Almost 24 hours into my trip to Bulgaria and Latvia, things are not quite as exotic as I expected. But then, I have only made it as far as the city-state of Denver, where they speak a dialect of English very similar to that spoken in the civilized parts of Montana, and where they appear to worship a god represented by the head of a handsome horse.
I got on a Lufthansa plane yesterday evening in Denver, supposedly bound for Frankfurt. We boarded an hour late and sat on the tarmac for three hours before the captain announced that the mechanical problem the crew had detected was more serious than originally thought and might even require the services of a technician flown in from Germany. The strangest thing was, after we’d been on the tarmac for a couple of hours, and having undergone de-icing, the captain announced that we might as well refuel while we were waiting, as if the mere matter of taking on a fuel was a minor afterthought. But I don’t want to be a small-minded traveler questioning the customs of foreign persons.
After some delays — to be expected when a giant plane disgorges some 300 passengers all at once — I climbed into a crowded shuttle to be taken to the Quality Inn & Suites, 15 minutes from the airport, right on the freeway and without a bar in sight. We had all been expecting to eat on the plane some five hours earlier, a circumstance that only slightly sharpened my appetite for the frozen food products we were offered at the motel, courtesy of Lufthansa: embalmed burritos, a pork sandwich that looked as though it had been regurgitated, charmless cheese sticks and other delectables. “Quality” is a degraded word.
But I’m not complaining, damn it. Uncle Sam is paying for my trip, so I can live with minor inconveniences. A few asides from the first day:
♦ On the shuttle, a short, stocky chap had trouble getting aboard, which he blamed on a hockey injury suffered just a day earlier. I later found out that he was 74 and going to Turkey and several -istan countries to play hockey. I never did determine what level of play was involved, but I was impressed. I also learned that he was from Spokane, and he mentioned that his team plays against the Mules. “The Missoula Flying Mules!” I said. “I was a founding member of that team in 1974.” It is even possible that he and I played against each other decades ago, because he used to be on a cops-and-firefighters team, one of our frequent opponents.
♦ Waiting in line with 300 passengers seeking instructions about the future from four Lufthansa agents, I was unusually calm, partly because I was near the head of the line and also because, as I mentioned, Uncle Sam was being so good to me. The gentleman right in front of me was not so calm. He kept calling people at Lufthansa to berate them personally and their company as a whole, and to threaten them with dire consequences if he was not treated like the prince he evidently thought himself to be. He was a doctor, I learned when he introduced himself to another doctor in line, having been drawn to him by animal magnetism, or the scent of ether. To his fellow medico he kept saying, in a very loud voice, that the situation we found ourselves in was “unacceptable,” as if by repeating that word as an incantation he could magically put us all on an airplane bound for glory. It didn’t work.
♦ I must be ready to experience exotica, having last traveled abroad in 2011. A woman on the shuttle, speaking with a beautiful French accent to someone on the phone, said, “I need to be in Geneva as quickly as possible,” and it sounded to me like a love poem.