Picking up where we left off in part I, we’ve made it through security and must now get to Terminal A to find out the plane’s gate assignment. As you leave the security area the sign points to a spot up ahead that doesn’t seem to go…anywhere…and yet…the sign wouldn’t point there if there was no where to go, right? So you walk up to this wall and notice to the left, through a row of metal poles, ostensibly set up to prevent people from pushing trolleys through them but also looking like a barricade to keep everyone out, that there are two elevators. Along with everyone else trying to find Terminal A you hesitate for a brief second trying to figure out if you’re actually supposed to go over there and use the elevator because, well, you’ve never had to do that at an airport before and it just seems…odd. “But,” you think, “I’ve got at least an hour and a half before my next flight so worse case scenario if I end up in the bowels of the airport our somehow make my way outside I’ll have plenty of time to go back to the beginning and try again.” (The ridiculousness of even thinking such a thing just proves how insane our society has become. What surely used to be a straightforward task – get from one airport gate to another – has become an exercise in absurdity.)
Now that you’ve found these random elevators to somewhere you hop in one with your fellow travelers and hit the only option, Down. After roughly ten seconds the elevator comes to a stop and you offload into a really long, straight hallway. It seems odd to you that the gates would be underground but maybe there’s some kind of basement walkout where the planes are sitting? Yeah, that’s a dumb idea, but this is turning out to be the dumbest airport you’ve ever been in so clearly anything is possible. So you make your way along this long hallway to nowhere still hoping that you’re heading in the right direction, there have been fewer signs at this point, when you reach the end which is dun dun duuuuuunnn! Another set of elevators! What. The. Eff. By this time the number of people you’ve caught up to in the long tunnel is SIGNIFICANTLY larger than the number of people you got out of the other elevators with and since there are only TWO elevators the math doesn’t work. So instead of waiting you decide to take the stairs. Does anyone know what ten seconds on an elevator equals in terms of building stories? A LOT. Because you think you’re smart not waiting for the elevator you’ve committed yourself to walking up five flights of stairs. And not big, wide stairs, no, these are one person going up, one person coming down stairs. These are no air conditioning stairs filled with people who also thought it would be faster than waiting for the elevators.
Finally, FINALLY!, you reach Terminal A and go check out the departure board where…your flight still has no gate. It won’t be for another 30 minutes that the gate assignment shows up but once it does – Gate A1 – you head over to wait. The gates in this part of Terminal A are set up very weirdly. The counter is in the middle of this long hallway and there is seating on either side but the actual entrance to the skybridge is back around the corner. While sitting there waiting for them to announce the boarding you realize you don’t hear many announcements except for quite a few final boarding calls. Whatever, you couldn’t be sitting any closer to the skybridge than if you were actually on it so it’s not really a big deal until you realize that suddenly everyone is in line (where the hell did they all come from??) and they’re boarding the plane. It’s not until you get up and walk over that you hear them say that only certain ticketed passengers should be in line to board first. Now, if you’ve ever flown to or within Italy you know that Italians disregard any kind of attempt at ordered boarding. You could announce each row individually and every Italian will get in line, that’s just how they do things. So it was no surprise to see all of the passengers in line to board even though they were clearly only looking for a certain group to go first. Since that was how it was going to go down you have three options: 1. you act like a good little American and you wait until they actually call your group of seats, 2. you just hop in line, but at the end so you’re boarding roughly when you should, or 3. you say “fuck it” and walk up to the front of the line and cut in. When in Rome.
The Advil PM has probably worn off by this time but the mental Olympics the Frankfurt Airport just put your mind through has rendered you almost brain dead. You find your seat and proceed to pass out for most of the 1.5 hour flight to Naples. Unfortunately you are lucky enough to wake up for the final approach and landing during which the plane felt like it was being piloted by a three year old on a Power Wheels, but you’ve made it to your destination and that’s all that matters. Now you just have to make sure you stay awake for the rest of the day so you don’t end up with horrible jet lag. Good luck with that, I’m going to take a nap.
After two weeks in the States I’m back in bella Napoli. Of course I’ll be back on a plane to MD in two and a half weeks but whatever, it is what it is. When I left Maryland the weather was a balmy 82 degrees with low humidity. When I arrived in Naples it was a frigid 95 degrees with high humidity. It was like being greeted with a punch in the face instead of a nice hug around the neck. I guess that’s how we’re going to play this now, huh Naples? Fine. It shouldn’t have been any surprise then when we exited the airport and there was a giant plume of black smoke rising from a nearby brush/trash fire. Gotta love the smell of burning in the morning, afternoon, and night. One thing I’m not overly fond of is the bits of ash that are constantly falling from the sky. If I don’t end up with some kind of upper respiratory issue after living here I’ll be very surprised.
I flew Lufthansa back and was lucky enough to travel on a giant 747-8 plane. I’d never been on one before so it was pretty cool. The weirdest part was flying through turbulence because on any other plane it can be rather jarring and rattly (it’s a word) flying through the littlest bit of it but on a 747 you feel like you’re in Jell-O. It’s more wobbly and slow motion like. After experiencing it I’d say I rather preferred being stirred to being shaken. (Har har) We had a pretty strong tailwind so our flight time was only about seven hours from Dulles to Frankfurt. I took two Advil PM around dinner but by the time they started working we were halfway through the flight. They didn’t wear off for a long time so trying to find my way through the Frankfurt airport was a challenge. Although had I been fully rested and 100% with it I probably still would have had a problem finding my way through that stupid airport.
If you’ve never traveled through Frankfurt Airport before it goes something like this: first you get off your plane from the US somewhere in Terminal B. There will be no screen showing departures anywhere but you’ll see a sign indicating “Connecting Flights” is in this direction (my guess it is could be any direction on any given day). You’ll follow the sign where a couple dudes are barely glancing at boarding passes and shuffling people either to the right or the left. You show them yours and they say “yes” then point you to the right. So you blindly walk to the right with dozens of other travellers and follow the “Connecting Flights” signs that are getting harder and harder to find. Oh good, there are the departure boards! Oh, well, your flight is listed but it doesn’t have a gate. At least you know which terminal you need to get to. Eventually you make your way to Passport Control. This is a good sign since you have to legally enter the EU before you can connect to your next flight anyway. While you’re waiting in the Passport Control line you notice something on the other side that seems out of place but, hey, you don’t design airports so what the hell do you know? Maybe that’s just where they wanted to put security. Then you start to worry, “am I going the wrong way?” Too late, it’s your turn. You get up to the counter and hand the girl your passport. She looks at it, and, in a somewhat accusatory tone, asks where you’re going. You tell her and ask if this is the right way to go. She says “yes, everything is back here.” “Okay,” you respond, “I just wanted to make sure. I need to get to Terminal A.” “Yes, everything is back here. Where are you going again?” she asks. You tell her and show her your boarding pass. For whatever reason she almost doesn’t seem to believe you but stamps your passport anyway and you’re in.
Up ahead are signs for Terminals A,B,C,D,E, and Z. You follow the signs for A and think for just the smallest second that, “yay! I get to walk around the security line and head straight to my gate!” NOPE! You are incorrect! Do not pass Go, do not collect $200! Even though you went through crazy security and were exposed to gamma radiation* at Dulles Airport just eight short hours ago, AND you got off your plane INSIDE the airport in Terminal B, you clearly are still considered a security threat. Fine, we’ll play this game Frankfurt Airport. Just for the record TSA in the US makes you take off your fucking shoes, that’s how much they don’t trust people, you just made me take off my sweater. Pfft. Good luck stopping terrorists. (Too harsh? Maybe.)
Now, I know what you’re thinking, she’s through security and this is the end of the story. Oh no my friend, this is just the beginning. Part 2 will involve following signs into solid walls, jammed elevators, several flights of stairs, a never-ending hallway to nowhere, inaudible gate announcements, and a total disregard for the rules of queuing. No, we’re just getting started! Aren’t you excited?!?
*I’m almost 100% sure they’re not exposing travelers to gamma radiation in those full body scanners but you’d think that TSA agents would treat people a little better considering the consequences of exposure if they actually are. I’m just saying.
Wanna see the actual map of the airport? Even having been there this map is super confusing. Judge for yourself.