My life in an Airport: Day 2

Standard

All in all I got about 45min of sleep, MAYBE one fully hour, before I gave up and started looking up plane tickets out of Sao Paulo. I had tried to find a way to sleep, but the fact remained that no matter where I tossed or how I turned, the only place to sleep in the room was on the cement floor… and cement is not a warm thing to sleep on. Needless to say, the Brazilian warmth didn’t do much to alleviate the cold, and the fact that I was dressed for Argentinian weather didn’t help much either. So I spent most of the evening with my jacket draped over my shorts, working with my laptop and charger on my lap keeping me rather toasty, if un-rested

I wasn’t able to find anything too usable (since I still didn’t have a passport I had switched to looking up advice on what to do in this situation), but luckily the internet kept me occupied enough that 6:00 rolled around fairly quickly. See, 6:00 was when the LAN folks had told me that they would come meet me, and we’d finish setting up my flights back to Boston, and I had believed them for some unknowable reason. Well, keeping with tradition (and acting as a harbinger for things to come) 8:00 rolled around with no word, and before I knew it 9:00 was knocking at the door while I was left wondering where LAN was, and more importantly when I would be able to get food. See, I hadn’t eaten since lunch yesterday, and I couldn’t just go get food since the guard wouldn’t leave my side. I did chow down on the oatmeal cookie that I had kept in my bag (thank you David Siegfried’s old army rations!), but an single Oatmeal cookie, while amazingly tasty, can only keep a stomach happy for so long.

After 9:00 had come and gone the Security guard took pity on me and said that she’d escort me down to the food court so that I could buy myself a sandwich for breakfast. On the walk down we actually started to get rather chummy, even with the language barrier of her speaking only Portuguese, and my tiny bit of Spanish being only so helpful in this situation. Unfortunately my delicious breakfast was not to be, since when we arrived back at the Orbital area I realized that the croissant I had bought was… undercooked, to say the least. The nicest way to describe it was “amorphously chewy”, but honestly it was just an uncooked lump of salty bread dough. I ate the cooked edges of it, as well as a lot of the semi-cooked portions, but mostly just contented myself that it was enough to keep me rolling until lunch finally rolled around.

Around 11:00 the guard and I decide that enough is enough; 5 hours late is not acceptable. She dials LAN on her special security phone (again, I don’t think to ask what the number is so that I could call myself), and I finally get to talk to someone from LAN. She gives me a nice little run-around, and I start to loose my cool a little bit, I have to admit. She keeps telling me to keep waiting, and that their not going to return my ID, since they need it for these security checks they’ve been doing. I finally threaten to go to the Policia Federal if she won’t give me my ID back, at which point she tells me, in her words, “Oops, we’re really busy now. Can’t help you anymore. Call back for the next shift at 1:00”. And hangs up. Seriously.

Unfortunately I didn’t call her bluff by going to the Policia, and just layed back with my book and laptop until about 1:30. When I do finally hear from them around 1:40 (after I called twice, they never called back like they promised to. Noticing a theme here?) the guy on the line is very apologetic about the woman before, and tells me that their setting up a flight for me to San Francisco through Lima, and that it will likely be later that evening, and that they just need my ID to ensure that I’ll be able to enter the states once I land. He actually comes by at 2:00 so that we can chat face-to-face, but of course nothing real comes from the conversation besides him telling me that they’ll call the US Embassy to double-check my citizenship.

Around 3:00 I call the embassy myself to double-check that they were open to calls, and to make sure that LAN had actually called them up. I got through to the Duty officer (even though the Consulate was closed for the day they were still taking calls) and him and I chatted a bit about my situation, but from what he said LAN hadn’t gotten through to them yet. So I called LAN back, with the help of the security guard, and double-checked the number that they were calling. I even told LAN the correct series of numbers to enter to get directly through to the duty officer on staff. I waited about 45min and then called the Consulate back, hoping to hear that they had talked to LAN and that everything was set. They still hadn’t heard from anyone at LAN, and from what their phones were saying, not a single call had come through besides mine. I was finally starting to think that something was up when I called LAN back, and and he said that he’d come up to talk with me, since he hadn’t been able to get through to the Consulate’s office.

<sigh>… it figures that it would be exactly 4:20 when LAN’s screen of lies finally fell apart. At 4:00 LAN had said that they’d be up to meet me in 5min, so when I called back at 4:20 to ask where they were, the guard initially didn’t want to let me call. When she realized it had been 20min however, she looked as annoyed as I was and called them right up. I asked why they hadn’t come up, and this was the conversation (paraphrased, since it swapped between English, Spanish, and Portuguese)

Me – “Hi, its been 20min, are you going to be here soon?”

LAN guy – “No, we’re not coming because the consulate is closed and we couldn’t get through to them”

“No… their definitely open, I was just on the phone with them. Maybe I gave you the wrong number, can I check it and give it to you again?”

“No, no. Their closed. But it doesn’t matter anyways, since you don’t even have a ticket to fly out”

“Umm… what? When we talked at 2:00 you said that you had a ticket ready for me. What happened?”

“No, no. We never had a ticket. You have to buy your own”

In my mind – WHAT? Seriously? By basic international airflight law, if an airline brings someone to a country they are then responsible for that person if said person isn’t admitted into the country. If the person isn’t admitted, the airline has to fly them back to their home country. This was instituted to cut down on illegal immigrants and refugee’s, since it forces the airlines to check passports and visas before a flight leaves.

“So, you’re not providing me with a ticket? I thought we had discussed this earlier today and last night, what happened? Was I mistaken?”

“Yes, yes. You have to buy a ticket back to the USA with LAN airlines.”

“Ok. Then you don’t need my ID anymore. Can I have it back?”

“No, no… we need it. No.”

“Yes. I want it back. Where and when will we meet for you to give it back to me?”

“No… no.”

“YES. NOW. Where and when? Would you like to meet at the Policia Federal’s desk?”

“Ok, we meet in an hour. I’ll come find you.”

“No, where will I meet you?”

“I find you”

“NO! WHERE?”

“Gate 16, at 5:30”

“Ok, thank you very much, I’ll see you then.”

In my mind – Mmhmm… better believe it, you little shit. Stop messing with me, I am so over this little game you seem to enjoy playing.

Right here, this single conversation, is where this entire situation turned around for me. I finally realized that they were NOT interested in helping me, and were actually actively trying to screw me over. I stopped taking anyone at their word, and forced everyone to work on a pre-planned schedule. I even smartened up and finally started taking down names and phone numbers in my little notebook. That simple thing, the notebook, seemed to scare these people as much as the hand of God itself. And I used that fear every chance I could get.

So 4:50 rolled around, I grabbed my bag and headed over. I didn’t even wait for the security guard to come with me or give me permission, I just walked. Turns out I didn’t even need to get up, because before I had even left the main Orbital area the LAN people appeared, hollering out my name. Turns out they didn’t want to wait till 5:30, and had brought my ID with them. Of course, they didn’t have any of my other documents (including my baggage claim number and my flight information), saying that they had thrown it out after deciding they didn’t need it. Yet another example of their complete douchery.

I did remember to write down their names this time though, and started asking them about my baggage (since access to my sleeping pad would make this hellish concrete-room much more comfortable). They couldn’t help me of course, though I did file the idea away for later conversations with the Policia, since they would be the ones who would let me bring items through security from checked bags. From this point on the night thankfully went rather quickly; I met the new security guard when the shift changed, named Denis, and tried to get him on my side. It worked a bit, in that we hung out and had a fairly good time, but he didn’t actually work to help me out at all in terms of blankets or pillows or anything. Even though I totally helped him chat up a hot girl from Miami. Stupid Brazilian Guidos (Seriously, this guy could have been “the situations” twin off the Jersey Shore). I also tried to get a room in the transit-hotel, but they needed a passport and boarding ticket in order to reserve a room, for some pants-on-head-retarded reason, and thus all I was able to get was a second-rate massage at one of the little parlors in the terminal area. The massage was ok, it mostly just served to relieve some of the pain from sleeping on the floor, but the real bonus was the shower that I got to take… DAMN that shower felt good after nearly 36 hours crammed into a tiny room!

The rest of the night went pretty quickly, and I actually had a fair amount of fun even with the horrible situation I was in. Denis (the guard), a guy from Turkish Airlines and I headed to the Bar and had a few drinks, exploring Brazils selection of whiskey and rum. I was hoping that the booze would help me sleep that night, and when I finally spread myself out on the floor that night it seemed like the idea held true: I was out like a light within half an hour of laying down.

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