A Rough Start

Have a Pleasant Flight

I look down at my feet. The sandwich I just bought in the Salzburg train station is on the floor split in half like a butterfly pinned to an exhibit canvas. With two minutes to go before my train departs, I grab the top and bottom half of the roll and carefully scoop up the cheese from the sticky ground. As I place the lopsided mass back in its paper bag, I notice the bottom of the bag is split open. I hesitate for a moment and then decide to catch my train. I don’t have enough time to reclaim the sandwich in the shop a mere footsteps from the remaining mess I leave on the station floor.

Comfortably seated in the train after a mad dash, I finally have time to digest the morning’s events and the remains of my sandwich. The sandwich is just another small setback on my journey to Zell am See in Austria.

Six hours before at 6:00 am, I left our apartment in Berlin for my flight to Salzburg. My trip to the airport was uneventful. The baggage and security check quick and efficient.

My early arrival at the airport gives me a rare opportunity to read a printed newspaper. As I scan the headlines, Hall C at Tegel Airport fills with passengers traveling to all points of the globe. A flight to Budapest, scheduled to depart ten minutes before mine, slowly boards at my departure gate. I watch the passengers queue and board a bus that takes them to their plane. When the first bus fills, the remaining passengers continue to wait in line as another gate agent prepares for the boarding of my flight. I imagine how the two groups of passengers will clash in the small waiting area until it soon becomes apparent that there are no busses left. The flight to Budapest cannot leave because it’s passengers are stuck in the terminal. My flight is delayed too.

Have a Pleasant Flight

Have a Pleasant Flight

A sign above the gate wishes the passengers a pleasant flight. I consider making a complaint to the gate agents about the poor translation, but they are busy solving more important problems. The agents scramble the phones operating at a DEFCON 1 pace. An assistant manager in a reflective vest hurries to the gate. He makes two calls and then paces back and forth like an expectant father. A manager shortly arrives. He tries to keep his cool, but the expression on his face matches his wrinkled, droopy, poorly fitting suit. He can’t solve the crisis either. He eventually departs with the assistant manager like they are going off to get a coffee. The gate agents are left alone.

The vast terminal hall empties as the other flights leave in rapid succession. They have somehow found available busses or walked to their planes on the Tarmac. The gate agents look awkwardly out the door to where busses should be waiting. The passengers on the flight to Budapest sit back down. No one will be leaving anytime soon.

An hour after we are originally scheduled to depart, the last remaining passengers for the Budapest flight board a bus. A bus for our flight is standing by. We quickly clear the gate, hop on the bus, and drive to our plane, which is parked near the maintenance hangers at the airport.

All Aboard!

All Aboard!

We learn our delay was due to technical difficulties. We assumed the problem was a dispatching problem with the busses. Our pilot apologizes as he revs the Bombardier Dash 8 prop engines in preparation to taxi to the runway and take off.

We arrive in Salzburg without further delay. The Playmobil size of the airport reminds me of Mueller Airport in Austin. Mountains rather than a city skyline frame the terminal in the background. I have finally returned to the first city in Europe that I visited as a school child some thirty years ago. Unfortunately, a proper visit to the city will have to wait. Due to my flight delay, I missed the train to Zell am See. I take a bus to the main train station and ask when the next train will depart. The next train leaves shortly. I have enough time to buy a ticket and walk to the platform.

A Playmobil Airport

A Playmobil Airport

The wireless connection on the train quickly springs to life. My mobile phone buzzes with messages from my wife and my friend, Franzl, who I am visiting in Zell am See. I send them a quick status update and tell Franzl that I still have to change trains in Schwarzach-St. Viet. I hope to arrive on EC 164, a train to Zurich, in an hour.

I make my connection without a hitch. I am restless during the remaining 30 minute train journey. I arrive at the station at Zell am See. Franzl is waiting.

“What’s an adventure without a little adventure,” I say as we embrace.

“My dear hobbit,” Franzl replies, “adventures make you late for dinner. Yours is already waiting for you.”

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