Thursday, March 26, 2015

homeward bound

My funds were dangerously close to zero, so this meant one thing. It was time to go home. I had said I would travel until I ran out of money, and damnit, I nailed it. 

I was on a train from Interlaken to Zurich, with Bertha once again in tow. I'd be sad to be ending this trip, but boy was I glad not to have to deal with that bitch anymore. 

The Swiss scenes raced by my train window and I tried to absorb them, imprinted in my mind. It was just so GD beautiful. The nerves were starting to kick in for my upcoming attempt at getting on a flight tomorrow. The stakes were high since I had literally a few dollars left in my account. I had a hotel room for the night that was already reserved and paid for right near the airport so there was that, at least. Immediately upon check in exhaustion from the events of the past few days in Interlaken started to take over. Tomorrow was going to be a big day. I would hopefully be on a flight back to the States...

The next morning, I jolt awake and grab Bertha. "We're going home" I tell her. I jump aboard the hotel's airport shuttle van and hope for the best.

Upon check in, I'm informed by the Kentucky Fried Chicken guy, aka Colonel Sanders look-a-like that they'd keep Bertha off to the side, just in case I didn't make it on the flight on stand by. That way, we wouldn't be separated. Hopefully that wouldn't be the case, and Bertha and I were mere hours from boarding our flight home. The Colonel's expression in regards to the available seats said otherwise.

They marked Bertha "heavy" (NO SHIT) and I was on my way to try my luck on getting home. 

I sat nervously in the waiting area at the gate. One flight out a day that I could get on. It had been so easy on the way to Italy, that I hadn't thought much of it. But minutes went by, and went by, and I still wasn't getting called up to the desk. I wasn't the only one though. There's a guy in fatigues a few seats away, a fancy couple, and an older couple trying their luck at stand by as well. As time passes and almost everyone has boarded the plane, we are the only ones left standing there. The older couple gets called up, and makes it on. Good for them, I think. 

The hot Army guy (did I mention he was hot?) and I are standing in disbelief at the gate as they close it up. They still haven't told us anything! We band together, which is more than fine by me, and vow to figure it out. Turns out today is Tim's (hot guy has a name) second day trying to get on a flight. He wins. 

At this point I realize I probably reached my quota of allowed times to approach the desk. I don't care though. I'm tired, and cranky. The Colonel (after having many conversations with me already), informs me the plane is full. I look crestfallen. "Guess I'm staying in the airport." I say aloud. 

"Just make sure you shower before you come back here tomorrow, or they won't let you on the plane" he responds. What?! JUST GO GET ME SOME CHICKEN SASSY SANDERS.

Tim looks like he's going to lose it. I want to give him a hug, but that would be creepy. We sign up to do this all over again tomorrow, and chat while we wait what seems like hours to collect our luggage back again.

We become close pretty quickly, sharing our life stories and common purpose of getting home. He's the perfect sort of hot. Unassuming, southern accent, and just out of reach. His low, thick, southern droll slows down my pulse. If I could just find a way for him to lose his pants, and mine, in the same room. Who was this guy and why was I acting like this? I think it's called verbal diarrhea. I couldn't stop talking. Words spilled out of my mouth at an unbelievable rate and I'm not even sure what I said.

Tim has a cousin that lives in Zurich that he plans to go stay with, so my secret wish that he offers to sleep in the airport with me is squashed. We part ways with promises to see each other in the morning, by default.

Well we meet again Bertha, and not in America. Here I am, still somehow lugging her fat ass around the airport. I'm sure she feels the same way about me.
It's before noon, I have no wifi to speak of, and about a 1/2 franc coin burning a hole in my wallet. What to do, what to do. I stroll around the airport pulling Bertha, and sporting my backpack filled to the brim with Swiss chocolate. 

Chocolate is heavy. 

After sitting for about an hour, a girl next to me that I have been chatting with gifts me her wifi code, with the remaining 5 minutes to burn. I send off a panicky message home to the parents, and quickly locate an airport hotel and hop on their shuttle. 

Once in another airport hotel (thankfully just enough room on a credit card!) I am so glad to see that tucked away safely in one of Bertha's folds, is my last of the many, many granola bars that I packed at the beginning of my trip! 

Here I was, just a short train ride to downtown Zurich, Switzerland, and stuck confined to a hotel room eating a granola bar for all three meals. Could be worse. Like if I end up stuck here again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that..sleeping in the airport and slowly eating my way through all the souvenir chocolate that currently resided in my backpack for family and friends. THESE ARE GIFTS! I remind myself.

I make it through the night without tapping into my chocolate reserves and the next morning on the hotel shuttle back to the airport I am crossing every toe and finger possible that I'll be boarding this flight. Who's at the check in desk but the Colonel himself! 

"Don't worry, I showered." I say in greeting. "How's it looking today? My family wants to see me!"

"Too early to tell!" chuckles the Colonel. Only I'm not laughing.

Once again I part ways with Bertha and head to the gate. Round 2. If I remember correctly, I have a few dollars left on my debit card which would be perfect for a coffee. I head over to the bar area and order one. It's already poured, steamy, and ready for me to drink when my card gets declined. So I guess I didn't remember correctly. It was officially time to go home. While I'm busy turning red from embarrassment, the guy next to me becomes my hero. 

"I've got her coffee." he says, and pays for it, just like that.

"Thank you so much! Chase bank doesn't think I should be in Switzerland anymore." 

Turns out coffee hero guy is flying standby as well, but really high up on the priority list. He has inside information and can access what number I am, and if I'm likely to get a seat on this flight. JACKPOT.

We chat for a while, and then I meander over to the gate. I find Tim, looking dashing as promised. They've started boarding, and here we are again, waiting. We aren't the only ones, though. There's a few newbies that have joined our little group of standby-ers. We are the island of misfits. Just then I see coffee hero guy approaching. The misfits and I have grown tight in the past 45 minutes and I'm hopeful we'll all get on.  

"Hold on, I know a guy." I say, as if I'm a bookie with access to inside information. Which, let's be real, I kind of am at this point.

While the misfits eagerly await, coffee hero guy looks up all of our names and standings on the list. He is confident that I will get on, as will hot Tim. He thinks the others have a good chance as well. This all means nothing until they call us up and give us printed tickets though. Almost the entire plane has boarded.

Just then, Colonel Sanders approaches us. He doles out the golden tickets, as if he's Willy Wonka himself. (Little does he know I've got the motherload of chocolate on my back.)

"Your Mom called and said I had to get you on this flight" he says as he hands me my ticket. Witty Sanders, so very witty.

Tim and I hug in celebration and all the misfits high five each other. It was really quite special. Tim and I talk of celebration on the flight back to the States, but he's in coach, and I somehow ended up in first class again. I don't care that I'm in first class, I would've sat on someone's lap just to get on the flight. Doesn't mean I won't drink the champagne though.

I board first, and wish that I could smuggle Tim into first class with me. I may or may not have visions of the mile high club. 

He boards and says hi as he walks by to his seat, ruffling my hair. Well there goes the mile high club. What was I? His little sister?! At least I had champagne.

We take off, and the panic of going home sets in. 

What would I do when I got back? I had no plan. 

I was exhausted. I fight tears many times and I feel like I could sleep for days on end, Disney princess style. As I start eating my airplane tortellini I suddenly feel nauseous. Maybe I was ready to go home briefly, and have a break from traveling. But was I ready to put down roots? No way. I wanted to be free, and couldn't imagine any one or anything making me want to stay grounded for a long, long time. I did know that I was not coming back as the same person that had left at the beginning of the summer. 

I try to focus on some positive things about going home. Most of them revolving around food. Like the fact that I really wanted a turkey sandwich, buffalo wings, and guacamole. AND A HOTDOG. Could I be anymore American. I had gone all summer without a bbq and a hotdog. It was a fair request in my book. 

I think of guacamole all the way home. I arrive back in the States, and manage to squeeze myself on my second flight. Despite the anxiety I was feeling about my return, the hugs and seeing this happy face make all the difference:

My niece so surprised to see me in person instead of on a computer screen!

As promised, here is a picture of Me and Bertha, to get an idea of her size...

Stay tuned for "THE LIST: a follow up" on what I checked off, and why some of them, I didn't!

**A special shout out to my stand-by "bookie" for the coffee and inside info!

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