The Airport Mishap
An Airport is a place many people don’t enjoy being in. A place many consider connected to stress. There are many things that might go wrong in an airport: the flight may be delayed or cancelled, or they may ship your bags off to somewhere else. I always make sure to put the most important things in my hand luggage just in case something like that was to occur.
Thankfully there are many places to de-stress. Places like bookstores, restaurants, clothes stores, hell they might even have a massage parlour. If given time to kill and money to spend, there should always be something to do at an airport.
I find myself occasionally purchasing items duty free upon reentry into my country: a few gifts for my family help to smooth over the fact that I haven’t been answering all of their calls, and that I haven’t called them as often as I promised.
I’m an international student from Norway living and studying in England.
I’m an international student from Norway living and studying in England. During the school holidays I go home to see my family and friends. The events in this story didn’t take place in a Norwegian airport or at an English airport, but in Copenhagen. I had just been home for Christmas with my family in my home town of Bergen. I showed up at least an hour early, with a printout of my boarding card and flight plan. I like to be as prepared as possible when it comes to air travel. In the past I have had trouble regarding lost luggage and sudden delays or changes to the route. I feel my pocket to check for my passport and find it securely in its place. I use it to check in my luggage and make sure to put it back in the same pocket.
You might think I’m overly cautious, but I would rather be more meticulous than risk losing any of my important documents. If I were to suddenly find myself in England without my passport I wouldn’t be able to enter the country. The reason why I’m telling you this is so you can understand how seriously I consider international travel and even though I believe myself to be as careful and as good at planning my journey as possible: there is always something that can go wrong.
My flight plan was changed a week or so before my flight, and what should have been a simple flight from Bergen to Manchester was changed. I now had to change flights at Copenhagen. I was understandably frustrated by this, as this meant I would have to travel for much longer. Suddenly the trip was 4 hours longer when taking into account the time I had to spend waiting in Copenhagen.
I arrive at the airport in Copenhagen. First order of business: which gate? I track down one of the boards and find it hasn’t been decided yet. Reaching the gate area I find another sign which tells me the same. I figure this is the central hub for the gates as there are signs pointing in opposing directions, giving directions to clusters of gates.
Now begins the boring part. I’m going to be here for a couple of hours and I need something to do while I’m waiting for my gate to be confirmed. I decide to check out the shops and restaurants here. I see an overcrowded generic restaurant. Next is a bookstore, selling magazines and the newest, popular books. I stop to have a look and consider buying one, before remembering there are plenty of books I need to read already. Buying one just for the trip from Denmark to England would be a waste.
Next is a sports pub, with t-shirts of some local Danish football team signed and framed on the wall. Televisions line the walls showing some football match between reds and yellows. I’m not too interested in football. I wonder briefly if I should try having a drink, but think better of it after reminding myself of being prone to car- and seasickness in the past. Being intoxicated usually doesn’t improve conditions.
What follows are a few unremarkable shops that sell clothes, (lo and behold) a massage parlour and finally a shop specialising in ceramic elephants. Yes: ceramic elephants. Now this I have to see. After admiring or rather staring blankly at most of the uniquely painted elephants I briefly consider buying one before thinking better of it. Storing one of those in my hand luggage would be a pain, as it would probably break easily or take up too much space.
While this might seem as a commercial of sorts for the airport in Copenhagen, it isn’t intended as such. Rather, make note of my interest in the various things for sale and my considering buying them. I could have spent some of my money here, but I didn’t. I do what amounts to a couple of laps around the area, making sure to stretch my legs for the next flight. Finally I see my gate displayed on the board. I confirm it with my flight number and check I have my cell phone, passport, boarding pass, everything. I find the route I must take to my gate and resign myself to waiting for another two hours.
Feeling slightly hungry and very bored (despite the several ‘gigabytes’ of music on my music player) I decide to find a place to eat. The first restaurant seems a bit too crowded and loud for my liking. I spot a stairway going up a floor to what seems like a steak and grill restaurant. I decide to go have a look and find it to be quite nice. Not too crowded and not too loud. From what I can see it seems to be a bit more expensive than I would normally be into but I convince myself to eat there anyway. I tell myself I might as well eat some proper food now before I go back to England and start subsisting on noodles and cheap meals. There is room in my budget for a bit of splurging, so I sit down, order some food and watch the planes come in from the large window. The meal itself is alright. The beef is good, but the chips are a bit underwhelming. I enjoy my dinner and listen to my music while staring out the window for a good sixty minutes. With about fifty minutes ‘till boarding time I decide to go ahead and pay my bill.
I don’t have any Danish cash, so I pull out my debit card and insert it into the waiter’s machine. I input my pin and after a few seconds the machine displays the word ‘DECLINED’ in all capital letters. The waiter: a tall, darker-looking gentleman, most likely of Latin-European descent, informs me they have had troubles with some of their machines and quickly goes to fetch me another. I shrug and think ‘well, these things happen’, and continue staring out the window, twirling the card with my fingers.
Three machines later and three “DECLINED” later, I start thinking something might be wrong. I resolve to fix the issue and grab for my credit card, thinking perhaps their machines will enjoy this card instead. Nope. DECLINED, DECLINED, DECLINED and DECLINED. At this point I’m getting nervous and stressed. I wonder ‘is there something wrong with their card readers? It must be because I used more than one card…’
The waiter remains polite and shares my aggravation when none of the cards work for any of the apparently limitless amounts of card-reading machines they have. He asks if he should bring more. I ask to leave to try my luck at an ATM or bank instead. I leave behind my backpack and jacket with passport and take only my wallet with me. As I rush down the stairs I have a look at my wristwatch and find that time is running out. About thirty-five minutes until boarding and I also have to go to the gate. Thoughts are racing through my head as I follow the directions the waiter gave me to the nearby bank office: ‘What is going on? Why aren’t my cards working? Am I out of money? I don’t have time for this!’ I reach the desk and explain to the lady that I’m having trouble with my cards and ask if she could help me withdraw some money.
We give it a go: “DECLINED”. I realise I’m officially out of options. I have no more cards to use, no cash on me and my plane is leaving soon. ‘What happens now? Do I get arrested? Do I have to sign some papers and send the bill to my parents? Do I lose my flight? How does this work?’ I stand there thinking, sweating and feeling too stressed out to measure, until the lady behind the counter says: ‘maybe your bank has locked the use of your cards outside your home country.’ And then it hits me: ‘Of course!’ I almost yell at her, grab my cards back and hurriedly ask: ‘Where can I get internet here?’ She tells me to go speak to the people at the information desk and gives me directions. The gears in my head are turning now and I realise how incredibly lucky I am.
Many of us get a bad feeling when we’re about to travel. The feeling where you know you have forgotten something, but you have no idea what. I remember having this feeling as I arrived at the airport in my home town, but I did a quick mental check of my belongings and found that nothing was missing.
I had actually forgotten to change my settings in my e-bank. My e-bank has a safety-measure which says if your cards get stolen and somebody tries to use them in a different country they won’t work without special permission. My settings were to allow use in Norway and England, but the setting for the rest of Europe is always off by default.
I track down the information desk eventually, asking for directions twice more to make sure I’m on the right path. They give me a flyer with all the information I need to sign up for the free Wi-Fi, and I rush back to the restaurant. I find my way back to my table, and the waiter approaches me. He tells me: ‘don’t lose your flight!’ and I inform him I will be able to pay in a few minutes. I pull my laptop out of my backpack and quickly go through the steps for getting into the wireless internet. I notice I have below 10 minutes left on the battery, but I work quickly and eventually get access to the internet.
This is why I consider myself lucky: my e-bank requires a separate code be entered along with my information and this code changes every day. You are given a small device which you can carry with you anywhere that gives you the day’s code. I had this device in my backpack. I could have put it in my suitcase, but I didn’t. I left it in a room by itself in my backpack. If I didn’t have it here with me I would probably have to take up a job washing dishes until I could pay for the meal.
So I manage to log in with my details and code and change the setting to include Denmark. I call over the waiter and ask if we can try paying again. He brings me another machine (and another one just in case) and I insert my card. As I type my pin I still feel doubt: ‘what if there’s a delay on the setting? What if I have to wait for an hour for it to take effect? What do I do then?’ I hit ‘ENTER’. Every time before it came up “DECLINED” it would take at least 5 seconds before it was done deciding whether I had paid or not. This time it took only a split-second before the screen on the machine told me: “ACCEPTED”.
I did a fist pump while saying: “Yessssss” as if I had just scored the winning goal in the last game of the season (basketball, not football) and quickly grabbed my stuff. The waiter asked me what had been wrong and I hurriedly explained what had happened while making my way out of the restaurant. I had a plane to catch. The way over to the gate was pretty long, but I showed up just as boarding was starting and I arrived in Manchester without incident.
So, the moral I took away from this story was your gut feeling is mostly right, and even though you can’t be prepared for everything, there are definitely some things you should check every time you leave the country. Things like having your wallet, passport, phone, your suitcase, and notifying your bank of where you are. I like checking in online, so I always bring a printout of the boarding card. I always check the weight of my luggage, making sure it’s not over the limit. I also make sure I know where I put my baggage claim tag. Missing even one of these could be a great inconvenience, if not catastrophic.
From now on I think I will be sure to try buying a book or a bottle of water, or maybe even a ceramic elephant before I go eat at the most expensive restaurant in the place. You never know, you might not be able to pay for it!
Written by Oyvind Eide