Netherlands – Day One – Vikings (4/1)

Netherlands – Day One – Vikings (4/1)

think you should go later. Two hours is fine, and we’re so close to the airport.”

I was at my brother’s house, having ubered over to stage for the airport. We were there to pick up my mom (90 years old and traveling overseas; what could go wrong?) and also to cage a ride from my brother.

“You can hang out here. It’s four and a half hours until flight-time.”

Being an wormy early-bird type, I told him I’d rather waste time there than at his house. And really, there was nothing for me to do here anyway.

“Okay, okay,” he sighed, fetching his keys.

So we got there soon enough that we beat the Icelandair desk group in by an hour. We’d be flying from Orlando to Reykjavík, Iceland (with a worrisome ninety-minute transfer/customs check, where we’d meet up with my sister). And then on to Amsterdam. When we got to check-in, I saw that the only people there were a young group (band?) of neo-Vikings, all blonde, broad-shouldered, possibly slightly hungover and rather sunburned. We waited at the bench for a while and then went up when another couple took the line. Still a couple of hours till 6:30 PM flight time.

And then Icelandair started doing what they’d do most of today: running thirty minutes late. We all stood when their reps came on the clock and fussed with their computers, chatting with each other and talking on the phone. Finally they opened up. We checked out heavier bags, got our passes, then drifted through security with hardly a wait at all (oh, they sniffed my backpack and put in on the “special” belt, but the guy casually looked into one of the zippers and pushed it across). And so we were free an clear with about two hours of hang-out until flight time.

Took it easy in a restaurant, with mom picking up the rather expensive upper-end-restaurant check (I didn’t grab for it too enthusiastically). Then we went and hung out at the gates.

Yum yum! Good food at an upper-end airport restaurant. And Mom snatched up the bill. Alas, I was just too late.

And that’s when I started to really love the Icelanders. For one thing, they let their kids run like crazed mini-berserkers all over the place, screaming and yelling and ducking in and out of the crowds. But the true spirit of the people was about to manifest.

They called boarding and JB, mom and I shuffled to be “near the gate” (with the inevitable shoalers). First it was people needing assistance. Then people with children (things quieted down in the waiting area with their absence). And then members of whatever the airline’s nob club were admitted. Suddenly I realized that either it was a popular club or that Icelanders were considering themselves special. Like Vikings going over a longboat’s bow to sack a helpless monastery, suddenly everyone was pushing through, green-lighting off their passes and filing into the tube. “Come on,” I told my wife and mom and pressed in. Through the gate and moving down the loading tube, I could hear the useless boarding team making first call for the front of the plane, about twenty rows from our ass-end-Charlie row. And in we went.

And yes, we did have the last bit right, our seats right up against some suspicious-looking wall-mounted tubing, the cart housing and the bathrooms in the very rear of the passenger compartment. Last row. We sat an waiting for the Vikings to push their plunder into the overhead – after all the rush to get aboard, everyone seemed to be rooting through luggage and offspring, sorting themselves out. Mom, of course, was dropping pillows and water bottles behind her seat row, requiring her dutiful son to worm in (to the frowns of the Norse flight crew) and fetch them out.

Finally we backed away from the gate onto the tarmac where we sat. And sat. Another thirty minutes of nothing as the cabin became stuffy with the smell of leather armor and the plane settled and creaked around us. I guess it takes time to wind up a rubber band for six hours of flight time. Finally the pilot found the big red START button and gave it a push. We rolled out for takeoff, with me hoping the guy would make up time in the air and not cut into our drastically short transfer time. Spoiler; he did not.

I’d advised my group (mom and JB) to get to sleep as quickly as they could. It would be six hours to Reykjavík and another three to Amsterdam, and we’d be hitting it mid-morning. And sleep we tried. Mom and JB seemed to do okay at it but being against the aisle, every brushing nudge, every inane Viking conversation in the bathroom line, every scream of a child, everything set me off. My favorite was the kid across the aisle who, sometime around midnight following a water serving, crumpled a cup and kept playfully crumpling it. He even stuck it over his nose and breathed in and out, making it crinkle. I suppose the crinkling sound was an ancestral memory of burning monasteries or something. His dad ignored him totally, having noise-canceling headsets on (I wished he’d bought child-canceling condoms about eight years ago).

And of course, Mom locked herself in the bathroom and we needed our frowning attendant/shield maiden to release the door (I learned a new trick on the bypass latch, anyway).

Oh, and there was also the longboat-on-the-high-seas turbulence that set the knuckles white and the kids making their amusement park noises. Yes, I loved every minute of it. But eventually I actually put my Zen breathing to work, and surprise, it actually worked! I sank into what HG Wells could have called a restless, haunted sleep, taking up through to Day Two.


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