Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bad time for a snow day

“Oh no,” Mary Ann woke me up shouting her response to the weather conditions. As forecast, it had indeed snowed over night in Madrid. This is not a common occurrence in the warm weather capital. We knew that the locals would probably be freaking out. It would probably also cause problems for our eminent departure to Miami.

The snow had turned to freezing rain by the time we loaded up the car. Instead of taking Roxy on a long morning walk, we decided to get an early jump on the trip to the airport. Immediately upon making the turn around the hotel, we were confronted with gridlock. The other drivers had no idea what to do in inclement weather; they also lacked common courtesy. Cars packed into the intersection rendering the lights useless.

Stopped at one light for about 10 minutes, I was forced to take evasive maneuvers. This earned some well deserved honks and screams from an angry Spaniard, but I had no guilt. I had a flight to catch.

On the way, we skidded into a gas station to fill up and get a breakfast brioche. This was drastically complicated by a language barrier and resulted in a fruit cake. After that point, the traffic opened up and we made good time to the airport.

I dropped Mary Ann and Roxy off at the terminal and then returned the car. It turns out that we could have all stayed together, but our method worked fine anyway. We were now officially in hurry up and wait and wait and wait mode. All of the flights were well delayed, even the arrivals. It made me wonder if they had plowed the tarmac or just waited for the snow to melt. I imagined a deep queue of planes circling above.

At least we were able to wait with Roxy. We sat for about two hours before they even announced the check-in kiosk. I read a little and Mary Ann listened to music, but Roxy had the most fun pining for all the dog-lovers in the airport. One Spanish lady, who happened to speak French, described Roxy as an angel of humanity. Needless to say, she was enjoying all the attention.

Finally, the check-in location was announced and we rushed into line. At the counter, we were informed that the flight was now only running an hour late. We had no time to spare, but to begin the process of checking in Roxy, we would have to stand in another line to pay for the service. That ticket counter had it’s own hours long line. We started to get a little desperate. Finally, we were able to plead with another American at the front of the line to let us cut. After all that the teller had the gaul to ask for the payment in cash - 300 Euros, in cash! Mary Ann was incredulous. The guy, gave in and got his manual 1980s credit card swipe from the back room. Attention pickpockets, go to Barajas airport, they expect customers to make international ticket purchases in cash.

Step 2 of 3 complete, we cut back in line at the service counter and presented our paid dog travel receipt. We expressed our hurry, but the teller remained calm, explaining that the time of departure would now be 3:30. We had time. Shortly thereafter, a lady arrived to escort us and Roxy through the special security check. She took us to one of the service elevators, and we dutifully followed even though we couldn’t understand anything she said.

Communication would be important as we were ushered through the security checkpoint. I had no idea what was happening, but gathered from hand gestures to leave all of my items and walk Roxy through the metal detector. As we emerged on the other side a gaggle of airport staff were passing through the other way. I tried to get out of the way by moving into the hallway but was quickly admonished. Then I was questioned on the contents of Roxy’s water bottle. They made me open it up which broke the pressure seal. I could only hope that it stopped leaking at some point during Roxy’s adventure without us.

After that, we asked Roxy to jump into the crate. She obliged without complaint, probably getting tired from 8 straight hours without a nap. Then she was spirited away in one direction, and we were ushered back through conventional security.

Our first look at the departures board had our flight leaving at 4:00. Not long after arriving at the gate, it was pushed back to 4:20. We started boarding around 4:10. A lack of buses to take us to our plane (out on the tarmac) delayed us further, as did the route that the buses had to take which required going through two roundabouts. Seriously, there can’t be that much traffic on the tarmac.

Sometime before 5:00 we were all finally boarded and pulling away. After asking the flight crew three times, we also learned that Roxy was safely on board. Finally, we could relax… during the 10 hour flight.

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This work by Ken Maschke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.