I wrote this a few days ago, intending to post it later this week…
At the time this all happened in July 2011, I felt like Germanwings, with their overly cautious ways, were making our trip just terrible. Their abundance of safety delayed us and delayed us and delayed us and I was so mad. The recent Germanwings tragedy certainly puts my own experience into perspective. Here is the post:
After a day that brought us to Nazareth, Capernaum, Jordan River, and Tel Aviv beach, we caught a taxi to Ben Gurion Airport, looking forward to boarding our Germanwings flight for a restful journey to Cologne.
We’d already had a long day… I’d been awake since 3:45 am. But as it turns out, our adventure was only just beginning.
I had PLENTY of opportunity to journal whilst waiting in various locations at the airport, so here’s what I wrote:
“At the Ben Gurion Airport, we experienced their higher level of security, which I was actually fine with. Andrew passed through security with no trouble. But Cara and Steve had their belongings thoroughly searched… though in my opinion this was done in a fairly organized and respectful way. At least from my perspective, in the distance. We were then led to the area to get our boarding passes and now had to go through hand baggage security. We then found our gate. We then had McDonald’s for supper…”
Kosher = less delicious, sorry to say.
After a short wait, we boarded our plane. Our seats were near the front. Everything was going fairly smoothly. Soon, we told ourselves, we’d be arriving at our destination. Soon we’d be enjoying German food and beer and nestle into our bed and breakfast.
Boy we were wrong. Wrong, wrong, WRONG.
First I must note, the seating on the plane was significant. I was sitting between Andrew, who had the window seat, and a German fellow who stank to high heaven. It was the single worst stench I’ve ever encountered… emanating from the man next to me hogging the armrest. I could NOT handle it.
Between fits of coughing and gagging at the terrible aroma, I declared to Andrew, “I cannot BELIEVE how badly this guy smells!” Andrew later told me the guy had been reading a book in English. If he could read English, he could probably understand it, too. I responded, “GOOD! He SHOULD be told just how badly he stinks! It’s so offensive!”
Driven to desperation, I turned around and looked at Steve who was seated behind me, and smiled sweetly. “Hey Steve, wanna trade seats?”
Steve, familiar with my aversion to strange men, assumed I was merely concerned that the guy beside me was a pervert. So, being a good friend, he rolled his eyes and then willingly gave up his seat between two pleasantly-scented women, which I eagerly claimed.
As soon as we were situated in our new seats, I leaned forward and whispered, “Hey Steve. Have you figured out why I wanted to trade with you?” His response: flipping me the bird. Yep, he was now experiencing the stench for himself. “I deserve that,” I told him. “And yet, I will never regret this.”
I then cackled gleefully like the very mean person that I am. HAHAHAHA (sorry Steve… okay still not sorry actually.)
My glee was cut short. We still hadn’t left the tarmac, and commotion was erupting on the plane.
It was a “medical emergency”. The pilot was calling for a doctor. People left their seats and began crowding the front of the plane yelling in Hebrew and Spanish and I’m not sure what else.
Since we were seated right there at the front, we merely observed, and the girl sitting next to Cara and I told us what was going on — very bad news for us — the airport shuts down at 2 am. Our flight was late to leave at 1:30 am, but the medical emergency delayed our flight to the point that now the airport was closed and we all had to get off the plane. Nooooooooooo!
Back inside the airport. Cara’s accurately expressing how we felt about all this.
We got onto a people-moving vehicle which deposited us into some sort of holding pen. Maybe about 150 people. At one point the airport staff began explaining things in Hebrew and all the people that understood (seemingly everyone except us) became furious and immediately began yelling. It was quite a sight to see (and hear). Also, we were aware that any announcement made them angry, would probably also make us angry.
Another thing that made us angry –> the supposed “medical emergency”. You know what that turned out to be? A guy afraid of flying. He got on the plane and promptly had a panic attack. Gahhhhh! Okay so listen — if you’re afraid of flying, DON’T FUCKING GET ON THE PLANE. Either that or self-medicate. JEEPERS. I journaled at this time, as I had nothing else to do:
“We went to where someone was explaining things in English, and discovered that our flight was now going to leave the next day at 1 pm and check-in would start at 10 am. People should go stay with friends and family in Tel Aviv. For those without (like us), they’d try to find hotels but it wasn’t likely as they’re apparently all booked. Also, we’ll have to go through passport control again, since by getting on the plane we had technically left Israel. But first we also need to get our luggage. I have no idea what’s going on. People are passed out everywhere, other people are still yelling in Hebrew, and there’s a really annoying child screaming right behind me and it’s really pissing me off in the most brutal way. Ugh. Well, I guess I’ll try to sleep…”
Suddenly my journal jumps to Sunday July 17:
“As soon as I decided to prepare to sleep in the holding cell we were in at the airport, we were told to follow some guy. He told us to go claim our luggage at carousel 10, but first we had to go through passport control again. The line Steve and Cara were in must’ve been very congested, because they took a long time coming to carousel 10, where Andrew and I were waiting for them. In the meantime, a group of our fellow travellers were gathering, and when Steve and Cara finally arrived to join us, we all began wandering around haplessly, as a group, trying to figure out what to do next. Our objective was to stay at a hotel so we could get some sleep. We eventually found our way to a bus parking area, all with very little guidance or information, where we continued to wait, very confused and not at all confident that they didn’t just want to abandon us there. Eventually, two buses pulled up, and we crowded onto them. Seemed like an incredibly long drive to the hotel. The hotel we were brought to was very fancy! After another long wait, we were able to collect our luggage from the bottom of the bus and packed into the hotel lobby to claim a room. By the time we fell asleep, it was 6 am. I’d been up for 26 hours straight. We woke up at 10:30 am and caught the bus back to the airport.”
At the airport, we had to go through security and passport control all over again. Our bags were fine after the initial scan, but Steve and Cara had to stand in line for the heavy duty security check. Steve completed his time there well before Cara, and went straight to the gate. I will never forget the look on his face as he hurried past me — he was NOT impressed. Cara was even less impressed, as she remained in security.
Andrew and I weren’t sure what to do at this point, as security wasn’t interested in us at all. I suggested to Andrew that he go wait with Steve at the gate, while I waited for Cara to emerge from security, so she wouldn’t feel alone. This turned out to be a stupid decision. As I sat there by myself, awaiting Cara, a security employee told me that Cara would be ushered directly to our plane, but I had to get myself through passport control. Those lines might be long, and I might miss the flight. Ahhhhhhh!
Heart pounding, I then navigated Ben Gurion Airport on my own. It was really crowded and felt like it took forever to get through passport control, carryon security, and to find my gate… not being sure I’d ever see my companions again.
Amazingly, I managed okay and ran into Andrew as he was returning to the gate with more kosher McDonald’s. I think I ran straight into his arms. So grateful to find him again!
When Cara eventually rejoined us hours later (or so it seemed), she was not in a mood to talk, which was understandable.
Steve and I now had a decision to make.
I asked him, “Who’d you rather sit by? Stinky guy, or angry Cara?”
He responded immediately: “The stinky guy.”
“And I’d rather sit by angry Cara. She smells like flowers!”
So, we both won.
Once seated on the plane, we realized the stinky guy was STILL exhibiting an incredible stench. He had HEARD me saying that he stank, AND there were showers at the hotel we’d all been staying at. Yet, he seemed to feel he had no use for personal bathing. Well, at least it was mostly Steve’s problem… though I could smell the guy from where I sat, too.
Good-bye, Israel. We spent more time there than intended.