I’ll Pay Ten Euros for a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
December 24. I didn’t sip the Welcome Aboard flute of champagne like a proper Lufthansa Business Class passenger. I gulped it down, savoring every drop while Jim arranged the mattress, pillows, and blanket for his ten-hour nap across the Atlantic Ocean. I checked the movie selection while he perused the menu and made his dinner selection. Once in Frankfurt – half an hour late – we had to race 30 gates and two terminals to catch our plane to Florence. Now was the time to unwind and share the excitement of a long flight and meet our VRBO host in the snazzy apartment I selected for our three-week vacation.
The first stop after landing was the document drill, followed by watching a parade of suitcases on a carousel go around and around. The lucky passengers grabbed their bags and departed. The unlucky passengers held their breath, wondering what it would be like to begin their vacation wearing the clothes they traveled in. My spirits lifted and sank each time new luggage appeared and then disappeared. When the carousel stopped, I shook my head, wondering if this might be the beginning of a bad dream.
“I can’t believe this is happening!” I whined. “We had to race to get here, and now we can’t get out. Look at the line for lost baggage!” I almost cried. “We might as well stay in the airport.”
“Don’t panic,” Jim said. “Let’s fill out the paperwork, get in line, and with any luck, they might find our suitcases in the meantime.”
Disbelief turned to despair when I watched the Comedy Central act behind the counter. Two middle-aged women stood behind the counter, shuffling stacks of paper in front of a long line of about forty grumpy, disgruntled passengers. The first befuddled-looking woman behind the counter sweated bullets whenever a new passenger appeared. Then she disappeared into who knew where. The other woman took enough notes on each passenger to write a doctoral dissertation.
My clothes felt stuck to my body. I searched for anything to eat and was happy to find a cracker. Jim went to the lady writing her dissertation and asked if there was anyone to help speed things up. Don’t ask her! She doesn’t know the meaning of the word speed. You’d do a better job, and you don’t speak Italian. Maybe it’s time to ditch the madhouse and catch a cab.
One hour passed. The lady sweating bullets disappeared and reappeared like Houdini. The lady working on her dissertation looked like she wanted to find a synonym for category.
Just then, a well-dressed woman at the rear of a line shouted, “My limo’s outside! He won’t wait much longer!” The crowd went wild. “Me too!” Another shouted, “And me!”
Just at that moment, Miss Sweating Bullets put a “CLOSED” sign on the counter. What! You can’t be serious! Are you going on your dinner break? We’ll chase you down!
We’d been waiting for almost two and a half hours watching two women diddle-daddle with papers and boxes and phones while passengers fumed. We were ready to burn the house down.
Suddenly a woman who resembled a Marine Corps drill instructor came from out of nowhere and solved the problem in half an hour. Where did she come from? Where has she been?
I didn’t care where she came from. The long Lufthansa nightmare was over.