Snow Storms in Europe: I’ll Be Home For Christmas (I think)

Three hours. Standing. Sweating. Thirsty. Exhausted. Frustrated.

I’ve waited for three hours in line just to get inside the double doors for the international departure ticket booth. My number, #709, sits far down the list on the numbers of Frankfurt’s computer screens. Frustrated, I wait for the 200+ people in front of me to re-route their tickets so I can make it home for Christmas. We’re all trying to get somewhere for the holidays but flights look  bleak. And our current situation is even bleaker. We’re all here, in this dark lounge, for the same reason: snowstorms sweeping most of Northern, Western and parts of Southern Europe, cause cancellations or delays on most flights. Thousands of us missed connecting flights in Frankfurt today, and for a Frankfurt-based hub like airline Lufthansa, that means thousands of people who need re-routed tickets, free hotel rooms, meal stubs, and water.

The little girl next to me can’t be more than five years old. She’s stretched out on the blue plastic seats, her mousy brown hair piled under her head for a pillow. Her purple socks dangle off her feet and her eyelids flutter in a half-sleep interrupted by constant intercom announcements.

An American man, probably in his low 30’s, asked to share my outlet. He scratches his shaved head, and twirls his white gold wedding ring aimlessly as he stares into space waiting for his computer to charge. His wife just had a baby—he hasn’t met his son yet because he has been out of the country for two weeks on business. He’s eager to get home.

A smiling woman in a yellow vest offers water and granola bars to everyone. “Sweets! Treats! Food!” she shouts over the loudspeakers. She’s eager to get people drinking and eating. It’s easy to become dehydrated during long hours in the airport and the last thing Lufthansa wants is to send someone to Frankfurt’s hospital. But her smile is infectious, and soon more and more people are smiling too.

A young couple, just married, sit across the aisle. The bride wears a white sweatshirt screaming BRIDE in pink, curly letters. She rests her head on her new husbands shoulder and by the looks of their colorful sandals they’re en route to somewhere warm on their honeymoon. Hopefully.

An older man in a trench coat has gray hairs protruding from his inner ears around his hearing aids. He scans the rows of plastic chairs for an empty seat before a strapping teenage boy stands up to offer the old man his.

A loud American woman with a thick Long Island accent chats to her sister on her blackberry. She complains about how tired she is, how frustrated she is, and how she just wants to jump the line to get home. Part of me agrees with her, but part of me resents her for voicing everyone’s thoughts so obnoxiously.

Numbers crawl slowly up the screen.  Four stations of exhausted Lufthansa employees help the several hundred of us packed into this lounge. And we’re the lucky ones. We’ve waited outside for three hours just to get in here to wait more. But at least we have a chair. And at least it’s not Christmas yet. There’s still three days to make it home. But for now, I’ve resigned myself to sleeping in yet another airport tonight. The frustrated ambiance in this ticketing lounge gives a whole new meaning to the Frank Sinatra song playing in my earbuds: I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Here’s hoping, Frank.

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