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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mykel's Journey To The North: Part One Day One

A Log Of The Trip To Greenland

Entry 1

by Mykel Board

When something can go wrong, it will go wrong. --Murphy's Law

Even when nothing can go wrong, it STILL will go wrong. --Board's Law

SUNDAY August 14, 2016 (Trip Day Minus 2)


It's like a sportsbar in an airport... expensive... obnoxious patrons... mostly fratboy 20s-30s... the ones who 30 years ago would have called high school punk rockers “faggots.”

They're flag waving Americans, watching the Olympics on the big screen TV. Maybe that's not true. Maybe the audience was a bunch of Jamaicans cheering Usain Bolt. I wasn't there. But whatever it was the crowd was manic... cheering the runners on... someone starts banging on the table. POW! POW! POW! The next table picks it up. POW! POW! POW... On the bar top... POW! POW! POW! Urging the runners on.

Down by Gate One a grandmother, not the least bit interested in Usain Bolt, hears the POW! POW! POW! She dials 9-1-1.

There's gunfire... here in Kennedy Airport... terminal eight. I hear it down the hall. We need help fast.”


The cops herd the panic-stricken out of the building. In comes the bomb squad... human armor... guns drawn... ready to kill the shooters. The terminals fill with screams... check-ins stop... flights are canceled... planes on the ground don't leave... the people outside sweating it out in the heat... Hours pass... more flights canceled.

Voices on the loudspeakers talked about an ON-GOING SITUATION... and people should stay calm. This makes more panic.

The panicked populous returns home, flights missed, TVs on to see what happened. Well, nothing happened... Nothing, in a big way.

I don't know about this until....

FLASH TO TUESDAY MORNING 9:30AM: I'm scheduled to leave at 11:30 tonight. I have nothing to do all day. I'm an anxious traveler anyway, despite the amount of traveling I do. Every year, my friends know to expect a call from me... from the airport:

Could you run over to my apartment? I think I:

A. Forgot to lock it.
B. Forgot to turn off the AC
C. Brushed up against the stove and turned on the gas.
D. All of the above.

Of course, none of that ever happens. This year, I make myself a checklist so I can... like an airline pilot... check off everything one-by-one after I've done it. 

I've even included a “knuckles rapped” remark after locking the door. This way, I'll slam my fist against the door after I've locked it... and the pain will remind me that I have, in fact, locked the door.

One by one, I go through the list, checking everything except DOOR LOCKED. It's 1:30PM... my time.

(Note for people who don't know me very well: All the clocks in my apartment are 40 minutes fast. I do this because the average trip in Manhattan takes 40 minutes. The clock setting lets me teleport. I have to be someplace at 9PM. I leave at 9PM. I'm on time.)

These days, airlines recommend you be at the airport 3 hours early... especially for international flights. That's an 8:30 arrival. The train to Kennedy takes more than the usual 40 minutes... almost an hour more. That means I should leave at 7:30 my time... in six hours. What can I do? I tried to download and print my boarding pass, but I couldn't find it on line. There was a message about “a situation at JFK Airport.”

Check with the airline for further information. says the message.

Ok, I guess I should just go and talk with the Norwegians at the airport. They should be a nice crew... they're practically Danish.

The computer's packed away, and I've read the BBC news twice already on my smartphone. I could dip into my pile of last year's copies of THE NATION, but my brain just isn't up to that.

How bout a nap? I'll sleep for a couple hours then go.

I lie down on my freshly made bed. And I fall asleep... for 20 minutes.... awakening with a start from some nightmare involving a fish. It's 2:10pm. Fuck it. I'll leave anyway... I hate airports but I hate sitting around at home more.

I check the weather in Copenhagen. It's 57o . Wow! Sure beats the 90's. I can take my raincoat and fedora... dress like Mykel Board... oh yeah. So I stuff the raincoat between the suitcase and my small carry-on, put the fedora on my head and leave for the subway.

The subway ride to the airport stinks. The Bleecker Street station is un-airconditioned and the elevator from the street goes to turnstiles that are too narrow for my baggage. I have to slide the bags under then jump over the turnstile like a fare-beater. On the other side waits a cop.... actually not, but it would have made a fucked up story even better!

There's a change of trains at METRO TECH. (What kinda name is Metro Tech? It's not a street... not a building... what is a TECH, for fuck's sake?) The A-train runs in two branches. One goes to LEFFERTS BLVD, the other to the ROCKAWAYS. (Yeah those Rockaways.) Only the Rockaway branch stops at the Airtrain at Howard Beach.

At Howard Beach station is one of those electronic public-private joint ventures. It's an electric advertisement for a bunch of stuff you don't want. Can you say, Bvlgari? If you touch the screen, you can see a subway map with a few options. If you touch the SCHEDULE option, it will lie about trains arriving during the next ten minutes or so.

There are two French girls (both attractive... late 20s), both with suitcases. They're trying to figure out the screen. Unlike print signs that you can just look at for information, with these signs, you have to wait for the information you want to flash... then quickly remember it before the next group of trains flashes. I point to the A-train schedule. The next one says LEFFERTS BLVD.

Cette train va pas à l'aéroport,” I say in my best French. “Il va a Lefferts. Vous avez besoin d'un train a Rockaway.” I stress the WAY in Rockaway, so it'll sound more French.

Merci,” says the taller of the two.

Non problem,” I reply.

In five minutes the next train arrives. Above the window, in flashing red lights is

C'est ici! Celui l
à!” I tell the girls, motioning to the train. I pull my bag into the train and make sure the girls are following me. They have this cute hard luggage... white with little animals all over it... like something you'd expect to see a Japanese tourist with.

Ow doo you know ziss eeez ze right tren?” the shorter girl asks, tired of my bad French.

I point to the ROCKAWAY sign, then to other passengers in the car with suitcases. They nod as the doors close behind us. Inside the crowded car, they stand next to the door. I stand with them, until the first stop when some seats open up. I sit in one. They move to open seats at the other end of the car, whispering in French something I'm sure that means, “Let's get away from this creep.”

At Howard Beach we switch to the Airtrain. I have to buy another Metrocard because my old-people's card isn't good for the $5 Airtrain. There's an extra $1 fee for the new Metrocard. Here, the turnstiles open flat, like someone had the idea that people might be carrying bags to the airport.

I notice that the French girls are in the same car with me-- at the other end. I wave to them. They pretend they don't see me. We all get off at terminal 1-- the international building.

Now, to find the plane. There is another electronic sign. It lists the airlines in alphabetical order, along with their check-in aisles. Unlike print signs that you can just look at for information, these signs you have to wait for the information you want to flash... then quickly remember it before the next group of airlines flashes.

After a few screens, there it is NORWEGIAN AIR... now where is the aisle listed? Fuck! The sign changed already. I've got to go through the whole alphabet... AIR FRANCE, BELGIAN AIR... blah blah. Finally, got it. NORWEGIAN AIR AISLE H. I head down the letters. Of course, H is the last aisle.

A lot of Orientals are on line-- and it's a huge line. Strange for a Norwegian plane going to Denmark... but this is the modern world. I look for the end of the line, then see a cardboard placard that says CHINA AIR CHECK-IN. Then two guys in red uniforms.

You looking for Norwegian Air?” asks the shorter of the two.

Yep,” I say.

It's in Aisle D,” he says.

But the sign over there...(I point), says Aisle H,” I tell him.

It's Aisle D,” he says. “The usual eleven o'clock flight is here. But that's canceled...”

“What?” I say.

He corrects himself. “Not canceled,” he says. “It's just that the time was changed to 5 o'clock.”

It's now about 4pm. What would've happened if I'd gotten to the airport at a reasonable time for an 11:30 flight? I'd have been 6 hours late.

I run for Aisle D. At the end of the aisle, at a check-in counter with no airline listed, there is a guy with the same kind of uniform as the guys at Aisle H.

Is this the check-in for Norwegian Airlines?” I ask him.

Yes,” he says, “for the 5 o'clock flight to London.”

London?” I say. “I'm going to Copenhagen.”

That flight is at Aisle H,” he says.

But they sent me here,” I tell him.

We don't have any information on that flight yet,” he says. “Come back after five and we'll let you know. We'll probably have hotel vouchers for you. But you'll have to go to Aisle H.”

A very proper-looking man stands with his suitcase by the desk. “Is this Premium Check-in?” he asks with an English accent so thick it could exit Europe.

You're going to London?” I ask.

Yes,” he says. “It's bloody terrible about the canceled flights.”

Then he tells me about the chaos two days before. It was the first I'd heard of it.

I sit on the floor, less in protest than in confusion. Next to me do not sit the French girls from the train. They've left this story. But there are some other people frantically poking at their cellphones.

I pull out mine... cellphone, that is. I talk into the Google speaker. “Norwegian Airlines customer service,” I say.

There's the number. Along with a little blue bar that says “private mail for your eyes only.”

Usually, when I get messages with that subject, I figure it's MaryEllen Looking for An Older Man or a Nigerian with a bundle of money he wants me to hold for him. But this one is not.

We're sorry to tell you that your flight has been canceled due to A SITUATION at Kennedy Airport. You are eligible for a full refund or you can reschedule

I try to call, but can't make out the garbled instructions. I push ONE, and some music starts playing. I don't want to talk on the cellphone. The sound quality is so bad on those things I'll never understand anything. But wait, there are some COIN PHONES on the wall over there.

I hang up the cellphone and go over to the coin phones. I dial the 800 number, and in less time than it takes to read the entire Bible, an agent is on the line.

Norwegian Air how may I help you?” he says in a thick Indian accent.

I'm calling from the airport,” I tell him. “My flight was canceled and I don't know what to do.”

I'm sorry,” he says. “There is a very bad connection. Can you tell me again why you're calling?”

MY FLIGHT WAS CANCELED!” I yell into the phone.

I understand your flight was canceled. Is that correct?” he asks.

'Yes,” I say.

Pardon me?” he says.

YES!” I shout.

I shout my ticket number and “record locator” into the phone. He looks it up.

You are correct,” he says. “Your flight has been canceled. We can offer you two options. You can reschedule the flight for another time or you can receive a full refund.”

Can I rebook for tomorrow?” I ask.

Tomorrow, did you say?” He asks.

YES!” I shout.

Please hold,” he says.

In less time than it takes to build the Second Avenue Subway, he's back on the line.

I can book you for tomorrow,” he tells me. “For security purposes, could you give my your birthday?”

One-thirty-one-fifty” I say.

I'm sorry. This is indeed a bad connection,” he says. “Could you please repeat that?”
” I shout.

Thank you for that information. And may I know your telephone number.”

By now the whole airport is looking at me... standing by myself at a bank of payphones, shouting at the top of my lungs. I'm afraid they're going to call security. The airport crew must be quite on edge these days.

After shouting the last four digits of my social security number, my email address, and the spelling of my name...

Is that M-I-K-E-L?” he asks.

No! M-Y... like in YIPPIE-- K-E-L!” I say.

Thanks you for that information,” he says. “There should be a confirming email in your inbox within the next few minutes.”

I shout... and hang up.

I check my email. Nothing new there except an offer from some Nigerian asking me to hold his money.

On the train back, I have a nice talk with Ari, a Guyanese guy. We talk about Kaiter Falls and where to get good pepperpot in New York. Yeah, Sybils is the place, we both agree.

I make it home in less time than it takes for dinosaurs to become extinct. By then, there is a message from Norwegian air with “confirmation” of my flight tomorrow. I have dinner and start writing.

It's now about 3:30AM, my time. I'm going to post this and try to get some sleep. I'll let you know what happens tomorrow.... er... today... later. 


Today I checked the Norwegian Air website well in advance. This was waiting for me:


That means I have to get up at 5AM my time... and I arrive just after midnight in Denmark! My poor hostess... my poor circadian rhythm!

I've written before about how I hate it when everything goes right. That always means a disaster later. Right now, I hope I'm getting my disaster out of the way... even before I leave.


Oh yeah, you can read my other-- more controversial-- blog at Comments are welcome.

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