The flight home, all in all, was a bit of a disaster but one of the brightest parts was while boarding the second leg at Frankfurt International Airport. This is an airport I despise and will do my best to avoid at all costs. Over the years any encounter with the Frankfurt Airport has left me in two minds. One is clearly frustration while the other is endearment.
If the truth be told it would appear that I have a mini love-hate relationship with an airport.
I remember one flight, back in 1988, from Rio to London which had a stop-over in Frankfurt. In Rio I had been lounging on the beach thinking my flight was at 6:30pm. At 2pm I was still soaking in the days rays when I realized my flight really left three hours earlier.
All hell broke loose and my Brazilian friends accused me of being an honorary Brazilian but noted that this may not be working so much in my favor at this time. We raced
to the airport with me changing clothes en-route in the cramped two-door Honda.
As we approached the terminal a friend jumped out, ran to the security line and desperately pleaded with the officer to allow me through even though my gate had closed. Given this was 1988 and not post 2001 the plea worked and I was escorted to the gate with less than a few minutes to spare.
Skip past the trans-Atlantic flight and there I was in Frankfurt; all my bags had been declared missing by the airline. I had stupidly packed all my epilepsy medication in one of the bags; something I never did, do, or have ever done since.
On this occasion, given the Rio rush, I had made a misstep.
Baggage claim and security were not about to do anything but good fortune was not far away in the form of a ticket counter girl who took me under her wing. She hustled me off to the parking lot and drove me in her car to a small town; to a pharmacy.
It was closed.
She knocked on the door like she was conducting a humanitarian home invasion; waking everyone inside. The pharmacist comes down in his night robe looking disgruntled and a lot like Mr. Scrooge but opens up his shop to me and fills a temporary prescription; enough to get me back to London, with a couple of days extra, then sends me and the ticket girl on our way.
That event endeared Frankfurt to me; one of those slices of life and chance encounters that cannot be scripted.
Over the years whenever I have had to fly through Frankfurt something has happened. Frankfurt Airport is one of the least desirable airports I have come across. There is absolutely no access to anything remotely resembling comfort and it would certainly not seem out-of-place if a sign on the wall indicated that attempting to seek comfort was strictly forbidden.
This arrival in Frankfurt would be no different from all the others.
When leaving Delhi my flight had been overbooked and, as is usual in these situations, an enticement was offered by the airline to anyone wishing to give up their seat for a later flight. Along with that you would be put up in a five star hotel, transferred to and from the airport, and given a flight coupon for any future date worth 1200 euro’s…quite a deal!
Being expected back at work the following day I was not able to accept the offer so, with disappointment, I declined.
My arrival in Frankfurt was on time however the intended brief layover quickly turned into a twelve hour delay. I found myself in the familiar shuffle from terminal to terminal looking for a place to sleep, or at the very least; rest. The first ten hours went by with slow agony but it was the last couple that made for this chapter of my journey.
As I sat in the waiting area of my gate I noticed an attractive woman reading a Paulo Coelho novel and this sparked a conversation between us. Lisa was from the US and had started a company renting out villas in France to American families looking for a respite on the Riviera, a Parisian getaway, or a holiday of peace and quiet in a quaint countryside village.
We talked about other Coelho books we had read and she explained to me how much the book she was reading meant to her. It had touched her and refocused her thinking about both business and life.
When it was time to board the plane we separated to take our seats. After take-off I went to the bathroom and was only gone a few minutes. Upon returning to my seat there was her book in its bright red jacket…”Eleven Minutes” by Paulo Coelho.
I looked for Lisa all over that plane and can only assume she was in first class as I could not find her anywhere. In fact I would never see her again but in the book was a note “Enjoy this book and all life has to offer – Lisa”…and her business card with an email address. It was a very cool gesture and an act of kindness when I was in need of one.
Hi Tim – Thank you for your email. I can be rather spontaneous at times and for some reason you touched me and I wanted to share the book with you. I hope you enjoyed it and that life is smiling on you.
Take care! Lisa
To find out how this all came about; click Beckoned Skyward by an Earthquake.