Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Missing in Berlin

I was supposed to leave Berlin yesterday, but let me back up a little.

I have been in Berlin for almost 2 weeks.  I followed up with all of my research participants.  I spent time with many of my friends here.  I even got to relax a little bit and meet some new people. Overall, it has been an extremely successful trip if you ask me.  I had fun and got some work done.  Then there was yesterday.

I was all set to make it to the airport on time.  I splurged a little and took a cab from one friends’ apartment to another since I was feeling sick, and my friend Maggie was all set to drive me to the airport at what I thought was the correct time.  Why I thought it was the correct time is now a complete mystery to me.  We were in the car on the way to the airport when Maggie asked me to check on my flight because of the Lufthansa strike and to double check where she should drop me off when we got there.  We were less than 2 miles away from her apartment when we figured it out.  My flight was not indeed at 4:30 pm like I had in my head rather it had been at 9:30 am like a normal international flight.  What was I thinking?

I didn’t immediately start crying.  I actually started laughing at how ridiculousI was.  In my sickness haze the previousday I had neglected to check in online like a sane person.  I’ve had a weird dizzy pukey virus for thelast few days here, and been in a complete state of whuck.  Andy was sure it was the “hangover virus” butI’m pretty sure that a ½ liter of beer doesn’t garner a hangover in me.  So I’d missed my flight and had to figure outhow to get home.  A million scenarios playedout in Maggie and my well-traveled minds, and we arrived back at her house so Icould call the least helpful airline in the history of the world.  I’ve had previous ugly experience with them,so why I flew them again is just silly. 

I called the reservation line and got a very gruff German lady, speaking in English because there was no way I was going to be able to negotiate this situation in German despite my linguistic competencies.  I was still holding it together rather well under the circumstances, until the lady YELLED at me like I was 5 years old. 

“Well ma’am, you should have called within 2 hours of the flight.  Now you are going to have to purchase an entire new ticket.” 

Crying commenced at this point. 

Between sobs, I choked out, “I can’t afford to buy a whole new ticket.  I really need to get home to my two small children.  I’ve been really sick here.”

She had absolutely no sympathy for me.  She repeated the line about needing to call within 2 hours 3 more times and found me a flight out on the 29th (1week after my originally scheduled departure) for only $269.  My crying got much worse.  I told the lady 2 things:   

1.“I realize I should have called sooner, but I am actually unable to change the past at this point so it isn’t really helpful to keep pointing out what I should have done.  I just need to solve the problem.” 

2. “I’m going to have to call back when I calm down.” 

I cried to Maggie. She actually apologized for not checking it herself, and told me to call back and try again.  I collected myself and called back.

This time I got a much more sympathetic Asian-accented woman on the phone.  I started with an apology for not calling sooner and explained how I had been sick.  She was immediately helpful.  She found me a flight out on the 28th,though I would have to pay a change fee. I was sad as that would mean I have to miss my LTYM rehearsal AND not see my kids for an extra 6 days.  I cried more. 

She then asked if she could keep looking with a different route, so instead of flying Berlin-Newark-Indy I may have to make additional stops.  Naturally, I said yes.  She found me a flight out on Thursday morning (the same as my original one on Monday) with one additional stop in Cleveland.  She even figured out a way for me not to have to pay ANYTHING for the change because of the on-going Lufthansa strike in Germany right now. She was BRILLIANT and I loved her immediately.  She even apologized to me noting that I may miss my quick connection in Cleveland and have an extra 4 hour layover.  I assured her that I didn’t care, as I used to live in Cleveland and could then visit with some friends if time allowed.  (Don’t get too excited CLE friends!) 

Maggie assured me that it would be fine for me to stay with her family until I leave and even offered to drive me to the airport again on Thursday.  Friends like these are 1 in a million!!  She even apologized that I have to sleep on their pull-out bed instead of in her daughter’s bed as before.  I’m just happy this ridiculous mistake isn’t going to cost me $1000+!!!  Of course, it IS going to cost us some money, but not nearly as much as if I was in a place where I didn’t know anyone.   

I currently have €15 in my wallet, so I may have to take some money out to buy food at some point. Maggie also wants me to go shopping tomorrow, so I may end up spending more money on a dress or clothes that I can’t find in the states.  But overall, I’d say that this little snafu isn’t going to be as fiscally painful as it could have been. 

I’m definitely going to lose my Time-Nazi status amongst our friends, but I’m ok with that.  The moral of the story is either:
Don’t get sick at the end of your trip and forget to check your flight the day before. 
Be really good at crying over the phone to garner sympathy and make sure to time your ridiculous mistakes with an airline strike. 

I’m guessing I won’t make this mistake again.  

Today I feel like these guys: 

But at least I get these kinds of city views:


  1. Thank GAWD for good friends like Maggie and for nice people in the world like the Asian accented woman. Screw that gruff German bitch!

  2. Awe! "breast your hweart" in the words of Oliver. I would have cried just as much (although probably more). Moral of this story: There should be more nice people in this world.

  3. Bummer. :( I'm glad you found someone nice to help.

  4. I'm so glad they finally worked with you! I've shed my share of tears over the phone to airline reservation people. And no fun to be sick! Safe travels back to the states!

  5. OH,NOOOOOOOOOO!!! I can't imagine the feeling you had when you realized the mistaken time. You poor thing. Not feeling good while you are traveling is the WORST. I'm so glad Maggie is such a good friend! and SO VERY GLAD you called back and got a helpful person to actually help you. Oh, THANK GOODNESS. --Lisa



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