December 20, 2010

Gallows Humour

Rumours of my departure have been greatly exaggerated. In true Planes, Trains and Automobiles style, it keeps on snowing everywhere and we keep on going nowhere. Yesterday we saw that our flight – Berlin, London, Montreal – was cancelled when we got up, but we had to go to the airport anyway, for there was a queue there not to be missed. Three hours in that line got us an upgrade and a new itinerary – Berlin, Düsseldorf, Newark, Montreal – for the next day. Today we left well before dawn in heavy snow, to find Düsseldorf cancelled. Queued for an hour and got bumped to a delayed earlier flight, which was about to land in Berlin. Unfortunately, at that moment Berlin went blizzard, and the airport closed. Our route out was diverted to Leipzig, I presume never to be seen again. Back to the queue for another two-and-a-half hours (and this was the first-class queue, mind), and we eventually received our new itinerary – Berlin, Frankfurt, Toronto, Montreal – for tomorrow, replete with downgrade back to economy. It’s a story full of Christmas joy.

The funny thing about all this is that it is actually funny. Or at least, one tries to make it so. Mrs. VB and I have made some firm friends in the queuing process these last two days. One nouveau riche couple – English and Latvian – were supposed to go Riga, London, Buenos Aries, Santiago, Easter Island, for some romantic Christmas getaway. Just outside of London their plane was turned back to Riga, and the Latvians, imaginative bunch that they are, thought sending them to Berlin might be a good way to get them to London. Heathrow closed in the meantime, and the Germans lost their luggage, in which they’d packed their medicine. Oh how we laughed! She chortled so much her mink coat nearly fell off.

Take my word for it, their smiles were infectious

Today we spent chatting to a motley crew of international travellers, upgraded to business yesterday like us, downgraded to chattels today. The prominent member of this group was a lovely and elegant Parisian lady, with whom we partook in devious queue strategies. She was trying to get to London, and when that failed yesterday she had been booked on the same Düsseldorf flight as us. Then, a London flight opened, but they wouldn’t bump her to that one because she was clearly booked on a flight to Düsseldorf. Why should she want to change it? We laughed so much it hurt! Another lady, from Singapore, was told to board a plane to Cologne (why not? She was going to Düsseldorf and then Munich, after all) that hadn’t even left Cologne yet. They were good enough to lose her luggage, and she re-joined us in the queue after an hour or so of staring at the space where her plane was supposed to be. We could barely contain ourselves! The third member of this group was a jolly Austrian with bad teeth, attempting to get to Vienna. Since it all seemed so hopeless, he had the idea that Lufthansa would book him into the Kempinski Presidential Suite, and we’d all be invited for Christmas on the airline’s dime. He was so thrilled by this idea that he practically begged the Lufthansa agent for more bad weather. We all looked like the prancing orphans from Oliver! singing Food, Glorious Food, and pretending that there wouldnt be gruel. Meanwhile, the local news had sent a camera man, pushed on a luggage trolley by his director, who secured a terrific dolly shot of all our smiling faces. The viewers of tonight’s local TV are in for a treat.

We waved goodbye to everyone as we left for home (again), wishing merry Christmases and happy travels, and hoping never to see each other again, with the best will in the world. We left our little patch of muddied red carpet – seriously, the business and first-class line had red carpets covered in snow and grit – and walked back past the economy queue, which stretched from gate 10 back way past gate 7. I reckon it was at least a six-hour queue. Everyone looked so happy!

I hope not to write to you tomorrow, because I shall be travelling all day. It seems a shame in a way – cancellations are too much fun.


  1. Hence why my husbands (who's been in the air force as long as you, Mrs VB and I have been on this planet - give or take a few years) says: Travelling over the holidays is simply not worth the bull that travels along with it!!!!

    Wishing you both safe travels - if indeed you do end up leaving this snowy Deutschland of a place we currently live in!

  2. Doctor, I believe this and your recent marathon training will help you in the task of fighting a war in the near future. Then you shall have the greatest chance to grin any man could hope for - do you see, how all evil works for the good?

  3. Oo, brilliant! My mum and I have been back-and-forthing all day about such matters; she thinks it sounds AWFUL and I think it sounds.. sort of fun. The Famous Five would have loved it.

    She was trapped in a train station due to weather once and the only book she had was about that plane crash where people had to eat each other, which may colour her opinions.

    I hope you land safely!

  4. Profound thoughts. I quite like your tag:


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