The Cheap Seats – Return from Prague – Day 7

Found in a train underpass in Kutna Hora. My mother’s maiden name is Havlicek. I get my 50% Czech ancestry from that side of the family.

Friday morning dawned cold and overcast, such as we’d gotten used to over the last week. We had our
return transport arranged already, so all I had to do was check out of my hotel and go over to the other hotel to claim my last and final breakfast before leaving.

Still no bacon. Sigh.

After breakfast, we pulled our bulging luggage out to the uphill street and waited for our van. Of course, we were the last pick-up, so I got sandwiched between two Germans, neither of whom wanted to sit in the middle of the backseat. They talked around me, which was odd. I merely interrupted with “Gehuzeit!” at once point. They stopped talking.

The airport was crazy-busy, and we were too early to check-in. First, we had to hoof it from one terminal to the next, but at least this terminal had a Starbucks. So, instead of waiting, because that’s useless, I went to the Starbucks instead for a caramel macchiato.

An hour later, the counter number was finally given, and we were able to check in and send off our heavy bags. Passport control was another long wait, but then, we couldn’t find security. One should just run into security right off, but Prague’s airport has security at each gate, for two gates. I didn’t think we could escape a security check, but that was the strangest set-up I’d ever encountered.

I nabbed a water and a smoothie before we went through the checkpoint, and afterwards, we had to wait to board our first plane while scores of people lined up outside the single scanner and slowly checked in.

We ended up split in our seats by a man who liked to turn out his elbows in the middle seat and take up as much room as possible. That is, until I had elbow wars with him and won after I snapped “Bu zhidao!” (Chinese for “I don’t know”) because he kept poking me. It sounded menacing enough to the guy, and he moved his arm – permanently.

We landed in Moscow amidst sloppy rain and wind, around five pm. We had a five hour layover to deal with, and we were hungry. Burger King took Visa cards, so we ended up with Whoppers and chicken sandwiches. I hadn’t eaten Burger King in at least 12 or 13 years, and here I was, having it in Moscow, Russia. Random.

The layover seemed never ending. By the time we found out our gate, people were squeezed into the spot already. When the gate finally opened, plenty of others thought that they were so bloody special that they got the right to push to the front of the line. This resulted in an altercation between a Chinese-American guy who spoke Chinese and English and a Chinese couple. He could argue sarcastically with them in Chinese and then translate for us so we all knew what he was saying. I loved it.

Let me put it this way – the airline had no boarding procedure. Therefore, people were jamming into the gate and thrusting tickets into the flight attendant’s face. Then, she got annoyed when people did it! Let’s think about this – if you have a boarding procedure, things will go smoothly. If you don’t, then expect it to be mass chaos, and don’t roll your eyes when people push and shove because there isn’t any order. I ended up pushing or being pushed – it’s the name of the game. Maybe they’d change things if people got annoyed enough.

To make everything better, the seat was tiny, and the armrest didn’t go up. For ten hours, I had to sit sideways. Special. Really special. The Chinese-American guy sat behind us and said, “Was I right, or was I right?” about his argument with those who were trying to get ahead in the line. I called him my hero. He was awesome.

The best part of the overnight trip was eventually seeing the moon outside the plane’s window and then the sunrise as it slowly peeked under the shade.

I was so tired by the time we arrived in Shanghai. We grabbed the Maglev back, then a cab, and though I had hoped the weather would be warmer and nicer, it was rather chilled and windy. I threw my stuff into my apartment and jumped into bed for a necessary nap.

It had been a great trip, an amazing experience – but I was ready for sleep in my own bed.

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