I’m blessed to be in Krakow, Poland for the next 5 days on a World Youth Day site inspection tour in advance of the big celebration in July. Our itinerary for the week consists of business meetings, site visits, and a bit of sightseeing.
Day 1 actually consisted of two days and started at 10am on Saturday when Gail and Kayla were bringing me the airport. After we dropped Sean and Jake off at bowling, we made our way to YVR and I mentioned to Gail that I would need to get out at “Domestic Departures” because I was flying to Toronto first, then Munich, and then Krakow.
“No,” she said, “it’s International Departures because you’re ending up in Poland.”
“How much do you want to bet?” I asked her.
“One million dollars,” she answered.
So I drove the van to International Departures, kissed and hugged both of my lovely ladies and made my way into the terminal. Upon reviewing the screens, I called Gail right away.
“You owe me a million dollars.”
Upon arriving to the gate (on the DOMESTIC side), I met up with my best friend extraordinaire Eunice. We passed the friendship test with flying colours when I was in the Diocese of Prince George back in October and Eunice and I spent 5 days together, the majority of it driving from town to town in her car.
We spent some time catching up on each other’s lives while remarking that we had better continue to get along given that we’d be hanging out for the next week (including Valentine’s Day).
We boarded our plane to Toronto and Eunice noticed Craig Kielburger of We Day and Free the Children fame sitting a couple of rows behind us. So as we were waiting to take off, I made my way back to Craig and made some small talk. He was very gracious and genuine and we likely would have spoken longer if I didn’t have to go to the washroom so badly.
In between naps, I watched The Martian and it was pretty darn entertaining. For the last hour of the flight, I was able to catch the first period of the Maple Leafs – Canucks game. Not so entertaining.
We arrived at Toronto’s Pearson Airport with about an hour to spare before our next flight. However, poor weather caused our flight out of Toronto to be delayed by almost an hour setting the stage for the mild chaos that was to come.
Half-way through the flight, we encountered some major turbulence. It was the worst turbulence that I’ve ever encountered and it lasted for almost 30 minutes. The plane was rocking back and forth with an occasional small dip for good measure. A lady seated near me started to cry out loud and thankfully people sitting immediately around her helped to comfort her. I wasn’t overly-scared; however I do admit scanning the safety card to remind myself of how to work the life jacket.
We arrived in Munich at 10:50am (Sunday morning). Unfortunately, our flight to Krakow started boarding at 10:45am. We made our way off the plane as quickly as we could and we started to walk briskly to our next gate. Our brisk walk quickly turned into a jog as we watched the minutes slip by towards the 11:15am departure time.
We rounded a corner at 11:05am and were met with an unexpected obstacle: German customs. Seeing the line-up, we were resigned to the fact that we wouldn’t make our connecting flight. We finally got through at 11:15am and ran towards our gate in a last ditch effort to make our flight. Once we realized that we had to go through a security check-point, we knew we wouldn’t make it.
We went to book a later flight with Lufthansa and they issued us tickets for a 3:05pm flight.
I asked the employee, “Just for peace of mind, and so we don’t have any regrets about not doing everything in our power to make our original flight…can you tell us what time it left?”
She answered, “It actually left 5 minutes early at 11:10am. So there’s no way you would have made it.”
Her answer gave Eunice and I some small consolation that it wasn’t because of our slow running that we missed the flight. After issuing the tickets, I noticed the Lufthansa employee counting to four on her fingers. Then she made a call to someone while continuing to count to four. Then, she talked to her supervisor in German, all while still counting to four.
I whispered to my traveling partner, “Eunice…I’m guessing that they are trying to decide if we get meal vouchers or not for missing our flight. I bet that the minimum change is four hours yet the difference between our two flights (including the early take off) is 3 hours and 55 minutes.”
I had barely finished speaking when the employee returned to us and said, “We’re seeing if you qualify for food vouchers. Generally, it’s a four minimum yet you have a difference of 3 hours and 55 minutes.”
I smirked at Eunice as I replied, “So we’re talking about being 5 minutes short, aren’t we.”
“If it were up to me, I’d give them to you. But it’s Air Canada’s call. Why don’t you step aside until we get the final answer?”
So Eunice and I moved to a nearby pillar and sound down at its base. Five minutes passed. Then 10. Then 20. Finally, after half an hour, the employee returned and told us the bad news: we wouldn’t be getting food vouchers.
Eunice and I agreed it wasn’t about the 10-15 dollars we’d save, rather it was the handling of the situation and the waste of time that was annoying.
We went to buy lunch (on our own coin) and greeted each other a Happy Valentine’s Day haha. We went to gate G4 to await our third and final leg, passing this tempting Napcabs booth on the way.
As our flight time approached, I casually asked Eunice, “Have they made any announcements about our flight?”
“Just one,” Eunice said, “for the pre-boarding.”
“Okay, I’m going to run to the washroom.”
Just as I put my bags down we heard an announcement that almost made me wet myself: “Final boarding call for flight 1624 to Krakow. Please proceed to gate G8.”
What? G8? Then what we were doing at G4?
Eunice and I took off running once again and this time were able to make it on time. I looked at my boarding pass as I was getting checked in – it did indeed say G8 on it…but I hadn’t bothered to look.
Thankfully, our Munich-Krakow leg was quick and without incident. Upon landing and retrieving our bags, we met Marek (the driver) and 3 youth workers from other areas of North America. We made our way to our hotel in downtown Krakow with just enough time for me to check in and shower before we headed to Mass.
Six of us walked to the main market square and approached St. Mary’s Basilica. What was neat was that they had a World Youth Day countdown right outside the church (FYI, we’re 162 days away). The Mass inside the beautiful basilica was completely in Polish.
Thankfully, I was able to figure things out quite quickly – thank God for the universality of the Catholic Church! Right down to the announcements at the end of Mass – we speculated that the priest was either talking about a Bishop’s Appeal, the upcoming parish council meeting, or inviting lectors to pick up their new schedules from the sacristy.
We went to a nearby restaurant and met up with more of our delegation for the week. Imagine a dozen diocesan and parish ministry leaders eating together amidst 15-20 couples trying to enjoy a romantic Valentine’s dinner.
I returned to my hotel and jumped onto Facetime with the family. Gail and I greeted each other for Valentine’s Day, our 27th one as a couple. Too bad for this one we’re 8,400 kms apart!
After 23 hours of traveling, 3 flights, one missed flight, and another near-missed one, I’m looking forward to jumping into one of these beds.
Or both of them.