Journey errors

Ma. Isabel Ongpin

Ma. Isabel Ongpin

I am about to get on a plane and from my previous experiences traveling which are immediate, being only last May, I decided to make a few notes on the mistakes I made during that trip so as to avoid them on this trip. Being a veteran traveler is not enough, you have to keep your wits about you. I sometimas leave them somewhere else.

Let us begin by agreeing that airports and other venues of embarkation are stress points.

There are the documents to present, the luggage to be checked with its corollary of being within or outside the weight limit, the ever –changing security considerations, plus the waiting period in rather uncomfortable surroundings with people bellowing into their cellphones or children shrieking too uncomfortably nearby not to mention the highway robbery prices at these venues. One must be on red alert in these circumstances.

Then there are your very own mistakes and misjudgments. The Munich airport is quite far from the city, possibly like going from Makati to Calamba, Laguna, maybe even farther.

We left the hotel early and that was the smart move on our prrt. What wasn’t was that upon arrival in Munich my suitcase was not in the taxi. It had been left at the hotel, miles back. Fortunately, I had my son and his family with me and the taxi was still next to us when the missing luggage was noted. So, Rafael had to go back on the same taxi, retrieve the suitcase that was taking its ease in the hotel lobby and come back. Because we had time, it was only money and not indispensable time that was spent on this error. And the taxi driver even gave us a discount. Rule: Always count your luggage, always check if it is in the vehicle with you, never let it out of sight. Get to the airport with plenty of time to spare so you can correct mistakes..

I got a bit sick in Madrid with some respiratory discomfort. That was a blessing in disguise which made me really take it easy instead of going about like a whirling dervish and I really had a restful vacation. When it was time to go my solicitous sister-in-law phoned to convince me to request for a wheelchair when in the airport for our next destination, something that was farthest from my mind. But her compelling argument that it would keep me rested and not exerted even convinced my son. So, we requested a wheelchari for yours truly who plays golf and tennis, takes long walks, etc. I felt like a fraud. The wheelchair duly arrived and I was strapped into it and off we went in Barajas Airport, going down elevators, crossing private spaces until we were on the tarmac and trundled into a van which took us to 3410, a plane parking lot under the hot Spanish sun of mid-afternoon. Only there was no plane. “Esta retrasado el avion” , “ the plane is late” was the smug explanation of the wheelchair pusher. I wondered how we would fare when the plane did arrive. Wouldn’t we be all blown off course sitting there waiting? Since I was a wheelchair tyro and still feeling like a fraudulent wheelchair user, it did not give me an anxious moment about sitting on an empty tarmac.. But it did Rafael who said since when did people wait for a plane on the tarmac? Because of that a flurry of walkie talke conversations ensued and suddenly we were rushed back to the airport building, hustled through corridors and elevators and then to a gate where all passengers on our flight had already been boarded and we were the last. In other words, we were just this far from missing our flight! Morale: don’t trust wheelchair operators that much, specially in Barajas. It was too funny when the wheelchair pusher noting my fuming son said to please tell him it was not her fault. I decided in the interest of peace and order not to give that message to him while fuming lest a verbal explosion occur.

Checking into my Paris hotel, my 7-year-old would-be rooomate, prefered to be with his 4-year-old brother (these two grandsons and their parents were my trip companions). So, I was by myself in my room when I decided to check out the bathroom and automatically locked the door. Then I could not ounlock it to get out. After struggling for 15 minutes and banging the door, I started contemplating spending the night there. It did not appeal. So, feeling like a fool, I opened the window to see a small garden and a building across which was ominously dark and silent. No one was in the garden either. It was Saturday night and I felt I was in a convent, locked away from the world and with no one to remember. So, I did what they do in the comis, I shouted “Help, help, help?” No one stirred, I saw no one. I felt really foolish. But soon I felt more desperate than foolish. I shouted again “Help, help” and in the process noted through an opaque glass window a light turn on and a man in a white shirt. He was moving about and obviously had not heard. So, again I yelled “Help, help” and he actually heard me, turned to the window and opened it and guess who it was, Rafael! His mother had to tell him that she was locked in the bathroom. I was rescued by the dour desk clerk who was not amused. It seems the lock had a pecuilar counter-intuitive way of closing and opening. Morale: Before locking, experiment if you can unlock as well.

Finally, and this was not my mistake but Rafael’s. I bought cheese, hard cheese, and put it in my carry-on luggage. He bought soft cheese and put it in his. We took our time in Charles de Gaulle Airport eating a leisurely lunch before going through Customs. I got through but Rafael’s cheese which can be mistaken for c-4 explosive cement or whatever caused trouble. He was told to remove it, and try to check it in as luggage which he did almost making us miss our flight. It was rejected as checked in luggage, we got a screech from the head purser of the plane when we got to the gate which was deserted, all passengers having boarded. This time we barely made it on the plane to Amsterdam.

Morale: Don’t buy soft cheese, some say don’t put any cheese in your hand carry. And do not buy the line that you can try checking it in. Just get rid of out. Remember security and the paranoia we have to live with.

I am sure I have forgotten many other rules and will probably have a new set of problems at airports and strange places but take the above for all its worth.


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