I foolishly thought that I would be immune to TLG flight drama. Oh, what a fool am I.
Let me just say that I am currently in Munich, and it is fabulous. The weather is even shittier than it was last time I was here, but I am drinking water with actual ice in it, which pretty much makes up for anything Munich could do to me. I have a boarding pass to get me to NYC, so I fully expect that in four hours I will be on a plane heading to JFK. I am highly grateful for these facts because I know that other TLGers had to make multiple attempts to get home.
I almost had the same experience. When I got to the airport, I was told by the airport staff that I did not, in fact, have an actual ticket. I was told that I would have to pay for my ticket if I wanted to go to New York, and some very helpful personnel asked me a number of times if I wanted to pay for my ticket. I think they thought I was stupid. “Do you want to pay for your ticket now?” Um, let’s see, what are my options? No, and no.
So look – I raised some hell. I might have woken up everyone in TLG. I feel bad – I feel terrible, actually, because I actually like these people – but of course it’s not my fault that every flight out of Tbilisi leaves in the wee hours and if it were up to me I would have flown out at some reasonable hour like five in the afternoon instead of four in the morning. C’est la vie.
As a result of my raising hell, I got asked several more truly fascinating questions that I had no answer for, like “how did you get your ticket?” and “did you confirm your ticket with TLG?” I mean, I sent my flight info in – like most of us – many moons past, and I was told – again, like most of us – that my flight was confirmed. But my side trip to the travel agency (taken on the advice of some friendly group 4 folks that I met at Maharajah on Friday) apparently threw the whole system off kilter and out of whack, because despite the lovely printout I waved in the face of anyone whose face presented itself, no one seemed to understand the idea that I might have a plane ticket to New York.
TLG actually sent someone to the airport to meet me, but not before the airport staff decided to throw a wrench in the works and change tactics. “He’s too drunk,” they said, “for us to let him on a plane.”
Now look. Everyone knows that the last thing you want to do is argue with a person who has been drinking about whether, and to what extent, they are drunk. I spent my last night in Georgia celebrating with some friends, and I had a truly, truly excellent time, including a couple of nice wine toasts, but I didn’t get bombed. I am not currently experiencing retrograde amnesia – known to some as the “time machine,” and colloquially as a blackout – and I did not suffer from bouts of being unable to walk, talk, or raise hell about being asked repeatedly if I’d like to pay for a plane ticket from Tbilisi to New York. I’m not the type to get drunk and make a scene. In this case, I made a scene because a scene genuinely needed to be made in order for me to get home. Apparently the staff at Tbilisi International Airport failed to appreciate that nuance.
I can say with great certainty that the last time I was in Munich I did get bombed, and without a group of fellow TLG volunteers I would probably not have made it back to the airport and would have ended up wandering around the Marienplatz drunk off my ass while I was supposed to be geting orientated in Kutaisi. That may not have been the best judgment, but I felt a strong biological need, as the descendant of German immigrants, to try every beer at the Hofbrau House, plus I had a former CIA agent and a bunch of other responsible types to lead me around, so I let myself go a little. The point is, the security guys in Munich didn’t see any problem with letting me on the plane even though I was having some trouble keeping my eyes open, and I think it’s really weird that the Germans were totally cool about the whole thing when I was wasted back in August whereas the Georgians made a big deal over me being not very drunk at all.
In any case, unlike in the aftermath of my epic Munich mini-Oktoberfest, tonight I was fully capable of navigating strange cities and awkward situations (like being asked a thousand billion times if I wanted to pay for my ticket, and talking with the head of TLG at 2 am) without help. But I do know that no one has good judgment when it comes to estimating how drunk they are, which is why I wanted to leave it up to outside observers. By coincidence some folks I had met at a seminar about Alexis de Tocqueville happened to be at the airport at the same time – well, to be honest, they only caught the tail end of my scene-making, and thus it would have been fair for them to judge me – and I put the question to them: was I out of control? No, they said; I was upset to a fairly reasonable extent about being told that I had no ticket home two hours before I was supposed to fly. They didn’t have the look of people who were just humoring me; I’ve been humored before and I can usually tell.
At the same time, one of the TLG team members came to the airport to settle things – I’m imagining that she showed up with a credit card and paid for the flight, but I really have no idea what she actually did other than that it made my flight happen. She decided to agree with the airport staff’s assessment that I was drunk – a decision that occurred while I was shuffling through my travel documents (I travel with my immunization records, birth certificate, social security card, passport, NYS ID, and, as of six hours ago, two copies of a flight itinerary from Tbilisi to Munich given to me by an earnest Tbilisi Airport staff member determined to get me to buy my own ticket home) which admittedly made me appear confused and disheveled, but it’s not like I was dropping things or falling over; I just had a bunch of papers in my way. I literally got a phone call from TLG telling me that it had been decided that I was drunk while this staff member was five feet away from me and I was looking for the IM Global printout that was supposedly meant to get me on a plane. I found this irritating.
What I found more irritating is that apparently the airport dudes warned the flight attendants about me. The head stewardess (what do they call that position these days – the person in charge of in-flight hospitality?) came up to me and explained to me that I was drunk – I thought it better not to argue, because arguing is what drunk people do – and that she would treat me accordingly, and wanted me to approve of her plan. I smiled and nodded and went back to staring out the window. Like I said, I’m not one to make a scene unless it’s absolutely necessary.
After a completely boring and uneventful flight, I considered asking this head flight attendant for some sort of reference letter explaining that I had not caused any trouble on the plane (unlike some people who had to be told several times to put their seats in the upright and locked position – I mean, come on, what, have you never flown before?) but instead I didn’t do that because despite my desire to redeem my reputation as an upstanding, non-drunken member of Georgian society, I am almost painfully non-confrontational most of the time and I feared that asking for Lufthansa to remedy the damage done to my good name might have come off as cheeky. If only I had been drunk, I would have had no problem asking for such a thing…
Anyway, that’s all behind me now. I had a good laugh with airport security here in Munich over the roll of quarters I’m carrying with me – that’s because I’m poor, for those keeping track – and I’m loving Germany in so many ways right now. One of those ways involves the free wi-fi I’m using to write this long and winding entry. Another is, as I said, the presence of ice in the water you get when you ask for a glas of water at a restaurant. By the way, I just had a breakfast of bacon and eggs. It was fab.
So anyway, I’m hoping to return to Georgia in a few weeks, but of course that depends on whether my supposed ticket reservation is real, and I doubt TLG can send someone to JFK to fix things up if I can’t get on the plane to leave New York. And even if they could, who wants to wait twenty hours at JFK for someone to get there from Georgia?
Regardless, I’ll keep on keepin on with the blog and such. Signing off from Munich!
Video: Bad Time, Grand Funk Railroad.