August 1, 2012
It’s 8:45 and Christof and I are off at last, waiting at Tegel Airport for the British Airway check-in counter to open. The day started early. Our alarm went off shortly before 4:00 p.m. giving us just enough time to get to the last things packed while the taxi waited outside.
We had ordered the taxi for 4:20, but he was there closer to 4:00. Germans are punctual and reliable, traits I’m sure we will dream of nostalgically during the course of this trip. Getting the bicycles into the taxi was no problem. Getting them out of the taxi was no problem. Getting them into the bus was a problem.
The Berlinliner uses temporary workers for loading up the luggage while the bus driver sells tickets to the passengers. The temporary worker, hired just for this task, saw the huge boxes which we had officially registered for this bus ride a month ago, and looked liked he had been struck by lightening. The luggage compartment was full and the sight of our bicycle boxes caused his computer to ‘shut down’. Christof saw the necessity for rearranging the luggage. All the suitcases had to be moved out of one compartment and reloaded into the other one, in order to make way for our boxes, which could barely be squeezed into the width of the bus. The procedure took fifteen minutes. The bus driver – a big strong fellow – jumped in and helped Christof get the job done. The temporary worker was dumb-struck, and looked on in a coma-like state of fascination. Possibly the early hour caused him to stand open-mouthed by the side of the bus, until the bus driver prodded him back to work, although his red face and slow lethargic movements lead me to draw other conclusions. The bus ride to Berlin was restful. Perfect weather, a sun-streaked sky, misty fields filled with cows grazing peacefully. I’m already homesick for Germany although we’re still in Berlin! We dozed until we got to the airport.
As we drove in I sent up a quick prayer, hoping for a smooth trip. When Christof ￼booked the flights he was aware that the jaunt with British Airways from Berlin to London would cause us some difficulties. The first problem was how to get the massive boxes to check-in. I scouted the terrain while Chris guarded our luggage. On the way to Bulky Baggage I found the exact trolly I needed to transport our boxes!
I ‘borrowed’ it and rolled it clattering back to Christof. The next project was to find out where and how to check the bicycles. The Bulky Baggage was conveniently located a few hundred meters from our bus stop.
The ￼￼people I spoke to at the only counter I could find said I should go over to the luggage trolley and ask there because they had ‘nothing to do with it’. At the luggage trolley two bored-looking women were eating breakfast behind a glass door. Although they could see me standing there trying to get their attention, they continued to chew their sandwiches, ignoring me completely. I was aware that if I wanted any information about oversized luggage, I was at the wrong address. I circled the airport, but couldn’t find British Airways anywhere. The crew comes in when they have a flight pending, and we were still much too early. With our luggage on the trolleys we went for breakfast at a bar in the hallway.
When it was time to check in, we picked the friendliest looking member of the ground crew we could find, and were almost through the process without a wrinkle, when the supervisor appeared.
– Have you weighed the boxes? she barked at her coworker, who hadn’t done so, because the ￼boxes were oversize, too big for the scales.
The supervisor ordered us to follow her to a back room that had an enormous scale. Our boxes were twenty-nine kilos each. Overweight, twenty-three kilos is the limit. A fifty euro surcharge per package, and the disappointing news that our luggage would not be checked through to Boston. We will have to pick it up, change terminals and recheck it in London, right in the middle of the chaos of the Olympic Games. Great start!
In London we asked the porters to help us change terminals, because of the time pressure of our connecting flight. On seeing our boxes they declined and advised us to avoid the train and take a taxi instead. The taxis were too small, so we had to race back to the train, setting off a chain of events that had us running through tunnels,
the boxes tumbling off of the unevenly loaded trolleys, or tipping them over so often we were in a panic about missing our flight, until we discovered that we had gained an hour and could relax. What a relief! When Virgin Atlantic Air saw us they said they don’t do big boxes! The check-in process involved calling a supervisor, who ordered a group of people to do a ‘manual check’, which meant nothing more than cutting open our carefully-taped boxes and peering inside.
The boxes were in shreds when we got to Boston but had served their purpose, there wasn’t a scratch anywhere on our bikes. We won’t have to pack them up again until we get to L.A. in three months’ time.