Do you remember the 1969 film, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium”? Well, Tuesday we arrived. We being my wife Cheri and I.
Didn’t think we were going to make it. We were supposed to fly out of Dulles Airport Monday night on Icelandair. We’ve always been interested in what the air in Iceland feels like in December – maybe like wearing only your swim suit in the Frigidaire – and so we were looking forward to the trip. Not only were we going to visit our daughter and her family in Brussels, but we were going to experience Iceland’s icy air on the way.
Icelandair is one of those airlines that is especially proud of one city. Just like Southwest is proud of Phoenix – myself, it seems I can’t can’t go anywhere on SW without flying there first and changing planes – Icelandair is proud of Reykjavik. Can’t go anywhere on Icelandair without going through Reykjavik, even staying there for a day or so to engage in the local winter sport of making snow angels.
But there was a problem. The Icelandair mechanics didn’t care that we infrequent flyers make it to their fair burg. They went out on strike. Last Sunday night – the Sunday before the Monday we were to leave Dulles Airport for Brussels by way of Reykjavik – I got an email from Icelandair. It said, “If It’s Tuesday, This Week You May Still Be in Washington, D.C.”
And so my wife Cheri and I resigned ourselves to a quiet Christmas sitting around a Dulles Airport terminal waiting for the joyous news that the strike had been settled, when “out on my email there arose such a clatter, I sprang from despair to see what was the matter.” Icelandair had sent me a second email around noon Monday that said, “If it’s Tuesday This Week, This Possibly Can Be Belgium if You Hurry and Catch United Airline’s Flight 950.”
Icelandair – Good for them! – had booked us on another airline. And we had enough time to get to the airport, but even then, whether or not we’d catch our flight was in grave doubt. Why? We had to get from check-in to the waiting area.
Have you ever noticed how, even though no less than the FAA is directing traffic on the runways and in the air, no one directs traffic in the airport itself? It’s a wonder that more people don’t sit around waiting for an ambulance than a plane. Really.
Find yourself a safe place, if there is one, and just stand around an airport noticing the flow. People walk out of the restrooms without any thought to the stream of people coming from their left and right. A voice on the loudspeaker says, “Another mess outside restroom C. Medics, not a janitor, needed.” Stop signs should be clearly posted.
Furthermore, people walking at the same rate of speed as dozens of others right behind them suddenly stop as though they forgot something and have to go back and get it. A voice on the loudspeaker says, “There’s a six person pileup outside Terminal A.” No U-Turn Allowed signs should be posted.
Of course, we all dislike standing in lines, but it seems to me that one of the safest place in an airplane is standing in line for immediate departure. (Not standing in line though for any sort of food. These lines tend to wind out into the path of oncoming traffic. “There’s a three person pileup, one a customer, outside Subway. Get me a meatball – the sandwich not the customer – while you’re there.”
We have bumps and bruises; still, we made it to our gate and arrived Tuesday in Brussels, Belgium. It’s a second visit for us. People ask me what kind of country Belgium is. It’s great! What’s not to love about a country known for its beer, waffles, and chocolate? I’m not terribly happy, though, with what the French-speaking populace is teaching my grandson.
He’s two-years old, goes to daycare, or creche, in preparation for kindergarten at two-and-one-half years of age. (Can you believe it? These kids are so smart, you can drop four-year olds down in any country on a Tuesday and they can tell you where they are!) But they are stubborn. I showed him a picture of Santa Claus and asked him who it was. He said, “Papa Noel.” Papa Noel? Who in the world is he? No. No way. But no matter how hard I argued, I could not convince him that Papa Noel is only a figment of French imagination. The true figment is Santa Claus.
The kid lives in the Watermael-Boitsford neighborhood of Brussels. Watermael-Boitsford is French for, “If it’s Tuesday, This Must Be a Happening Place!” Chocolates, beer, waffles, kindergarten, and Papa Noel!