Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Travel tales, part 2

So much for the airport, on to everyone's favorite part: the interminable plane ride.

Actually this one wasn't nearly so interminable. I had a friendly seatmate who is a mechanical engineer from John Deere on her way to meet with a supplier in Germany, as well as an astonishing array of movies I wanted to watch. And I slept for a few hours without my neck wanting to kill me, which I find an immense accomplishment. Most likely the credit has to go to my neck for being a real trooper.

#5 - The very cheerful head flight attendant noted at the beginning of the flight that her collegues spoke English, German, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch between them. Apparently they were identified by little language pins. In contrast, Air Canada has never announced anything like that and all of its flight attendants seemed to speak both German and English. I wonder what regulations, if any, exist regarding a multi-lingual staff on trans-Atlantic flights. Or even flights within, say, Europe that go from one language to another. Presumably English becomes your common language on the Continent, but what about between Frankfurt and Beijing, or London and Tunisia? It's a mystery.

#6 - Just before landing in Germany the same perky attendant came on to say that we were arriving at 9:06 and were early! The German announcement made immediately after also gave the time at 9:06 but refrained from any celebration about an early arrival. How German.

#7 - Passport control in Europe has always astonished me with its laxness. This time was no exception. The nice man sitting behind the desk barely made time to glance at my picture before stamping my passport, and for EU citizens he just glanced at the outside and welcomed them. Instead, he spent his time helping a family of first-time visitors to Germany take pictures with his official hat and handcuffs. I have to say, it's my kind of border crossing. By contrast, US border agents question me in a most unfriendly fashion whenever I return to my home country. For example, I took about $35 worth of gifts home with me from Germany and declared them on my customs form. The man behind the desk demanded to know why I was carrying anything back into the US from Germany, where I had bought the items, what I was planning to leave in the US, and if the US was really still my place of permanent residence. He also spent a long time scrutinizing my most recent page of stamps, but that might have been because no one seems to find it important to actually get a readable stamp in the book.

#8 - A moment of bragging. When I arrived in Frankfurt I walked straight to the ticket machines, bought my tickets in German, and went to my platform. No problem. I may have clucked my tongue in contemptuous pity at the tourists who were clearly struggling with the same process. (I would have stopped to help except they weren't speaking English or German, and I'm never sure where the line is between being helpful and embarrassing someone. Thoughts?)

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