If I hadn’t known that the Swiss and the French were so-very-different, I absolutely would have experienced culture shock earlier today.
At Leaping Lindy in Bern, Switzerland, everything ran on time. The Swiss bought our plane tickets early, arranged to pick us up on time, bought us train tickets to go to Bern from Zürich’s, put us in a lovely hotel, made sure we had food, and our drinks in the evenings were covered. Mind you, this was all the first day we arrived. On Saturday and Sunday, the students arrived early, classes started and ended on time, people were very polite, and everything was straight forward. The students were good at asking questions but mostly just listened and tried everything we told them to do. On Monday, Kevin and I had a slue of privates scheduled, but our organizer took care of all the small details that normally slip through the crack. We had a studio within walking distance to our hotel to teach 3 hours worth of classes, the students were there on time, someone had a key, the music worked in the dance studio, and there was water. Normally scheduling a private with 5 different people in another city is tricky because something is unaccounted for: the key, water, food, people run late, the sound system doesn’t work, etc., but in Switzerland, someone has accounted for everything. I was, and am, so impressed.
After three hours of privates, we headed to the station and took a train to Zürich’s where we taught another private. Again, all the details were accounted for. After the private, we headed to Uster where Kevin and I taught 2.5hr of group classes and everything ran smoothly. Classes started on time, students were on time and attentive during class, the sound system worked, and everyone had access to water. (Ooh, small slip up: Someone forgot the cable for the iPod to sound system, but the explanation of why that happened was that the person organizing the group class was German, not Swiss. :-) Then the Swiss person arrived with a cable and we started on time).
Finally, after class was done, Kevin and I headed home with our new hosts and there place was amazing. We had a room to ourselves, both had a bed, there was laundry, and wifi. A-mazing. And everything worked!!! I was a little beside myself, but lapped up every minute of it. It’s not that things don’t run smoothly in other countries, it’s just that things run exceptionally well in Switzerland. Now, I also say that, and am impressed by that, because I like having a schedule. I like when things run on time. I am the type of person who loves writing notes on post-its. Now, all of that aside, I must say that the Swiss aren’t as eccentric as the French or Italians.
Fast forward to Wednesday. Our host drives us to the airport, walks us in, helps us with our luggage, we check in and drop our luggage. We go through passport control, do some shopping, wander around, then go through security, which Kevin and I were the ONLY ones there. Nobody else was in sight. Nada. I little bizarre, but it kinda of felt like an expensive, European Pittsburgh. We head to the boarding gate, check in, then take a bus to our plane. About an hour later, we are in Paris at CDG.
Here’s the turning point of the entire adventure. After we exited the plane, we check our boarding pass to see where to go next, and there is no mention of the next gate. Now, that’s not particularly strange, but it’s noteworthy. Unfortunately, we were in Terminal G which is a bus ride away from everything, so we needed to know if we were staying in the terminal or not. We couldn’t find our light on any of the boards, but Kev guess we should go to connecting flights which was around the corner. We got to a passport control where we could scan our plane tickets and figure out where we were going. “No record” according to Air France. So we asked passport control. They didn’t know. They said maybe we should go to terminal 1. We headed towards the next set of gates, passed luggage, and found a full board with information. Our flight was not on there. WTF! Our flight was leaving in 35 minutes and it wasn’t on the board. ARG!! The Customer Service desk is open so I headed over there. I present my ticket and ask where to go. The man behind the counter had no idea. “What the hell is going on here? Why doesn’t anyone know where this is?” I ask myself. He looks up our flight number and says that we’re taking a train.
So we’re taking a train. Why the fuck didn’t anyone know that we were taking a train?! That explains why it wasn’t on the boards, but why didn’t anyone else know this? Why did our next organizer, after I sent our itinerary not say “BTW, just so you know, you’re taking a train to Brussels.” When I double checked that planes could fly into the Railway Station in Brussels (fuck, maybe that was the first obvious giveaway), I was assured the airport was connected to the train station (which is the same as CDG so I had no need to question it). When we checked-in in Switzerland, why didn’t the attendant say anything to us? Fuck…..maybe because she didn’t know either. But if she didn’t know either, then where is our luggage? Hahha, this is getting better and better….
Kev and I are let back in to the luggage area by the man who told us we were taking a train. When Kev and I get there, we see that the luggage from our flight has all been collected. Ok, then where is it? We go over to the customer service desk and wait to be helped. Kev and I check, double check, and recheck our tickets. Our boarding passes said they were boarding passes, there was an AF plane number on it, and it said “Here is your flight Information.” Riiiiiight. That aside, it also said “Voiture 1″ which means “Car 1″ which means train. The seating was also open, but it is with Southwest as well. The boarding time and departure time were only 10 minutes apart, so that should have also been a giveaway….but still…..it said it was a boarding pass!
Finally it’s our turn with the representative. The long of the short of it is that we should try to catch the train because she doesn’t know when the next one will come and she doesn’t know where our luggage is. Mind you, our luggage has been checked all the way through to Brussels, but on what flight? Apparently on the flight we are supposed to take, but there is no plane…..only a train. Does someone take the luggage to the train? After a 3 minute phone call, we find out no. Ok…..so were is our luggage. I understand that it’s unaccounted for currently, but I am pretty darn sure it was on the plane with us from Switzerland, but where was it going? We were told it would make it to Brussels as some point and then someone would bring it to us at Air France’s expense.
That’s rather nice of them to do. Little do they know that we are in Liege which is an hour away from Brussels. I realize there is nothing we can do about this and have some extra clothing and all my valuables on me, but it’s a little bit of a hassle. Ok….now to the train. We need to take the bus terminal F and then head to the train station. Check. We have 15 minutes to do this and a 10 minutes bus ride. We will be fine, I think. Well, we should be fine because the French are a tad flexible on their time schedule; however, I’ve also accepted the fact that we were going to miss our train and figured we catch the next one, hopefully with our luggage in tow.
We catch the bus which slowly winds it’s way through the airport and make it to the train station. I race after Kevin as he runs toward signs that look appropriate. Finally we see a sign for Brussels which is not on the electronic boards, but in a small corner. Unfortunately because of the train crash a few days ago and now the trains are not in use. This means we are taking a bus.
Quick recap with some extra details that you the reader do not yet have. Originally we asked our organizer to find us flights. The only flights he could find from Switzerland were $1200/person flights. That’s ridiculous. Clearly he didn’t look that hard or he’s just used to traveling much nicer than Kevin and I are. I had also asked our other organizers in France (for the next gig) what would be the best way to get to his city. A train would be boring and long, so we should fly instead. Ok, so both of them were little to no help with transportation (in every other way, they’ve been a huge help). The Swiss have bought our international ticket, and I bought our internal-Europe tickets. I found Kevin and myself some flights, sent them to the organizers, got the ok, bought them. Yesterday before leaving for Brussels I sent an email reminding our organizers that we were coming into a different place than the main airport, just as an FYI. I get a message back saying he had class to teach, so we should take a train to Liege, and then we’ll get picked up by someone. It’s nice to be picked up by the organizer, but I understand they have lives outside of the event. It would have been nice to know earlier so that I could have scheduled around that, but no problem. Then, we find out, almost too late, that we aren’t taking a plane to Brussels, we’re taking a train. Then our luggage cannot be located because it’s been improperly tagged (has this never happened before? shouldn’t there be something in the system that alerts people to the fact they are taking a train instead of a plane?). Barely making our train, we find out it’s a bus that will take 3.5hr to get to Brussels. And still, after all of this, we will need to take a train to another city and get picked up by someone for a car ride.
Boy what a day.
I am not quite sure what tone of voice you hear me speaking in when you read this (yes, I checked that sentence and decided to keep it as it was), but I want to clarify that. I am not mad or put out in the least, I am actually rather surprised. I think because I had such an organized weekend, where all the small details were taken care of, now I feel like this jumble-of-a-time is an adventure instead of a hassle. Luckily I don’t have to teach tonight (so no time crunch) and I was smart enough to keep my valuable and some extra clothes on me, so I am fine. I’ve got Kev – who is taking this rather well, but is a tiny bit more charged than I am about this who situation – I’ve got my computer, warm clothes and some food.
I don’t know what the weekend has in store for us, but I presume this is just the beginning of a very exciting adventure. More later….. :-)
QLL – Don’t take yourself too seriously. Travel days are only as stressful as YOU make them. Keep important stuff on you. Try to schedule yourself some downtime. And finally, in the words of the awesome Shesha Marvin, “There are no emergencies in lindy hop.”