Europe current locationAfter my alarm went off, I sat in bed for a moment and willed myself to wake up. I’d gotten a decent amount of sleep, but was still being willed back into dreamland. I didn’t even let myself snooze though. I forced myself to get up so I’d make sure and have enough time to get out the door with all my things. I showered, dressed, and packed up my toiletries, packing them into the tiny chamber in my luggage. I hoped they wouldn’t get too squished. Once the dishes were done and put away, I put all the luggage into the entryway and did one final check of the room. I’m very anal about the final room check, and look like crazy even in areas I’ve never been. You never know. I fear that one day I’ll end up like John Cusack in The Sure Thing, when Daphne Zuniga’s character loses her organizer in the hotel room.

I closed the door, made sure it latched, and lugged everything to the elevator in the hall. The lights were oddly on in the hallway, for the first time since I’d arrived. It made everything weird looking, since I was used to the shadowy corridors. The elevator opened, and a man was inside, cleaning the walls. He said “Guten Morgen,” to me, which I returned back, then asked if I wanted to go to the underground. I was pretty sure of that, anyway and nodded, saying yes in German. The elevator doors opened, he thanked me asI walked out, and the doors closed. Even this floor was brightly lit, and I said good-bye to my ghost as I went through the door to the Tiefgarage.

“Have a good afterlife,” I called to the emptiness, my voice echoing. I loaded the bag into the car and moved it to a closer spot. Upstairs I enjoyed my final wonderful Steigenberger breakfast, this time with fresh mango juice! While I leisurely munched, I used up the remainder of my Internet access card, since it was useless after that. I managed to get it down to 10 Euro cents before I had to head out. The girl who checked me in to breakfast and I exchanged goodbyes as I walked to check out at the front desk. She swiped my credit card once more, and I was very happy to know that this was reimbursed once I got back when I heard the total. Phew!

I was now a little late, so I rushed out to the car, and used the access card for the final time. The drive to work was short as usual, and I was able to get inside only ten minutes after eight. I guess since it was Friday, nobody was in the room! I was *still* the first one there. Michel was already out of the country, so I wasn’t going to expect him. I took a seat and waited. A moment later Doug and Janice walked in. After they were settled, Janice organized a coffee trip for the three of us. I could have had her take me down to the lab, but a) I wanted coffee, and b) I’d already finished everything I was here to do, so it would have just been extra anyway.

I checked my balance on my card to see if I could get coffee. There wasn’t much credit left on it, but certainly enough to get a macchiato. Doug saved me the effort and paid for my cup.

“It’s a race,” he said, “to see how little you can get down to on your card before you leave. At one point I thought I was doing good with 50 cents.” Someone took his card at one point and got him down to like 13 cents. This was in the cafeteria; doing it on the coffee machine was cheating. I noticed at this point the refund machine I’d have to return to later to get my money and deposit back from the card.

We returned to the room, and I checked email and did random officey-type things for a few more minutes. At that point I decided to use up the rest of my testing time and asked if anyone could let me into the lab downstairs. Rene volunteered. I was hoping, when I got in there, that my new Japanese friend would be available. He wasn’t there, and unfortunately he didn’t show up for the duration. I did what little work I felt was necessary, then returned upstairs at 10. I had a meeting with a different Rene and Daniel about a different part of the project, something I was also tasked to do, and I got that out of the way finally. They’re both really nice and down-to-earth, and were interested in the software behind my web site.

Back in the room I donated my Ayumi Hamasaki CD to Rene – I didn’t need it as I had the original CD at home as well as the MP3s I’d made of it. Janice requested a listen, and Doug actually asked for it as well; he must have liked it. At this point it was lunchtime, and we all walked together to the cafeteria. The choices today were limited, but half of us (including myself) got goulash, the other half baked herring. Janice and Doug both had the fish and said they were “pleasantly surprised”. The goulash wasn’t bad either, although it didn’t look like much. As we left the cafeteria, I ran into Susanto and told him thanks for his help and goodbye.

The walk was next, and everyone seemed ready to go. We gathered our coats, and I, for some silly reason, decided to go without my sweater underneath my coat. We all walked outside into the cold, even though the weather looked threatening. As we walked it started to spit, but then we realized the drops were flurrying around. I thought it was snowing again,

“The technical name for this is sleet,” said Janice, unimpressed. The rate of the precipitation increased, and we found ourselves getting pelted with tiny bits of ice. Our pace increased slightly, as did the wind, but soon the breeze was outstepping us. When we rounded the corner back toward the entrance, we were suddenly greeted with a gale-force insanity that whipped the sleet full force into us. Janice had pulled her scarf up over her face, but I had no such protection.

“It’s going *sideways*!” I yelled, looking out to the horizon, and seeing the ice flying horizontally at high rates of speed. I couldn’t look forward for fear of losing an eye, and all of us were laughing hysterically while staring at the ground. Our coats were blown flush against us, and I could feel the ice rattling against the fabric of my jacket. The wind was so strong, in fact, that the ice would hit us, *lay flat against us* and melt, making the forward-facing parts of our clothes damper and damper. “This is insane! WHO was it who wanted to go on a walk again?” I asked, jokingly at Janice. The ice was stinging my face, and my head dipped further and further down toward the ground until I could only see my feet moving on the pavement. We turned left at last, close to the building and the wind dropped, we thought because of the structure beside us. One look up revealed the truth; the sky had become blue above us, and a line of dark clouds was moving off toward the airport. “It’s a front!” I yelled, and my breath puffed a tell-tale steam. The temperature had dropped a number of degrees, but outside of that, the conditions were returning to normal. It was absolutely bizarre how fast conditions could change like that, and I was reminded of the time Casey and I were extras in a movie shoot and the temperature had dropped 30 degrees in fifteen minutes. We brushed the ice off our bodies and out of hair before stepping inside and unzipping our coats, breathing a large huff of relief to be out of the Weather Shift from Hell.

I had now only about fifteen minutes until the time I had designated for my departure, and I wanted to use up the money on my card. It would have been smarter, I decided, to have stopped to get coffee right after lunch, but I didn’t have the brains to do so. I said out loud I was going to get some, and then rushed down to the cafeteria. When I arrived, I had enough for two cups, so I bought one extra for Janice or Doug, whoever wanted one. The next step was to put my card into the refund machine. It didn’t have a language selection, unlike the loading one, and I suddenly found myself faced with two buttons: “mit Phunds” and “ohne Phunds”. I wished I’d had someone around who spoke German. There were about 80 people on the other side of the glass nearby who did, but that was silly to go ask a random person. First I ejected it, thinking I’d go get someone, but the time involved was excessive. I re-instrted it and did a little mental reasoning. “Mit” meant with, and “ohne” as I recall from Kevin, meant without (“wasser ohne gas” – noncarbonated water). So one was with, one without. “Phunds”. Sure sounds like “funds” to me, and title case means noun in German. I pressed the “mit Phunds” button, and after some bizarre long list of transactions appeared on the screen, the machine began to spit out coins like mad. When I retrieved these, I realized it was the exact contents of the credit, plus 2.50 – the deposit on the card. Yatta!

I rushed back to the room as carefully as one can while carrying two hot cups of cappuccino. When I arrived, I asked if Janice wanted it, and she said she had intended to go with me, but I had disappeared. She was very thankful for the coffee, however. I drank this quickly, and finished the single yogurt cup I’d brought with me from the hotel as a post lunch-treat. It was very thin, as it had warmed up a lot, but was still very yummy. I decided to save the apple for later.

At 1PM, I put everything away and put on my coat. Janice and Doug had disappeared, but I said bye to Rene and Rayko, whom I’d see in a few weeks anyway. Rene said he’s let Janice and Doug know I said goodbye. I booked out the door, signing out with the cute security guard, this one who knew my name. “Auf Wiedersehn!” I called as I stepped through the revolving door. I raced to the car and drove off the lot.

I took a left a few lights down and turned into the gas station near the airport. I’d assumed they probably ripped off everyone, as they do in the States, but the prices here didn’t seem so bad. 96 Euro cents per liter of diesel. I pulled up initially to the truck pump, but realized my mistake and backed up to the normal car one. I pulled the nozzle out and began to fill the tank. I was afraid that the pump wouldn’t shut off for some reason, and I rolled up my coat sleeve some in case the fuel began spraying out on my arm. Fortunately, it clicked like every other pump in the world, and I put up the nozzle.

Fifty Euros. It was over a fifty liter tank, and I’d put in almost the entire amount! Wow, that’s SO expensive! It comes out to about 14 kilometers per liter, and a little bit of calculations puts that out as 32.38 MPG. Not shabby for it being mostly city driving, plus good stints at 110MPH. Diesel rocks. Still, a $65 fill up is a little on the pricey side! (96 euro cents per liter makes the cost for diesel about $5 per gallon, and that’s the *cheapest* fuel you can buy)

I drove back towards where I’d come out of the parking garage looking for where to take the car. Fortunately as sign in English designated the rental car return, and a man pointed me into a spot. He checked the car, wrote a few things on the receipt, and handed me a copy. I followed the signs for the terminal, but wasn’t sure where it exactly was. When all else fails, follow the guys speaking German. A group was headed in that direction, and I hung back, using them as a guide. This led me to an elevator, and on the second floor we all got out. A glass-enclosed overpass provided access to the main terminal.

Like I said when I got here, it’s very new and modern-looking. I located the Lufthansa check in counter, which wasn’t hard, since I didn’t see any other airlines! No lines here. I approached the desk clerk. I didn’t have any of my information, and he couldn’t find my reservations, so I ended up turning on my laptop to get out the flight plan. I wrote down the numbers and times, so I wouldn’t have to do it again. He checked my bag all the way to Helsinki, but couldn’t give me a boarding pass. I’d have to check in again when I arrived in Frankfurt.

At this point, I had a good twenty minutes to kill, so I wandered the airport, taking pictures here and there. On the top floor, you could see the plant and the environs. At this point, I decided to ditch my shopping bag, broken umbrella, and eventually water as well; the pickles had dumped juice inside it, and everything reeked of vinegar. Down the escalator I went, deciding the earlier I went inside the better. I rearranged my stuff, putting all metal things into my bag. I wasn’t allowed through without my passport, boarding pass, and luggage check, the latter of which I had to get out of my backpack. He scanned it as I walked through. I guess this was to link each bag with a boarded passenger. Xray was easy, no need to take things out of the bag. The woman dumped my change into my hand from the big tray holding my coat, which was helpful.

Once again there were dogs waiting to get on the plane. I could hear them barking and whining. A large crowd had gathered, and they almost immediately announced boarding. There wasn’t any semblance of a line, people just pushed their way up to the front, and this seemed to slow down the process. Once on the plane, this hindered boarding as well; they don’t board by rows here either and the entire column of people must pause while someone in row 4 puts their stuff in the overhead and takes off their coat. This happened a lot.

I took my seat in the aisle next to an older German couple. A moment later, there was a contention – they apparently were in the wrong row, and I had to let them out to be replaced by a younger German couple. This plane had the worst personal space of any aircraft I’ve been on recently. My knees were almost against the magazines, and I was sure when the person in front of me put their seat back, I’d break my nose on the tray table. I hadn’t bothered to take out my laptop, and this was a good choice. I read an article in the magazine about the new A380 Airbus is putting out, and thought about the UK Three again. It looks cool.

As the plane took off, it was obvious the dog was on board, as it was squealing like mad. I was feeling bad for it, and as usual, missing the pugs! It was a short flight, just under an hour, but they managed to get drink service around. I had a ginger ale in a very small can, and I was tempted to keep it. :) As the plane came in for a landing, it pitched wildly, reminding me of the original one I’d taken to Dresden. My fists clutched the chair as we dropped toward the ground, but the pilot managed to put down accurately in the end. Phoo. It took what seemed like forever to get off the plane, as everyone was taking their sweet time. I was impatient, with my tiny amount of area to breathe, to get back out into the real world. I stepped into Frankfurt, thankful to be on the ground.