Sunday, August 17, 2003

I'm Finally Here

It was a long time in the making. I've been talking with (hounding) my boss for this opportunity since the beginning of the year. The "green light" didn't come until late May. Once approved, then there were all the smaller tasks of planning and company procedure. While my mind was on accomplishing each one of these micro-tasks, they seemingly distracted me from the overarching event, which was actually flying to Germany so that I could get this opportunity kick-started. Well, the date indeed arrived and here I am, sitting in a Hilton Hotel room wondering what my new life will look like tomorrow.

Getting here today was pretty painless, that is if you have become accustomed to post-9/11 security protocol. After being dropped off at the airport, the actual ticket line at Lufthansa moved smoothly. However, after being checked in, I was asked to usher my two checked bags over to another line, where I was to stand so that I could drop them off with a security team that runs each checked bag through a massive X-ray machine. I was dreadfully worried what my little clip-on fan, which was buried deep within one of my bags, might look like under the intense focus of the X-ray machine. Would it look like a cleverly designed bomb with its spiral electric cord, easily mistaken for a timing device? Or would it simply look like a fan wedged between clothes of some American who was apprehensive of his ability to cope with the current European heat wave? My money was on the latter and I'm sure the crack security unit could tell the difference. Truth be told, I have been too lazy to open my bag to see if it still there.

I was so happy to take my aisle seat onboard the Lufthansa Airbus. Airbus is a great name by the way. I felt like I was on a bus, not because of the roughness of the flight (it was pretty smooth), but rather my fellow passengers by which I found myself surrounded. First there was the chorus of wails that was emanating from behind me from the "Mile-high Kindergarten Class" that was surely in-session at the rear of the plane. These kids screamed 85% of the way to Germany. Surely it should be within bounds for the airline, parents, or fellow travelers to tranquilize screeching brats once a comfortable cruising altitude of 35,000 feet has been attained. I'm thinking that this new job role should be incorporated into the training guidelines for our Federal Air Marshals. Wouldn't it be great to see a plain-clothes man stand up from his row and spin around on a dime to register a direct-hit on a brazenly bawling brat in row 24E. We'd have to work out the details to make sure this tranquilizer gun wasn't painful or anything. I'm not an advocate for hurting babies, but I am also not a supporter of smiling, do-nothing parents, who grin with delight as their little devil-child erupts into a continuous chorus of shrills. OK, I think I made my point there: I don't like screaming kids, and I was unfortunately surrounded by them on this flight. So, onto the next freak that I was sitting next to...

Sitting two seats next to me on my row was a grizzly-bear-of-a-man and his wife. They seemed non-volatile enough until I and the entire rear 1/3 of the aircraft noticed that "Grizzly Adams" was snoring after only pulling away from the jet way for approximately 2 minutes at PDX. This guy was a champ too! Head back, mouth gaping open, and a full diaphragm of wind to seemingly make the windows shake on the old Airbus. People in front of him swiveled their heads in disbelief. I'm not sure if they were amazed at his lung capacity or the fact that we hadn't even reached the approach on the runway before this guy started in? I'm a big fan of Mrs. Grizzly Adams, because she got so embarrassed that she would periodically throw an elbow check, that would make any lover of the movie Slap Shot proud, directly into the ribs of her old man to stop his gurgurling guttural sounds. I'm sure old Griz probably landed in Frankfurt with a sore throat and some bruised ribs.

I'd now like to shamefully add myself to the Freak Show lineup for this flight. I don't know what came over me. It started out like any other process I go through on my flight: Earplugs in, blindfold secure, pillow in place. For those of you who get accosted on flights by the vicious "talkativetoomuchus" fellow traveler, my protocol above ensures numerous visual cues that tells this dweller of the deep that you are not interested in him/her, their job, their kids, or any of the other random thoughts that they might wish to share or get your input.

So why did I ad myself to the list of Freaks? Because at approximately 10,000 feet (I know, because the bell went off at exactly that moment over the plane's PA system to wake me up) I felt it. What I felt was disgusting and even more embarrassing. It was a waterfall of Drool that was cascading out of my mouth and onto my T-shirt. Good Lord! Did anyone see, I thought to myself in a panic. Was I moments away from getting a Hanson Brother type check to the ribs by Mrs. Grizzly Adams? All I did know was that there was a Crater Lake size pool of my saliva on my shirt. How long had it been there? Was it one gigantic flow, or a steady drip? At this point there was no time for pondering. I grabbed my extra blanket and sponged up the reservoir on my shirt. So you can see, not even I was immune from disgusting and/or annoying behavior on this flight.

I slept probably 90% of the flight to Frankfurt, which helped me escape seeing "Catch Me if You Can" for the 9th time this year. We did a double-bounce landing in Frankfurt that was fun. It was enough to jostle old Grizzly out of his last chorus of snores and enrage the kiddies at the back of the plane who were suffering from their inability to clear their ears from the pressure. Frankfurt International Airport is huge, but I was able to zip through German Customs without incidence. The Agent took all of 3 seconds to size me up and stamp my passport. I guess I didn't look too dangerous. Maybe he should have seen me earlier in the day when I had a pool of drool on my shirt. I'm sure the once-over would have taken longer!

The flight from Frankfurt to Munich was painless. Think of a flight from Portland to Seattle and you have the approximate flight time. The crew has just enough time to hose everyone down with drinks and then its time to buckle in and prepare for landing. I found baggage claim easy enough, but was wondering if I would be able to find my bags just as easy. It was a seemingly long 35-minute wait for the bags, considering I have such high standards for German engineering and process. Even the German passengers were looking at their watches. Lucky enough my two bags arrived and I was off. The taxi left the airport and quickly reached speeds of 140 KM per hour on the Autobahn. I am really going to love driving here!

I checked into my hotel and took a long nap, which was a bad mistake. Now I am up writing this entry and will surely sleep very little tonight and be totally worthless tomorrow. Oh well, I think the entire country of Germany is on vacation currently, so no one will probably notice. I meet the rental agent tomorrow morning at 9:30AM. She will take me to my new home for the next 4 months and will help me with the lease papers. She'll also help with my work permit application as well. So if you made it to the end of this entry without crying, snoring, or drooling on yourself, Congratulations. Hopefully you'll check back in later on.


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