Sherry and I are home from our world travels relatively unscathed and having been involved in only three minor international incidents that I can recall.
Actually, it was me who caused the trouble. Sherry is a nicer person than I am.
It could be my job experience that makes me so unwilling to put up with any guff from anybody, but I tend to think it has more to do with my age. There comes a time when you tire of enduring rudeness and stupidity and you just won't take it anymore.
And be it Strasbourg, Heidelberg or Burger King, that's where I am now.
And that's the reason for my difficulties with the British Airways agent, the Middle Eastern man and the customs agent.
Sherry and I and our friends Barbara and Carol waited with a few hundred other people to get off the ground at the big airport that Saturday evening we left for the Rhine River cruise. The flight to London was two and a half hours late. Finally, they began calling people to get on board. First the first-class passengers; then business; then families with babies. Then the back several rows of the big wide-body plane.
We all stood around the gate with our carry-on luggage, waiting our turn. Then an announcement: They had discovered three broken seats and engineers were onboard fixing them. We inched closer. We waited. Finally, they called another set of back-of-the-plane passengers. We inched a little closer, all couple hundred of us middle-of-the-plane folks.
Suddenly a man wearing a pink shirt and a pink tie burst from behind the gate desk and yelled at us. We were in the way, he shouted. We were not getting on board a second sooner by crowding the gate. We all should go back and sit down until we were called.
"And that means you!" he shouted, looking directly into my eyes.
Nobody sat down. Everyone looked at me wondering what I had done. I wondered the same thing. I sputtered at him and he snarled back. What started as embarrassment soon swelled into ire. When I'm in full ire, I am not a pleasant person to be around. My temper passed full speed and went into overdrive. My tailpipes were smoking. Or maybe it was my ears.
So when it finally came my turn, I marched up to the nice, elderly female British agent who looked at my boarding pass and smiled.
"Can I ask a favor?" I murmured sweetly.
"What can I do for you?"
"Could you tell the man in the pink shirt and pink tie that I think he's an [obscenity deleted]?"
She smiled broadly. "I would be delighted," she said. I don't know for sure, but I think she thought so too.
I pretty much behaved the whole trip until we reached American soil again. Our plane touched down after 10 excruciating hours in the air crammed into seats built for midgets. We taxied to the runway and I began to extricate myself. I was halfway into the aisle when a Middle Eastern man from behind barreled into me full-force, knocking me to my knees.
"You are so rude!" I said.
"I have to get my luggage!" he explained, climbing over me and racing up the aisle.
I got nearly to my feet again before his wife slammed into me and knocked me down again.
We surely would have had an international incident involving air marshals if I could have caught him, but he got away.
So I was not in the best of moods as we waited with two planeloads of passengers from international flights for four customs agents to get us customized. "Business or pleasure?" my guy asked after an hour's wait. "Anything to declare?" He stamped my passport and I walked around a corner, down an escalator and into the baggage area. I collected my bags. (Sherry was minus a bag but took it fairly stoically).
We were in the final stretch. The door to freedom was in sight. We manhandled our baggage across the room and headed for the outer door. And encountered a customs employee who directed us to yet another long line.
"What is this for?" I asked the woman.
"They are checking your passport," she said.
"They checked it when we came in this room. What possibly could have changed?" I asked.
The woman glared at me and pointed to the end of the line.
"Business or pleasure?" the agent behind the desk asked me. "Anything to declare?"
Interpol has not caught up to me yet, so I think I'm a step ahead of an international tribunal or having my baggage claim revoked.
But I noticed that last stamp looked kind of funny. I think they put me on the no-fly list.
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.