So get ready people, cause the new adventure begins … Now.
When I checked in for my flight in Boston the attendant told me that I would have to pick up my bags at Frankfurt and check-in again for the final Frankfurt – Munich leg of my flight. Fair enough, I would have to get the boarding pass anyway and switch to the domestic terminal, I can wait for my bags too. Plus, with a couple-hour layover, it would be quicker to clear customs at Frankfurt and save time in Munich (even though I was gonna be waiting in the Munich airport for my brother for three hours anyway … well, it’s still quicker damnit).
I alighted the plane in Frankfurt and wandered around, looking for the customs area. Now in most airports the customs area is half cattle pen and half Apple Store checkout counter during the iPhone release. But when I got to the top of a set of escalators and looked left, I saw what looked like a Microsoft Store checkout counter during the iPhone release.
There were so many open lanes i didn’t know which one to stand in. And there were so few people, I could bounce from one to another, waiting for the half-asleep customs agent to gaze away from the newspaper to realize a brown man was trying to get into his country. Finally, I made eye contact and approached the counter. I handed him my passport, with half closed eyes he looked at me, looked at the passport, scanned the passport, stamped it and then gave it back. The only words uttered were by me, “Hi” and “Thank you”. I mean, there wasn’t even a departure card to fill out pleading that I wasn’t trying to smuggle in a live animal or any tropical fruits it might like to eat.
One of the worst feelings when waiting for a bag is the small rollercoaster of hope and disappointment as the shadow of each bag makes it’s way down the chute, only to reveal itself as belonging to the paranoid schizophrenic next to you who told you you smelled like formaldehyde. The worst feeling is when all the bags have come out, and yours is nowhere to be found. I stood by the belt hoping that some baggage handler was admiring my bland, olive green duffel bag for it’s durability and convenience, but then I was approached by two rather friendly baggage agents who asked me if I was waiting for a bag that hadn’t showed up. When I showed them the tags, she equally-kindly informed me that my bags had in fact been checked through to Munich and to please leave her baggage area.
Sure enough the airport code ‘MUC’ appeared last on the list of printed destinations on the baggage tag. I’d like to hurl insult-after-injury at the attendant in Boston, but hey, I didn’t notice it either. I quickly made my way to the check-in counter, through security and read the Wall Street Journal at the departure gate.
One by one the bags moved past me on the belt in the Munich airport. And each time, like waiting for a friend in the airport, I perked up and stood excited as the next bag pushed aside those rubber venetian blinds. Then my shoulders would slump and watch one more person leave the area, their friend rolling closely behind. This time there was no friendly agent to tell me what had happen to my bags, I had to go ask the Bag Trace department myself. The answer? We have no idea. I had a minor argument with the attendant about the fact that my bag fell halfway between the barcoded, designated ‘Green’ color and the ‘Brown’ color. Finally I settled on ‘Green’. Then changed my mind to ‘Brown.’
All I had with me was Mike BK’s house number and the name of the street, deconstructed by the detailed directions he had emailed out. I recited the street number and name and then she asked, “City?”. “Ummmm … Munich?” Ah, I thought, in the clear. “Postcode?”. Postcode?? “Ummm … well if I tell you how to get there is there any way to figure it out?” She didn’t get the joke.
When my brother arrived we confirmed the city and postcode with Mike and I updated the baggage agents. After more than three hours they still hadn’t figured out where the bag was, but at least they had the right delivery address. I contemplated updating the bag color, but then decided against it.
BK’s directions were spot on and my brother and I soon found ourselves in front of his house … in Munich … 80803.
Of course, half-litres of some good German weissbier (wheat, literally “white beer”) were distributed. We cleaned up and put on some new/same clothes and headed out with Mike, his wife Ann, and his brother Dave. We took the train and a short stroll into Mike and Ann’s old neigbourhood by the university and found some room at a restaurant called Soda. We tore into some sandwiches and some more weissbier. Another barhop later, we called it a night.
The next day, after all, was gonna be a big one. It was the first day of Oktoberfest, and we were waking up early to stand in line to be one of the first ones let into the enormous, packed tents. It was a mission most people would consider crazy, but we were drunk and full of confidence, and hey, if you’re gonna do Oktoberfest, you better do it right.