Good morning from Basel, Switzerland.
So far this has been a picture perfect trip. All the connections have been perfect. All the flights left on time and arrived on time. While the weather is a little cold and rainy, it’s not snowing, it’s not freezing and it’s pretty easy to get around.
Not like my last trip to Basel.
A little more than a year ago, I was supposed to come to Basel for a client meeting. unfortunately, two freak snow storms, multiple flight delays and lots of bad timing meant I never got here. But not for a lack of trying.
Last year, I took of from JFK airport for Basel with a connecting flight in London. (By the way, never connect through London.) Of course, that flight is an overnight flight and you always barely sleep. The day we arrived, London was hit by a freak snowstorm that closed all the airports. That meant our connecting flight to Basel was 6 hours delayed. But at least our flight was leaving. Hundreds of flights were canceled. But we were getting out. Eventually.
Our flight boarded and we took off for our short flight to Basel. Ah, but here’s the catch – that freak snowstorm that his London had moved and was now pounding France and Switzerland. Right as we were about to land, the pilot came over the PA system and announced we’d have to circle for a while Basel cleaned the runways for us. But he told us not to worry ‘because we filled up with gas in London, so we can stay up here for a long time.’ Well, we circled for a long time, so long in fact that we had to make a detour to stop and get gas. The pilot informed us the nearest place to land was a British Airways hub in Lyon, France. Now, keep in mind that it’s snowing there, too. Hard.
We land in Lyon. We’ve now been flying or delayed for 15 hours. We sit on the ground in Lyon getting gas for another 2 hours. We remove the snow and ice from the plane – another hour. Oh, and did I mention that there’s no food on the plane since it was supposed to be a short flight.
Eventually, we take off for Basel. Hooray. Except one little detail. Basel airport has closed for the night. So mid-flight, the pilot announces that we’re heading BACK to London. Now, everyone is breaking the law. People start pulling out cellphones to find a place to stay in London. I find a Holiday Inn Express about 25 miles outside of London. It’s the only rooms available in the entire city.
Two hours later, we land in London. It’s not 2 AM. Just before our plane lands, a 747 that was heading to Mumbai decides it can’t leave London either. And empties its 500 passengers in front of our plane at London customs. I don’t know if you know this, but at 2 AM when London Customs isn’t expecting 1000 people, the two customs agents they have on the night shift aren’t really enough to handle the load. And Sophie and Trevor (the customs Agents) don’t really give a damn. Another 1-1/2 later we clear customs and get a taxi to drive us to the Holiday Inn Express. (Yes, me and three co-workers.)
It’s now 4 AM, we haven’t eaten since 11 AM. We get to the Holiday Inn Express and order the British version of Domino’s Pizza. Except this place has already closed but is willing to sell us their left over pizza. We take it.
It arrived an hour later. The night clerk at the Holiday Inn finds us some beer. And at 5 AM, we sit in one of the rooms, eating pizza, drinking beer and watching the British version of COPS — in sign language. Yes, the only station that was broadcasting was showing COPS and instead of sound – had a woman using sign language in the corner of the screen.
Now I know what you’re thinking — no way. This did not happen like this. Something was embellished in this story. Sorry, not one word. This is exactly how it happened. Except for one other little tidbit. British Airways somehow lost my luggage. They sent it ahead to Basel even though I never made it. I wouldn’t see that bag for over a week.
But today is a different day. Today everything worked. Today my suitcase was tucked under the seat in front of me. Yes, it’s raining in Basel today. And yes, it’s a little chilly. But I made it. And after all, that’s all that really matters.