Daily Archives: October 19, 2011

My life in an airport: Day 3


While I was able to get to sleep almost instantly, I woke up just as quickly. I had been asleep less than 20min, and was completely unable to get myself to go back under. Every way I turned hurt, and the floor itself was sucking the warmth out of my body as bad as if I was sleeping on an iceberg. It was 12:30 already, and thus a new Orbital guard had appeared to take over the early shift; so I figured that he may be able to help me out with some blankets and such. Ha.

“Hi, its extremely cold in there, could I have a blanket please” ← Me, in nearly-perfect Portuguese… Thanks Danielle for helping me translate!

“No, I’m not cold. Its warm. Its hot. No blanket.”

This conversation repeats itself a few times, with him finally giving up and just yelling “HOT HOT HOT” at me in Spanish. Seriously… a 50+ year old dude was just yelling “hot” at me. To add a barb to his stupidity, about 5min after he finally stopped yelling he shivered, got up, and put on his jacket and hat to warm himself up. I looked at him with a “Really?” look, and he flipped me off. Yeah… mature.

After another hour of trying to sleep, I give up. Screw this, I don’t care about immature old dudes, I need a damn blanket. I double-check how to ask for blankets and pillows in Portuguese, pack up my bags, and walk up to the guard. The conversation went just about the same, and so I pull out my notebook and ask for his name, saying that I’m going to the Policia. THAT scared him something fierce, and so he asked me to come to the hotel, so that he could have someone translate for us. I go, and with the help of the concierge we decide that the guard will call for blankets, and if no one brings them within the hour then we’ll call the Policia to ask them for blankets, since it appears that they’re the ones who actually run the airport. Yay governments running everything!

Zero hour: 1:40. I had been reading, so I get up and head outside to talk to the guard. On my way to see him I run into a Reggae band from Jamaica who’s waiting for their flight. We end up hanging out and chatting for about 20min before I finally break through and talk to the guard.

“Its been an hour, can we call now?”


“Umm… why? You agreed that we would”

“No… No. I don’t want to”

Ok, fine. Prick, I’ll do it myself. I walk towards the security checkpoint, and the guard watches me, looking confused. When he finally realizes that I’m leaving, he freaks out, runs after me and says that he’ll call them himself. He calls, and talks on the phone for a bit before hanging up and telling me that they’ll be here in about 15min. I’m a little skeptical, since it didn’t sound like he was actually talking to the Policia Federal on the phone (from my weak knowledge of Portuguese), but I held out hope that he wasn’t dicking with me. However, when 30min had gone by without anyone showing up, and without him looking one bit surprised by this fact, I started to get a bit annoyed.

I called him out on the fact that the Policia were late, and he didn’t even argue, saying that he’ll just call again soon. 15Min pass without him calling, so I ask AGAIN. “In a minute”. After another 15min I’m reading my kindle, relaxing and trying to calm down and accept that he won’t call. “Wait. No. Why am I accepting this crap?” My brain asks me. “Why, Mr. Brain, I don’t know! Thats a good point!”

I put away my book and get up in a fury, finally realizing how much of a liar and scumbag the guard has been. I mean, I can understand people doing whats best for themselves and not really caring about others, but seriously? This guy wasn’t helping himself, he was simple going out of his way to hurt me. He didn’t have other work to do or anything either; this whole time he was sitting and daydreaming, maybe staring off into space or working on his sudoku puzzle.

“Hablo Policia, o Voy a Policia.” I tell him. (Its spanish, for “speak to police, or go to police”)

“No… no”

“Yes. NOW. Hablo o Voy?”

At this point the guard is looking rather concerned, and one of the Jamaican guys asks me whats up. I explain the situation, and it turns out that they want in on the blankets. They were supposed to have reservations at the hotel, but no one booked the actual reservations and they’re stuck in the same area as me for a 17 hour layover. It stinks for them, but it gives me great allies against the guard. You should have seen how terrified the guard was when he realized that I wasn’t alone anymore, and the 10 scary black guys standing around his desk also wanted blankets. Haha… win.

One of the band members comes with me, and all three of us walk down to the policia station, though the guard drags his heels rather impressively, trying to keep us walking slowly. I honestly don’t care though, so by the time I get to the police station the guard is nearly 30feet behind us, looking forlorn. I wait around for one of the officers to finish with what their doing (helping out the passport officials), and it turns out that this guy speaks near-perfect English. I write down his name (Firmino), and we talk about my problem. He’s already heard my basic situation, and he asks me to explain what I’d like. I tell him the situation in about 5 sentences, at which point the guard finally catches up to us and starts word-vomiting all over the officer.

After 10min or so of the guard blathering non-stop at the Policia officer, the officer finally gives up and tells the guard to shut up (literally “ferme la boca”, or “shut your mouth”) and goes back to talking to me. He says that the Policia don’t have any blankets, but that we’ll go up and he’ll try to get the hotel to let me stay that night. Or if they can’t, to at least give me some basic provisions. Sweet….

Unfortunately the hotel is booked solid, and their completely unwilling to sell me blankets or pillows or anything. Totally surprising, mmhmm… <sarcasm> But in keeping with the “actually a good human being, unlike everyone else”, the Policia has me write down his name, and tells me to come see him if anything else goes wrong or if he can help at all. He had a 48 hour shift (seriously, its freaking insane), so he said he’d be around for a while. On top of that he recommended looking into legal action against LAN, since they were CLEARLY failing in their required duties to me. Ha, I like this guy a lot. He headed out, but not before reminding me to get in touch with him again around 10:00, since that was when the hotel said they’d have opening again. He also said that, if I could get LAN to bring my bags to him in the security area, he’d let me grab whatever I needed from my luggage (I’d have to pass it through security though, of course). Damn. Win.

I headed back to the holding tank empty-handed, but happy that I had finally gotten something done. I felt bad that I hadn’t been able to help the Jamaican guys, but they seemed to be doing pretty well. Especially since they knew that they were only going to be there for a few hours. I spent a few hours reading and watching my copy of “Into the Wild”; usually a really good movie, but in this case it was a bit tough to watch a story about a guy adventuring across the country… seeing as I was trying to do the same, but happened to be trapped in a tiny room at the time. Around 4:00 I finished up as much of the movie as I could watch, and layed down to try for some more sleep.

Fourty five minutes later I woke up, sure that I had died and gone to hell. I’ve always had troubles with neck pains… usually small aches that could be remedied by stretching or a light massage from a lady friend. Not this time though; when I woke up all I could feel was a blazing line of heat running from just behind my left eye all the way down to my jawbone. I couldn’t think, and was barely able to walk outside to ask for some aspirin. No one had any, of course, so I paced around the area trying to stretch the muscles out and relieve a bit of the pain. After about half an hour of stretching I gave up and sat down, working through some of the mental meditations that I had learned from random hippie friends. This worked a bit, but it took me nearly three hours to finally come back down to a nearly-sane level of pain… mostly thanks to one of the Jamaican guys giving me some of his stress medication (just a small-dosage aspirin really, from the ingredients).

Any thoughts of sleep were completely removed from my mind after this interlude, and so I watched the rest of “Into the Wild” and finished another one of my books, simply playing the waiting game. At this point I had two main goals for the day: Talk to the Consulate exactly at 8:00 when they opened, and convince LAN to bring my luggage to the security checkpoint. I actually waited until 8:02 to call the consulate (very polite of me, I think), and started getting shit done as soon as I was off the phone with them. They were sending a runner to the airport to meet some dignitary, and so he would bring me the forms I needed to get a temporary passport,as well as bring them back to the Consulate. Once the consulate had them it would only take half an hour or so to process the new passport, and then they’d bring it back to me at the airport. The whole ordeal would take around seven or eight hours, in theory, since driving to and from the airport took nearly three hours.

Everything went smoothly today, and it honestly was starting to seem like my earlier neck pain was simply a Karmic-balance for the perfection of the rest of the days activities. I had my passport pictures taken by the Jamaican guys, emailed them to the Consulate, and filled out the forms in person. I was even able to get LAN to bring my luggage to the checkpoint (with HUGE amounts of convincing, of course. I finally just told them to do it and stop whining, unless they’d prefer that I have the Policia tell them IN PERSON that it was ok), and was able to get my air mattress up into the room. As soon as I had the mattress inflated I was laying down to the best sleep I’d had in days.

It didn’t last though, and within the hour (seriously, in 72 hours I got maybe 3-4 hours of sleep) I was woken up by one of the LAN guys poking his head into the room and screaming my name. Freaking Banshee, I swear. So I dragged myself awake and stumbled outside where he quickly barraged me with questions and asked me for a credit card. What the fuck. Seriously? Yeah, he tried the old “jump the guy when he can’t think” trick. Nope. Denied. I told him to hold up, shook the cobwebs out of my brain, took a few sips of a soda I had left over, and then asked him to slowly repeat what he wanted.

Turns out that the Consulate had called saying my passport was ready, and LAN wanted to go and pick it up for me. Normally, that would be nice. But with them, I doubt they would have given it back. On top of that, he wanted me to pay for the driver, a total of $200 USD. So I called up the consulate to double-check this all with them… they told me that LAN had called them, not the other way around, and that LAN had said the driver would be on the house, as a courtesy to me. Ha. Lying cheating bastards. I asked if the consulate could send someone (I would pay, of course), and the duty officer told me that they’d send someone right away, and that I wouldn’t have to pay a dime. The only downside would be that it’d take a few hours. Fine by me, the earliest flight back to the states didn’t leave for another ten hours.

Boom, so now I have a passport, though its not in my hands it is on the way. I actually trust the consulate when they tell me something (unlike LAN), and so I set about getting my flights in order. Turns out a same-day trans-continental flight isn’t cheap (wow, I didn’t expect that!), but I was able to find a semi-cheap flight on American Airlines that went direct from Sao Paulo to Miami, and from Miami to Boston. And since I wouldn’t be able to continue my South American tour (more on that later), I was able to defray some of the cost by canceling a few of my other tickets.

All of this booking took me nearly two hours, so I had just enough time to settle in with a book for a chapter or two before the Consulate’s runner showed up with my passport. He was a cool guy, not one of the ones I had met before, and he let me know a few other little facts about the temporary passport that I didn’t already know. After we chatted he headed out, and LAN came over to talk to me about booking a new flight. They told me all about their amazing flights to the USA, and how they would lower the cost for me by $500 because of all this trouble (I later realized they planned on refunding the tickets I had already canceled. The tickets worth $700). I chuckled, and politely informed them that I would NOT be flying with them again, since <insert some BS excuse about airline miles here>.

The rest of the day went slowly, but inoxerably, forward towards my departure. I relaxed, but couldn’t actually sleep at all due to the exceitement of finally going home, and the adventure of finally being able to explore the airport. Not that there was much to explore, but still. Leave a cat in a cage for long enough, and a cardboard box will seem like a palace. A few of my adventures that day –

  • Met a really cool German couple; Jessy and Pepe. Or father and daughter? Not sure. I only think couple because when I walked up to chat, the girl vomited a whole line about how she has a boyfriend and doesn’t want to be flirted with. I laughed at her, told her my story, and we shot the shit about life and the universe for a while.I guess their emmegrating from Germany to Paraguay due to the political climate of Germany, supposedly taxes reach 70% when you take everything into account, and their just sick of insane politicians taking over. Rough, but I really cant imagine Paraguay being better. Anyways, we hung out for an hour or so talking about Europe, The States, South America, and everything in between. Really a fun time, I’ll admit. And Jessy… Damn. That girl is good looking. Pepe’s a lucky guy 🙂
  • I hung out with some Bangladeshi guys, and tried to help them stave off deportation. Yep, thats right. Deportation. Not because they were illegals in Brazil, but that they were traveling through Sao Paulo to Jamaica, through Panama. Are you confused? Good, because I was too. The story is as follows:Guys fly from Bangladesh to Sao Paulo. Fly to Panama. Panama sends them back to Sao Paulo because they had a 72 hour layover, which isn’t allowed. So in Sao Paulo, the airline confiscated their passports, until the guys could buy new tickets. For some reason. Well, they bought new tickets for the day after, and showed the Brazilians the confirmation numbers. Instead of returning their passports, the AIRLINE decided to start the government documentation to deport them. Seriously. WTF.So I tried to help them out, but unfortunately their kind of pushovers, and kind of whiny… they didn’t want to contact their consulate because they thought “consulate” meant “run by Brazil, not Bangladesh”, and thus didn’t trust them. I finally gave up after a few hours, and went my own way “to find lunch”.

My flight finally arrived, and I was first in line to board. I made sure to check in early, just to head-off any problems that may have arisen with my tickets. This turned out to be a VERY intelligent decision, because as it turns out, everything had gone wrong. Again. First off, my tickets weren’t confirmed, just reserved, because my credit card hadn’t gone through. So I called Schwab, and it turned out that there was a cap on purchases on the card: $500, vs the $2180 that the ticket cost. So they removed it, and tried again, and declined again. After five more tries and five more theoretical solutions, we found the problem: the airline wasn’t running it as a PURCHASE, they were running it as an ATM transaction. What. But so we fixed it, and moved onto the next problem: My baggage.

Turns out, again totally unexpectedly, LAN had not actually transferred my bags to American when they said they had. Nope, they just locked my stuff up in their office and went home instead. Thankfully American Airlines is awesome, and they were able to work everthing through, and after about an hour of fighting they were able to get my bags onto the plane. Of course, by that point my flight had come and gone, but since they were working with me the stewardesses actually pushed through a flight-change for me and moved me to a later flight. Nice. I like them. I finally boarded the flight, sat down, and prepared myself to get my first real sleep since arriving in Sao Paulo.

I didn’t sleep much, of course, but the flights to Boston went very well and quite quickly. From Sao Paulo to Miami I slept, ate (They served a rather nice meal), and chatted with the girl next to me. A Brazilian national, she’d been living in Detroit for a few years now and had just finished a little visit with her family. We talked and complained about Brazil and the world in general, and I did my best to help her ignore the upset stomach that she was wrestling with at the time. We stayed together through customs and into the next terminal, finding out that our flights outbound from Miami were docked right next to each other. By the time I boarded my plane to Boston we had shared nearly our entire life stories, and I was a bit sad to see her go, though we exchanged emails and I’m sure we’ll keep in touch.

<Sigh> the flight to Boston. Amazing, but soul-crushingly depressing at the same time. I had been gone barely more than a week, and here I was flying back home already. I slept fitfully for the entire flight (as much as I could, being wedged between a fat dude and a body-builder), got my gear when I landed, and slowly made my way back to Medway. From here? A new passport awaits, and a flight to New Zealand late in November. Other than that? We’ll see.