Wednesday, November 8, 2023

BFT23 - We Come Home

It’s a lovely thing to be able to travel in this world, to pack up a few things into a carry-on bag and explore a new place and visit new people. It is a privilege denied to many in this world, and I appreciate that I have the ability do this from time to time.

But eventually it is time to go back home.

We did not book any screamingly early flights on this trip because the math just never works out – you think, “if we leave early we’ll have the whole day when we get there!” but this doesn’t take into account Airport Math. To get to your flight – especially an international flight – you need to be there early, and then you have to back-calculate from that to account for however long it is going to take you to get there, factoring in the unpredictability of traffic and transportation, and again from that to account for however long it will take you to get from a standing start to actually out the door and moving toward the airport, and eventually you realize you’re just going to be tired when you arrive no matter what and you might as well sleep in a bit. So we did.

Traveling home was not the adventure it had been getting to Italy, at the outset of this trip. And for that we were grateful.

We got up at a reasonable hour on our last morning in Prague, cleared out as much as we could of the various cheeses, meats, and yogurts that we’d accumulated in the fridge for breakfast, made sure the place was clean and presentable, and headed down to the tram. We’d gotten to know the trams pretty well by then so it wasn’t the guesswork it was when we arrived, and it took us to the subway pretty easily. We descended to the core of the earth where the platforms are located, got on the next subway, and a few stops later we rode the escalator back up to the surface again and got on the waiting 119 bus to the airport. We found the airline agents pretty quickly and were allowed to check our carry-on bags through to Chicago and just go with our backpacks through the airport. We made our separate ways to the very end of the terminal, stopping off at various vendors to purchase snacks and beverages and shed some of our remaining Czech crowns, and after a while we were all gathered at Gate C-10, waiting for the flight to Munich.

It was an uneventful flight, as you hope these things are, though it was about ten minutes delayed – pretty good in the overall scheme of travel these days, but just enough to make getting to our connecting flight a bit tenuous for those of us who like some cushion in these things.

Munich is a very big airport. It’s not as big as the one in Frankfurt, which has its own government, currency, civil service, and highway system, but it is big enough to warrant a subway line of its own to get you from your arrival gate (Terminal G) to your departure gate (Terminal L). Fortunately German culture places a great deal of emphasis on proper bureaucracy so everything is neatly labeled and you can mark your progress accurately as you note the steadily decreasing amount of time left before your connecting flight takes off.

We also had to go through passport control again, which worked neatly and easily for everyone but me as I absolutely could not get the little scanner thing to read my passport. Eventually a kind man in an airport uniform figured out I was holding up his line. He walked over and got it to work and I rushed out to the gate where the rest of us already were.

Of course that flight was delayed by an hour.

And you know? I didn’t mind. I was at the gate. I could see the door I’d need to go through from where I sat. I could relax and enjoy things, and Oliver and I spent much of the next hour chatting with a nice couple from St. Louis about our various travel experiences over the recent days. I even had time to decide that the last book I had downloaded from the library in Our Little Town before leaving for this trip was an absolute dud and then download another one over the airport wifi. I generally prefer paper books, but ebooks work fine for traveling.

The gate staff eventually boarded our flight, and it was a quiet journey back to Chicago. There are things in life that you prefer to be boring. Healthcare. International politics. Weather forecasts. Things like that. Flights are definitely on that list somewhere. I finished my book. I played a significant percentage of the games on offer in the little screen in front of me. I watched the flight map. It was a pleasantly uneventful sort of experience.

And then we were back in Chicago, in line to have our passports checked – a line that stretched nearly back to Munich but which moved along at a bright and enthusiastic clip. We collected our bags and discovered much to our sorrow that some of Lauren’s souvenirs had fallen out of an unzipped pocket on her bag – I later asked the airline to search for them, but they never turned up.

The private parking lots near O’Hare don’t have their own shuttles anymore. You have to call an Uber or something like it and then hope that the driver can pick you out of the madding crowd and take you to your own car.

We got back home around 10pm Central Time – about 5am in Prague, and so nearly 21 hours after we’d gotten up that morning in a different world.

It is good to go away.

It is good to come home.

It will be good to go away again, sometime. Perhaps soon.

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