Europe: Going… Going… Gone!

We recently decided on a last-minute trip to Europe. There was a pretty good flight deal which made the decision easy. On departure, all was well until take-off. The engines were fired-up, the plane lurched forward for a while and then we suddenly slowed down and taxied comfortably back towards the terminal building. Then the pilot announced, “Sorry about that. We had a minor technical issue, but we’ve fixed it now, so we’re going around to have another try!” I was curious. What kind of technical issue can be fixed while you’re coasting along and anyhow, what does he mean, “have another try?”…..

So it was, that we went around again and joined the back of a very long queue. Well – I thought, at least that would give them plenty of time to re-check the “minor technical issue” before we “have another try!” This time we were successful – fortunately! Once we were airborne I was pleased to see just how many flight attendants were on-board. It looked like we were going to get some really bonanza service. There were dozens of uniformed staff whizzing up and down the aisles, following instructions from more senior-looking colleagues. Whilst it was entertaining observing all this, I was getting slowly hungry and I was glad that I’d brought a reserve sandwich with me because it was about 2-3 hours later that the in-flight meal was finally served. Then it dawned on me that this must be a training flight and the extra crew were the trainees.

The flight was certainly different from our last European trip with another airline where we were treated to a lesson in German efficiency. At that time, it was takeoff, food-up, then lights-out… everybody go to sleepy until… lights-on, wakey-wakey, music, breakfast and off-you-go – aufwiedersehen! This time it was more like, “Where’s the light-switch? I don’t know – I’m new here and I don’t sleep well on-duty!” “Where’s the food? I thought you were getting it!” Where’s the breakfast? No time for that, we’re already landing! Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating – we did get to eat breakfast, but the lights definitely weren’t out for very long!

Of course, there’s always an upside to everything. The plane had lots of leg-room and the flight itself was very smooth. Then we arrived in Europe where much has changed over the years, since I left. It’s still crowded, but even more so now. This was especially noticeable on the German autobahn where we had the pleasure of witnessing hundreds of kilometers of tail-to-tail trucks, all shuffling goods backwards and forwards in line with the EU (European Union) master plan! Too bad if you want to actually get anywhere these days because there’s not much space left for anyone else on the highways. Of course, you can always spend your vacation at one of those nice autobahn rest areas – which you may well have to, if you get really stuck!

In the UK it wasn’t much different – lots of traffic and lots of people doing lots of traveling. One thing hasn’t changed there, though – people are still trying to decide whether they are part of Europe, or not! Everywhere we went there were little plaques on various structures, which read, “This project was financed by the European Union”! Hmmmnn! No wonder they don’t have any money left!

Several years ago whilst I was residing in Europe, there was a travel agent advertising on billboards all over the city. The posters read, “See America While It Lasts!” At the time, I thought that was pretty funny and a rather neat way of attracting customers. Having lived in North America now for quite a while, I’m wondering if we’ll soon be seeing our own billboards with the caption, “See Europe While It Lasts!”