Definition: character building

Trip Start Jan 17, 2006
Trip End Dec 01, 2006

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Flag of Germany  ,
Friday, December 1, 2006

I got to Frankfurt after my first hitch through Germany, which was completely different from Poland and Lithuania because you are not allowed to stand on the freeways there - it is illegal. The way you have to do it is to go to a petrol station along the way and ask drivers if they are going your way and would like to help out. So leaving Berlin I had 12EUR in my pocket to which 2.60EUR would go to the train ride to the freeway and 2.50EUR to the last Berliner Doner Kebab I would have in 2006. That left me with about 7.50EUR that would be used for food and transport to the airport in Frankfurt. I was originally going to hitch to a place called Heidesheim where I stayed with my host, Anita at the very start of my travels. Although I made good time to get from Berlin to Frankfurt, going the extra bit would have been very hard because it was 10pm and the town was not on any major road arteries. Therefore it would never come to be that I would visit again Anita. I went to Frankfurt and because it was not planned that I would go there I needed a place to sleep - luckily I kept up with a dude that I met early in the year in Frankfurt in a café. We shared the same powerboard for our laptops and became friends. Anyway, he put me up for the last two nights and fed me and what-not.

When I went to the airport in the morning I had one euro left for the airport if I needed anything - this came after the train ticket there and so forth. So I got there at 8:30 in the morning: nice and early so I could check in and get the bulk-head seat (lots of leg room). When I went to line up, I saw that the Malaysia Airlines sign had been temporarily replaced by an Uzbekistan Airways sign. I asked if I could check in anyway and that's when they dropped the bombshell on me - Malaysia doesn't fly from Frankfurt on this day. So I take a minute to take in what this means and then I call up Malaysia Airways and they tell me that my booking was changed and that I had missed my flight. Because my itinerary showed that I was flying on the 30th, they changed the flight for me for free. That was the end of the good news. After talking with them they said because it was not their fault, but the fault of the travel agent, they would not be getting me a hotel room for the night. So with the one euro I had, I called STA travel in the office in Frankfurt and they said it wasn't their problem, but the problem of the STA in Perth because they booked the flight - I explained that I couldn't possibly call them and asked them to email the Perth branch. They did this for me and then within an hour I received an SMS to my phone from the Perth branch saying that they wouldn't be helping me because of some line of legal type in their statement. Considering it was their fault, an SMS is bloody shit service in an emergency such as this. What had happened was that they booked the flight on a day when Malaysia was never going to be flying and they never received the green light from the airline. What they should have done is told me this when they booked my ticket a month before I left Australia - but no, they didn't say anything and that's what lead to all this. Marketers say that word of mouth is powerful because one person will tell four others what their experience was. In this case, 60 to 80 people who read this will now know how poorly they handled my case and complaint thanks to the power of emails and blogs. Well done STA.

So started a long night in the airport. I was freaking out to begin with because I felt like I had no connection with the outside world, but I managed to find a free internet terminal. This was the saving grace that would keep me sane during this 28 hour waiting period. Another major problem was the fact that I had no money to eat with. I had just an apple in my bag that my host gave me and that's where it ended. After a while I started to get hungry and I was considering begging out the front, but I assumed that this would be fruitless because of all the police around. So I went up to the food court and I made myself a sign that said "Will talk to bored people for food" Not many people really noticed it (it wasn't the best sign), but the one lady who actually took the time to read it looked at me and then scowled and shook her finger. She then proceeded to read the Financial Review while fondling idly her real pearl necklace - She didn't finish her food and just before she threw it away she cast me a look that said that I didn't deserve her help - caring is sharing you see. Later I went back to use the computer again and I met this girl who I thought was Australian. She was actually English and lived in Dubai working for Emirates as a flight attendant. She was nice to talk to and quickly discovered my sticky situation. Quick as a flash she reached into her purse and whipped out 30 Canadian dollars. There were no bones about it - I was taking the money because she was an experienced traveller and knew that I needed that money more than she did. Guardian Angels really exist. I allowed her the courtesy of leaving before I went and got something to eat and then I started to chow down. The money lasted the whole time until I boarded the plane, so I was a happy chappy from then on.

My next saviour came in the guise of an Eagles jersey, which I could immediately recognise. He was a smelly 19 year old ranga from Perth who was stuck waiting overnight just like me. He hadn't showered for a few days and you could tell, but I could put up with it in exchange for the company. He bought me a few beers and we ate together and just chatted. In the morning when we both sort of going out of our minds after the ordeal he was telling me how November has 31 days and he had to wait until the 1st because his flight was then. After huge amounts of hysterical laughter I told him that the 1st was today and he didn't have to wait - I think he was very relieved. I also gave him some wet-wipes to clean up and stop smelling. He also appreciated this.

While checking in, we were lining up and I was second in line. This older lady from behind me thought it would be hilarious if she tried to jump the queue in front of me. I was not in the mood for such crap and I unleashed (in my best German) a tirade of verbal fury that made her really understand that I was going first - no one was going to f*** with me at that point after 28 hours in that damned airport. After checking in and going through the passport check, I went to the customs office and told them about what happened to me when I arrived in Germany in January. I had just bought a camera and the customs guy thought I should have to pay 45EUR tax. I told them about this and they said I was entitled to my money back. I filled out the form and they said I will be credited to my credit card - welcome information! Considering they were customs officers, they were extremely apologetic and nice to me - such a lovely last contact in Germany. Shortly after, I was on the plane, zooming back to Perth after some the most boring 28 hours of my life. This is called character building.
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