the terminal, the son-ov-a-bitch 'our captain' having lied big time second time. I was so much afraid of that. I know them friggards! Train to lie all the way! Took them more than half hour to spot the morons' luggage. Big time morons... because, which family party in their sane mind plans a travel to Costa Whatever months ahead, comes at the check-in almost the night before and then doesn't show-up at the gate and doesn't even have the courtesy to tell the operator! I propose to introduce an elementary intelligence and courtesy test to all those who fly once a year and less. You fail the test you take the train or hitch-hike. Son-ov-a-bitch!
Anyway, the 6:30 flight soon became 7:40 airborn, as we missed our slot etc...etc... Arrived 3 quarters late to Barcelona. My host, waiting for me patiently at the Airport building (which eventually also was proven to manage the air-cooling far worse than in Brussels - go figure - ), was excited to see me showing-up at the Salida (sortida in Catalan for those interested).
For the rest, the day ran just great... one of my best and most fruitful biz encounters in a very long time. I even forgot all the morning misery... bless the Lord for that!
Cranky me, you said? No way!