“Why Are You Here So Long?”

In Tamás' Posts, Transportation, Trips on September 27, 2011 by Tamás

I owe you an entry about my travel woes. Well, I don’t know that I really owe you one, but I’ve been meaning to describe my trip a bit.

It all started at Chemnitz central station on Tuesday afternoon, when I learned that my train had been cancelled, no explanation given and no bus shuttle set up in its place. This train usually runs once every hour, but there was a general feeling that there would be no further trains for the day. Generally speaking, Chemnitz’ connection to the German railroad system is rather poor for a city of its size (about 280,000 people) and so the only viable alternative was to head southwest instead of northwest, on a slow local train, and take it from there. So I did, and I reached Düsseldorf with some two hours delay and after having taken a completely different route than intended. Half of my trip took place on trains that were more crowded than usual and lacked tables as well as power outlets.

Luckily my six year old brick phone was a good business phone at the time, one of the first generation umts phones, and I had access to the Deutsche Bahn website to help me plan my connections. Had I waited in line to ask service personnel I would have gotten to Düsseldorf even later. During these hours I also learned that the reason for the train cancellations was a rather serious accident. Guess in the end I can call myself lucky not to have been on that one.

In Düsseldorf I stayed with Adrián, whose sounds I can recommend by the way, a really nice fellow and a good host.

The flight the next day was rather uneventful, which is good I guess. There was no in-seat entertainment, but I had my laptops and things to do anyway. It was actually my longest flight to date (dethroning Berlin – NYC), but that didn’t bother me much. The post-flight hours were worse ;)

Atlanta is actually the world’s busiest airport. Statistically, a plane arrives or departs every 33 seconds. The line at immigration was long. There was another flight, from Mexico I think, that had landed just seconds before ours, and it felt that it took ages for these passengers to get cleared. Frequent calls for spanish translators, frequent calls for escorts of passengers to some further questioning. Let’s just say then and there I felt glad not to be Hispanic. I had hurried from the gate to immigration, overtaking numerous of my peers. Ironically, only to witness how at some point nearly everybody behind me was told to use the then empty booths for US citizens instead, since things took so long. Subjectively it felt as though I was in the slowest lane. I know, it always does, but I was just about the last person from my flight at immigration.

The officer and I didn’t exactly “click”, and I was asked the question that became the title of this post three times in a row, with varying intonations. Apparently my amorous reasons were dissatisfactory.  I tried to keep the tone of my answers friendly. Eventually I made it in, even though a little aggravated: I had come off a long flight, had been standing in line for 45 mins or so only to be exposed to a repetitive staccato. What exactly happened when I left his desk is a matter of perspective I think. Let’s just say I grabbed my passport but not my customs declaration since it seemed to me that he was keeping it. It dawned on me that something was amiss when I reached customs.

In hindsight, maybe I should have felt more grateful for the 20 minutes that I was then given to sit down and chill before a customs officer processed my “case”. But it felt tough to “chill”. All sorts of thoughts went through my head. Finally, it was established that my tax declaration was found at immigrations, lying on the floor. At least they spared me a detailed examination of my bag.

Things took a slightly brighter turn at the body scanner when it turned out that I, coming from the leftmost of three crowded lanes, could walk through the metal detector instead, without any hassle whatsoever. Let’s see if I can remain unscanned during all the trips to come though.

Oh, and Atlanta is one of the very few airports where you first claim your baggage at the terminal and then check it in again, to pick it up much, much later at the main entrance hall. It took a while for my bag to appear there, since everybody else from my flight had been long gone and the people clearing the bags seemed to wait and collect a critical mass rather than sending each bag on the journey on its own.

I was finally out of the airport some two hours after landing, ready for adventures :)


2 Responses to ““Why Are You Here So Long?””

  1. Enjoy your trip and thnx 4 ya report…good to read u are doing well!

  2. Yes, I agree that the baggage recheck is very cumbersome! A new international terminal is long overdue and supposed to be opening in 2012, six years after (!) the initial target date:

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