Writing Location: Frankfurt Airport/ Flight FRA-BWI/ Hotel Room
Spoiler alert: I made it to the US! It wasn't easy though. Here's what happened:
Right on time I arrived at the airport. I was going to Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) instead of Detroit, which is the closest airport to Ann Arbor, because a flight to BWI plus two nights in a hotel plus a bus ride to Ann Arbor was just as much as a flight to Detroit. So for the first couple of days I was going to be on vacation.
For some reason I wasn’t able to check in online so I had to do it in Frankfurt. I started typing my booking reference into the check in mashine. After I was done the mashine told me that my booking reference did not exist. A little confused I checked and reentered it. It still didn’t exist. The mashine told me to seek help at the service counter on the other side of hall C, so I did. The young gentlemen behind the counter told me to enter a different booking reference, so I went back over to the check in mashine and entered the new combination of letters and numbers. Like with my first try the mashine told me to seek help on the other side of hall C, so I did. The gentleman from before recognised me being back – god it’s nice to be recognized – and told me in a quite superior manner:
“No need to panic! I’ve got everything under control. You don’t need to panic.”
“Ok” I responded “I wasn’t about to, but ok.”
He told me to enter my name instead of my booking reference. I went over to the mashine, it didn’t work and I came back to the service counter. I told the genteman it still didn’t work. He started to panic.
“Ssshh,” I said “no need to panic. I will find a way to check in, I promise.”
“I can’t help you” he pitifully whispered as tears started to fill his eyes.
Altough I felt guilty for leaving the poor guy at the service counter like that I went back to the other side of hall C past the check in mashines to cue for the check in counter. By that time I had already walked a few kilometers. Taking account of my ligament rupture that was a considerable distance.
Fourty minutes later as I checked in I realised that there would be no rest for my injured foot anytime soon. Apparently my gate was kind of far away. How far? The lady behind the check in counter looked at my ticket and said:
“Yes, your plane starts boarding in an hour. You better leave for your gate right away…” and then alarmingly she added: “Hurry!”
So I hobbled through the entire terminal to reach my gate just in time for boarding. Luckily I was seated next to a young couple who couldn’t keep their hands off each other. And I don’t mean that ironically: The entire flight I had two armrests to myself! Unfortunately that was the only comfortable thing about it.
For entertainment purposes Condor had provided a whopping two movies and two tv show episodes which I couldn’t watch because I didn’t want to rent – yes: RENT – headphones. Quickly I realised that on this flight you had to pay extra for everything. Apparently you even had to pay for the stewardess to give you a smile and man had I not paid! Since I didn’t have anything to do during the flight I filled out Condor’s customer satisfaction survey provided – for free (!) – in the plebeian entertainment package. Condor came off better than you might think at this point. Fact is, Condor is incredibly cheap. They are the RyanAir of long distance travelling and they’re just providing budget travellers with a honed down to the bare bones option. So I didn’t trash them. Eventually I made it through the nine hours of boredom though, thanks to the baby a few seats behind me screaming all the way to Baltimore, which made me want to kill myself but took my mind off the lack of things to do and gave me an interesting insight into what it’s going to be like being a parent on vacation: HELL!
At the airport everything went much smoother than expected. At the American General Consulate in Frankfurt visa applicants are told to expect a thorough identity check and even emotionally prepare for the worst case scenario of not being admitted into the country by the Border Protection Officer. My BPO was Mike and he said two things. Nothing meaningful, he literally just said two things. When I handed him my documents he asked me:
“Ah, F-visa… Where are you going to study, my man?”
“At the University of Michigan” I responded, emotionally prepared for the worst.
“Woooohooo, go wolverines!” he screamed, slammed a stamp into my passport and called the next person in line over to his booth. Relieved that everything went so smoothly I approached the baggage carousel where I saw my huge bagpack right away.
As I reached the airport’s exit I got the weird feeling that the next 9 months were going to be very special. To my right there was a ticket mashine and stuck in it’s dispenser was a one way ticket. Probably someone had accidentally bought it and put it back in the mashine for the next person to take it. I took my free ticket and went outside to wait for the train. As I sat there I took a closer look at the ticket. Two words were printed on it’s front side: “Go Pass”