Departure

I dream of a day when I’ll take a trip that I actually planned in advance, prepared for in advance, and packed in advance.  Perhaps my normal routine of rush and panic is a symptom of irresponsibility, but I like to think of it as a byproduct of indomitable youth and spontaneity.  Well, whatever the case may be, today’s departure fits nicely into the well-established annals of my typical travel adventures, with the one exception being that I arrived at the airport earlier than I have for any other flight.  This last anomaly is due to the combination of two facts: first, I’m departing on a Wednesday evening when those who normally provide my airport transportation (Mom and Dad) are in church; second, I’m flying out of JFK which, though it is only a few short miles past LaGuardia, invariably involves significant traffic.  So, even though my flight wasn’t scheduled to depart until around 9 pm, the traffic wildcard compelled Dad to bring me to the airport around 4.  Normally, waiting in an airport for 5 hours is something akin to a school detention mixed with a few hundred rude and angry people along with a steady dosage of screaming kids.  It’s the sort of place where I try to spend the least amount of time possible.  Today, happily, I found the experience to be rather different.

Things didn’t look terribly great to start out, as my airline’s check-in counter didn’t even open until 5, leaving me an hour to loiter with two backpacks.  This, however, was Terminal 4, where I’d spent some time before, so I knew to head down past the rows of check-in where there is a large mall-like area with shops, food joints, and seating.  It was rather crowded, and I finally found a spot next to a family that must have been on their way back to Ireland.  A boy who looked like the 5-year-old version of Damien in the movie, Millions, was asking for some “euros” so he could play a video game.  His older brother told him he had wasted all his money and the boy’s response brought a smile to my face.  “Yeah, I’m flat broke.  I had a hundred ‘euros’… I had three fifties, two fivers, and four George Washingtons!”  All in a perfect Irish brogue.

Pretty soon, it was five, and I checked in effortlessly at the first-class counter.  I asked the lady if Singapore Airlines had a lounge and she gave me an invitation card to Oasis.  It was just around the corner, and I filmed a quick intro for my video journal before heading inside.  Let me tell you, lounges turn airports from purgatory into refreshing retreats!  The spacious lounge stretched along the outer wall of the terminal with floor-to-ceiling glass walls looking out over the tarmac.  There was a small self-serve restaurant with a buffet of rather tasty food and refrigerators stocked with drinks.  There were umbrella-topped tables, a room full of computers, lots of leather furniture, a fireplace, a large conference table, a living-room-style bookshelf stocked with plenty of reading material, and complimentary WiFi.  I enjoyed a free meal of vegetable mimosas, saffron rice, Tamarind chicken, and a Perrier.

The only hiccup in the trip was a runway queue delay which kept us grounded for 2 hours.  Finally we took off, and I’ve been enjoying the finest comfort I’ve ever had in the air.  Singapore’s business class cabin is far better than the any first class I’ve experienced on a domestic flight.  My cabin is on the upper deck of the plane, blissfully segregated from any signs of other passengers (especially the dreaded toddler).  The seats are wonderfully oversized and fully articulate down to a nearly flat recline.  I also appreciate power plugs which have allowed me to keep my laptop and phone at full charge.  The staff has been as attentive as the wait staff at a fine restaurant.  And speaking of restaurants,  the food’s been rather marvelous for air food.  I’ve even watched snippets of the on-demand entertainment with the airline’s noise cancelling headphones.  I’ve always heard that Singapore Air has a top reputation, and it’s been fun confirming that first-hand.  As nice as the business class is, I got a glimpse of first class as I disembarked in Frankfurt.  Wowee!  Each seat is like a 10 square foot island of supple leather and walnut trim.  Maybe someday I’ll get to experience that too.

I arrived in Frankfurt and carefully checked all the pockets of my seat to make sure I didn’t leave anything behind.  I’ve got to kill my reputation for leaving expensive things on planes.  My flight to Paris is rather convoluted, involving Singapore Air from New York to Frankfurt and then Swiss Air from Frankfurt to Zurich and then on to Paris.  So, when I arrived in Frankfurt, I had to go to the Swiss Air counter to get my boarding pass.  The lady asked for my baggage claim check from Singapore Air to make sure that my bag follows me to Paris.  I searched my pockets and realized I didn’t have it on me–must have slipped down into a seat crack or something.  So after jogging back to Singapore’s gate where an agent looked up my record and wrote down the bag claim number, I came back to find that the Swiss Air desk was closed until about an hour before my flight.  It finally opened and I gave the information to the agent who updated the record in the computer.  I have an uneasy feeling, however that my bag could be currently on its way to Singapore.  Seeing as all I have on me is a bag with all my electronics, I could have an uncomfortable couple of days until my backpack catches up with me.  Oh, and all my train tickets are in there too, so I won’t be going anywhere without those…  Well, my flight to Zurich is now boarding, so I’ll find out soon enough if I have a lost luggage fiasco to add to my chronicles of travel misadventure.

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