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Thursday, June 9, 2011

On My Way (or am I?)

Schiphol Airport @ Gate - June 6, 2011

Starbucks booth located.  Caramel Frappuccino ordered.  Paid fortune.  Seriously.  For EURO 4.80 I would expect at least a neck rub to go with it, though a foot rub would have been acceptable too.  The plan: go to gate, drink coffee, enjoy music on iPod.  Sounds like a sound plan, right?  In theory it was.  And then there was the reality.  Found seat, sat down, took 1st sip and there is the voice announcing that we have to start going through security.  Being number 2 in line meant a quick check, first seated again and enjoyment.  Nope.  Wrong.  (My glass is seriously starting to look half empty at this point).  No can take Frappuccino with me.  No can do.  I knew that you can’t bring in drinks from the outside, but this one was bought right outside of the gate.  I honestly thought that the guy at the scanner was pulling my leg, but alas, he was serious.


Down I sat, next to the scanner, downing my Frappuccino.  The one that wasn’t even as good as it was supposed to.  A few minutes later my tummy was filled with sugar and caffeine and I was ready to go through the scanner, exposing once again my female bits through X-ray to some stranger with a mustache.  Contrary to exiting the USA, this time my lip gloss had to be bagged up.  I understand.  I mean, all the harm you can cause with some bright pink lip gloss.  Not containable.  Any more liquids?  Nope, that’s it.  Chapstick is still in solid form, thanks to the climate control here.  Boots off?  No, not necessary according to the guy who had me drown my stomach with Frappuccino.  Belt off?  No, not necessary.  Items go through scanner, I’m about to step into the X-ray vision machine as a voice says “Boots off!!”  What?  I’m confused now.  First I can keep them on.  Then I have to take them off.  Okay, I’ll strip myself of my knee-highs.


Once determined that my bones are all still in place and that I have no lip gloss or other dangers strapped to myself,  I get pulled aside as my carry on suitcase apparently still contains a liquid.  WHAAT?  Huh?  Totally confused now.  Really, this morning isn’t going so well at this point.  I open up my suitcase only to realize…SH*T!  Damn, I TOTALLY forgot!!  The Father’s Day present I had bought for David.  Crap!  Really, that only happens today.  Had it been any other day, I would have had to foresight to remember.  Not today.  Good thing is that the amount still fell within the allowed amount, but if I could open it up.  You mean, tear the sealed bag open that they put it in when I purchased it right before boarding in Los Angeles?  Sure, whatever.  If I could open the package.  Why?  It still has the cellophane wrapping around it, sealed and all.  Professionally done by Hugo Boss himself!  Okay, whatever, just don’t even think about taking this from me because you will experience someone throwing a fit in a way you have never experienced before, nor will ever experience again.  Bottle got opened.  Hey, while you’re at it, why not spray some on to test the smell?
Finally, I was able to put the bottle back and take it with me.  Thank you.  Can’t say the glass is filling up again, but at least it’s not going down more and more.

So, here we are: with way more people than there are seats in the waiting area, waiting to board our plane.  To the people standing I say: hey, you get 11 hours to sit, so enjoy the standing while you can.  At the same time I am happy to be seated, jealous of the guy next to me who just whipped out an iPad.  Now whereas I don’t necessarily want an iPad, I do suspect that he is not as paranoid about its battery dying as I am about my laptop’s battery – after all, there are no electrical outlets here.



Now, I do absolutely ADORE the iPod David gave me for Mother’s Day.  In the synching process with the iTunes content that my computer at home holds, it also moved over the little recordings we have made of Kai.  Just now I was surprised by hearing his voice saying the alphabet backwards, followed by “I love you mommy”.  [melt]  Glass is filling up at a rapid pace now.


Boarding is starting. Let’s hope the level of my glass’ content remains.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Going Home

Schiphol Airport, June 6, 2011, way too early in the morning.

When you have a scheming plan and things aren’t quite working out, it’s sometimes hard to stay optimistic and continue to consider the glass “half full”.  Despite things not quite working out the way I had hoped, I do still have a smidge of optimism left – though it’s getting less and less by the minute. 

After my lovely flight experience on the way coming, I decided to try my luck again for my return flight.  After all, this flight will be an hour longer (due to wind direction) and thus, some extra legroom would be a detail that would make the trip oh so much more comfy.  Given that the Dutch people are known for their punctuality, I figured that I should make sure to be at the airport 4 hours prior to departure (as opposed to the 3 that is being suggested).  Seriously, that would increase my chances of finding a (preferably male) KLM rep, who would be able to provide me with a seat by the emergency exit in exchange for a cute smile, right?  One small detail: flight departs at 9:50AM.  It doesn’t take a math expert to figure out that this means being at the airport friggin’ early.

So, alarm goes off at 3:30AM, Mommy is at Schiphol airport at 6:00AM.  Lovely.  (This is pre-caffeine.)  In an attempt to appear more “futuristic” – but honestly, I think it’s due to budget cuts – there are no more humans who do the check-in process.  Only "ATM machines".  There goes the cute-smile-to-cute-guy-behind-the-counter-idea.  I could smile all I wanted, but the ATM machine didn’t provide me with the anticipated (and desired) response.  All emergency exit seats were taken.  How?  I was one of the first people there for God’s sake!!!  Turns out that in the country where you have to pay EURO 0.50 (that’s almost $1!!) to use the bathroom in a department store, you actually can pay extra for the emergency seats, the day before when you check in online.  Well, we all know where the online check in got me the last time, so instead I spent my day in Amsterdam.

So, here we are: it’s 7:00AM, I have a boarding pass for seat 38D.  At least it’s an aisle seat.  Yes, my glass is still half full.

After check in and going through customs, my plan included some sort of caffeinated drink and a Belgian waffle.  Yes, Belgian.  I know, this ain’t Belgium, this is The Netherlands, but despite that small detail, the Belgians did once come up with the genius idea to sell their overly-delicious-sooo-to-die-for Belgian waffles in their neighboring country.  Turns out: no waffle to be found here.  Should have had one yesterday.  BUT…the glass’s still half full people.  I refuse to let that get me down.

Off to my gate to sit back and write.  Lovely.  Some peace and quiet, some reminiscing, some looking forward.  Perfect.  Gate – Check.  Chairs – Check.  Peace & Quiet – Check.  Outlets to plug my laptop-without-any-battery-life in – [nasty buzzer sound].  Not an outlet to be found.  Seriously.  I looked on each pillar, alongside the wall, around the seats, in the waiting areas.  People probably thought I was up to something.  No outlets to be found.  Not one!  Really?  I ask a Schiphol employee.  Yes, there was one behind the luggage trolleys; I could move those and sit on the ground.  Really?  You gotta be kiddin’!  Surely the benches and tables around in the restaurant area have some sort of electrical supply for my antique Powerbook?  Indeed, they had.  Sit down.  Open laptop.  Peace.  Quiet.  Bliss.  Glass still half full.

Did I say “quiet”?  Oops.  Wrong!  As I got 2 sentences written and for the first time mentioned the glass being half full, a "gentle"man positioned himself next to me.  Obviously in desperate need for a source of electricity as well.  No problem.  Yes problem.  He plugs his iPod in and starts playing music through this laptop.  Right next to me.  I can write, I can listen to music, but if I want to do either one of these well, I certainly shouldn’t do them at the same time.  Especially, if it’s not my music.  Seriously, at this point my glass was starting to become a little less “half full”.  Me move.  Me find other outlet.  Me sit down and me start writing.

In the meantime “moppie”, a German Shepherd mix of some sort, came by with an agent, checking every passenger and their belongs for (I assume) either drugs of explosives.  Awesome.  Love that and have so much respect for those dogs.  Unfortunately “moppie” (as the agent called him and which is Dutch for “sweetie”) got a little distracted with the backpack of the lady sitting opposite of me.  She apparently had packed her lunch (as Dutch people do) and given that we are the Cheese Mecca of the world…well, you see where that went.  Very funny.  No, “Moppie” didn’t consume the sandwich, but it certainly posed as a short-lived distraction.

I remember enjoying my “last” Frappuccino at LAX airport a week ago when I was about to embark on this awesome journey.  I remember thinking that I wouldn’t get one for a whole week.  Well, the American coffee culture has also penetrated our little coffee-obsessed country and though I doubt that Starbucks will ever take over the coffee culture as we know it here, they do exist and there is one branch here at Schiphol airport.  No Belgian waffles, but hey, there’s Starbucks.  I’d prefer a Belgian waffle though.  Unfortunately I am slowly but surely coming to the conclusion that it is what it is and my chances of getting a Belgian waffle here are as small as me ending up with a seat next to the emergency exit on my 11-hour flight.  I think my glass is still somewhere close to half-full, but I am not as sure as I was earlier this morning when I woke up.  I think I am going to treat myself to my Caramel Frappuccino.  I have a feeling that might help fill the glass a bit more.
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

SURPRISE!

Monday, May 30 2011 (Memorial Day)

About a month ago, I returned from work one afternoon and was welcomed by David telling me he had talked to my parents.  Now, whereas there’s nothing strange about that, he continued by saying that he “needed to ask them for advice.” About me. Huh?  After 8 years of marriage?  Really? If I could sit down, because he needed to talk to me.  Now, I ceased being able to keep up with the speed at which my brain was working: did I shop (too much)?  Did I forget something?  Did I say something?  Did I not say something?  Maybe I did shop too much.  This cannot be good.


Then he told me: had had wanted to surprise me and didn’t quite know how to go about it.  My best childhood friend (for 30 years) is getting married in my hometown in The Netherlands this Wednesday and he wanted to surprise me with a ticket to attend the wedding to surprise her.  The thing he needed advice from my parents on: should he go ahead and pack my suitcase? Then, have me come home from work one day, only to inform me that that very evening I would be flying out to Europe?  Or, should he tell me now, so I could prepare?


Luckily, my parents (and David too) knew me well enough to know that I am graced with an A-personality and figured that therefore I would appreciate the heads up, so I could arrange someone to cover me for work, get a dress, get accessories, pack myself and shop.  (Notice the recurring element here?)


And here we are.  Approximately a month later: at LAX, enjoying my last Frapuccino (with extra caramel and whipped cream – when you have one, you gotta do it right) before getting on a plane and not be able to have another one until a week from now when I return.  Frappuccino, time and a laptop to write.  Heaven.


This will be my first trip alone – without David, without the children (other than my so-much-enjoyed Mom’s Weekend Out from last year).  Between booking my ticket and yesterday I was ecstatic: a week for myself.  Surprising Saskia, attending her wedding, spending time with my parents, seeing my 2 best friends from college and my “Oma” and playing tourist in my home country.  Not having to keep the boys from bothering each other, from expressing their dominance and from stealing each other’s toys.  Ahhh, peace and quiet.  Even the plane ride: I get to sit back, watch movies, eat, drink and sleep.  That sounded pretty good to me.


Then came yesterday.  I packed and got everything ready for this week’s trip.  And then it hit me: I was also leaving the hugs and kisses, the giggles, the tickles, the bright faces and the “I LOVE you Mommy” behind.  The mixed feelings set in and the excitement was joined by some sadness, melancholy and a small dose of emptiness.


The goodbye at the airport was quick, but left me with watery eyes.  The time I had, waiting to check my luggage, was just enough to once again realize how blessed I was for having such an amazing husband such cool sons.  Life is good.


When I made my reservation I had selected that I preferred an aisle seat.  With legs that are part of a 6ft. body, I desperately need to be able to stretch them – especially on a 10-hour flight.  Imagine my surprise when I checked in online yesterday and I was assigned a middle seat.  Huh?  What had gone wrong?  A phone call to the Delta customer support center didn’t yield much.  I was able to get an aisle seat for the way back.  Dear young, simple soul at the call center:  Please don’t make it sound like you were able to help me out a great deal.  You simply gave me 1/2 of what I should have had to begin with.  That is nothing to be proud about!
 
And there he was: the man who was going to make my day (other than my husband and my 2 boys).  He was the KLM employee behind the check-in counter with whom I was going to try my luck.  And lucky I got, at the KLM check-in counter.  I got the last emergency exit seat.  Ya know, the one with extra legroom.  ChaChing!  Yes Baby!  Mama got lucky and Mama’s LOVIN’ it.  It’s the beginning of a beautiful thing.
Being 3 hours early is paying off in abundance: dropped my suitcase off at the TSA checkpoint without waiting.  Security check: no waiting.  And then: the body scan!  Oh yeah! Complete strangers got to see parts of me that neither my husband, nor I have ever seen myself.  Now, I completely understand the procedure and it certainly provides a certain sense of security, but all I’m saying is “I’m happy I’m not in that particular week of the month.”  You know, when they see what type of feminine hygiene products you use.  AWKWARD!

And here I am.  Judging by the line at the gate that is longer and longer, I think we’ll be boarding soon.  I never really get the reasoning behind that.  Why wait in line, standing, when you will be called to board by row?  There is absolutely no use being in front of the line, when you’re going to be called last anyways.

On that note, let me sign off and pack up here.  Let’s get the party started.

NOTE: due to the surprise-nature of my trip the publishing of this post has been delayed.


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