Lost in Transition

by wjw on July 15, 2017

lostAll sorts of things happened en route to Finland, though none of them actually happened to us. The problem was that very little actually happened once we got into the little commuter mini-jet to fly to Chicago, which was the first leg of a long-distance triad that was supposed to continue to JFK, and from there to Helsinki.

First, we sat on the ground in Albuquerque for over an hour while the pilot tried to get permission from Chicago to fly there.  Contingent permission given, we then loitered on our way to the Midwest while the pilot tried and failed to get permission to actually land.  Permission was not given, so we landed in Madison for refueling, and again sat on the ground for over an hour.

There were nasty storms going on in Chicago, and no one was going in or out.

Now the trip to Helsinki depended on making the connections, and by the end of our sojourn in Madison I knew those connections were out the window.  I was desperate to talk to a gate agent or someone who could rebook us, but we weren’t allowed off the aircraft, which wasn’t even parked at a gate, but off on an apron being refueled.  (Planes are refueled with the door open, by the way, to make it easier for us to flee if the fuel caught fire.  Great for the morale!)

Then I got an automated phone message from American Airlines, which had cleverly rebooked us without consulting me.  The new booking left JFK on the night following our arrival, which meant that we’d get to spend something like 30 hours in Queens, and arrive 30 hours later than we originally intended.  I felt I could do better.

Whatever computer rebooked us assumed that I wanted to fly to New York.  I didn’t.  I wanted to fly to Helsinki, and I didn’t care where I flew from.   A look at the American Airlines schedule showed a plane leaving Chicago at 5:10 for Helsinki via London, and arriving only five hours later than the original booking.

By and by we were allowed our hop to Chicago, and I charged off the plane to the nearest gate agent.  He performed marvels, but by the time he booked us on the new schedule, our bags had flown off to JFK without us.

The flight to Heathrow was much eased by free wine, but we had to change planes there, and doing anything at Heathrow requires miles and miles of walking, the walking interrupted only by security checkpoints.  There are carts of the sort that, at other airports, take people around, but we were told that these were special carts, for special people, and our aura of specialness was insufficient to get a ride.

(In fact I’ve never seen carts at Heathrow taking people anywhere, ever.  Their drivers always seem to be on break and chatting with one another.  The one time I listened in, they were talking about the union rules for overtime.)

By and by we arrived in Helsinki, made a report about our bags, and took an overpriced taxi to the Best Western Carlton in the center of town, within walking distance of just about everywhere we’d want to go.  That night we at at the appropriately-named Lost in Helsinki restaurant and I chowed down on reindeer sautee on a bed of creamy potatoes, pickles, and some other kinds of pickles, and it was very fine indeed.  Certainly far superior to what the airline had been serving us.

24 hours later our bags finally arrived, and we finally got to change out of the clothes we’d worn for three days.  So we celebrated by going to the very nice Kolme Kruuna restaurant, where Kathy had reindeer loin— amazingly tender— and I had the Pike-Perch Mannerheim, named after Finland’s great military hero, and apparently one of his favorite recipes.  I can see why: filet fried crispy in a horseradish batter served on a creamy mushroom sauce.

Now that I have clean clothes, I’m having a lovely time, and I want the world to know that I stand ready to eat more reindeer.  By the time I’m done, Santa may have to pull his own sled.

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