Planes, Trains and Automobiles – A Story of Chaos

Over the holiday break I found myself in one of the most peculiar yet fortunate positions on a journey across the pond to Deutschland. Despite my tireless and OCD tendencies to make every event seamless, I learned an invaluable lesson – to let go sometimes. Coincidentally, my international travels also solidified my confidence in my bachelor program – Converged Communications.

“Did you hear about the delay?” said the Lufthansa employee behind the counter. “Delay…what delay?” I said. “Oh, there was a blizzard in Frankfurt today, and your plane is delayed three hours,” said the employee. Seriously? I reminded myself to maintain a positive mindset, as this was my New Year’s resolution. Although my plans had changed faster than I could blink, I was determined to start my vacation right after TSA. Once I had put my boots, coat, purse, belt and watch back on I took a deep breath and pressed forward. Little did I know that this was only the beginning.

While sitting at my gate, I was on high alert. My father, prior military, always taught me the value of situational awareness. As a looked around, it was obvious who was headed home. With their solid stature, respectable posture and crisply ironed shirts – Germans were scattered throughout the uncomfortable airport seats of gate C28. I felt comfortable. It was interesting to note that the international portion of the Orlando airport was more grandiose than the national part. The only issue, and this typically is, was that there were not enough outlets for fellow passengers to charge electronics. It seemed every five minutes I saw someone frantically searching for those little holes to continue their communication with whomever. Thankfully, I had set up camp right next to four prized outlets, and my dilemma dissipated. One hour down, two to go.

I began to notice yellow t-shirts, a great high-school gaggle of them. As five of them rushed towards me, begging for an outlet, all I could say was “sure, they’re all yours.” They too set up camp next to the outlets, right on top of me. Initially, I was perturbed by their prank calls to innocent people and gab about what so and so was wearing. But after sometime, they began to grow on me. These five girls were headed to Rome to sing for the Pope, but were more interested to hear about my life and what I was doing – almost as if I was there older sister they looked up to. I felt flattered. Time passed, and after a painstaking 3 hour delay, all five hundred plus passengers boarded the B747.

The 8 hour ride went fairly well, with the exception that I hate flying. Once my anxiety and nauseous subsided, I took a much needed nap to wake up on German time. After two bad meals, four bathroom breaks and three glasses of wine later I was in Frankfurt. As the wheels touched down with a jolting halt, I looked down at my connecting flight ticket to Berlin Tegel international airport. Fifteen minutes to get off this bacteria-ridden cesspool, make it through German customs and take a shuttle to make it to my gate. I felt a panic attack brewing, but suppressed it. “I’m already in Germany, that was the hard part,” I thought. Once the doors to the plane opened it was a free for all, I booked it without looking back.

I was surprised to see that they had not begun boarding, when I looked I looked down at my ticket. I noticed that I did not have a seat number on my ticket. And then in big bold letters staring me in the face was the words STANDBYE TICKET. Again, I felt a panic attack brewing. As I reached the counter, I handed the Lufthansa employee my ticket. The look on her face gave it all away, with a fake smile she explained that I was not on this flight and the only way I was getting to Berlin tonight was by train. BY TRAIN? I am American and have never stepped foot on a train. With disappointment written all over my face, I exchanged my plane ticket for a train ticket – one way to Hamburg.

As I trekked through the Frankfurt airport, following the signs with the little train on it, I saw a glimmer of hope in red letters – the next train to Hamburg leaves in 1.5 hours. With some time to spare I went to baggage claim with the idea that the airline could magically make my luggage appear and then all would be fine. However, it would not be until day three of my vacation that I would receive my bag. So, I became very comfortable in the clothes I had been traveling in for ten hours.

Time ticked away, and I found myself sitting on a bench in the frigid train station. I was approached by a very tall man dressed all in black smoking a cigarette with his scarf blowing in the wind, at that point I was thankful that I spoke the language fairly well – as most young American women would have become quite uncomfortable. Once he realized I was from the states he switched to English, and I could not have been happier. As a prior journalism professor at the University of Vienna, Erick, was an investigative journalist. We connected immediately. As the train whizzed by at a whopping 200 mph, I did not even notice my ears popping. Our conversations were unlike any I had ever had, so intellectual and full of promise. Many times I felt him testing me with questions regarding journalism to which I was able to answer correctly. I was doing it – I was actually applying what I had learned to the real international world. Suddenly all the exhaustion I felt from the past day evaporated, and my second beer kicked in. I was so deep in conversation with Erick regarding his NSA presentation to over 1000 people in Hamburg that I did not even realize we had made it to Hamburg. As I got off the train, I thanked Erick for being such wonderful company at time when I could not have needed it more. He shook my hand and told me “ditto.”

As smoke from the train filled the station, I saw my boyfriend – and ran. I could not help but smile at all the things I had accomplished over the past 48 hours and all the wonderful people I had come in contact with. He closed the trunk and we sped off onto the autobahn, we were headed home.

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