I had a klm flight scheduled for 7PM. I had to go to Lisbon via Amsterdam. More two and a half hours Northeast to come back two and a half hours Southwest… I was already embedded in patience. When I arrived to the airport (Guarulhos, proudly the biggest in Brasil) and looking for a KLM baggage drop-of counter, a guy in a klm uniform asked me what was my destination. I said “Amssterdã” (so that he could understand) and he said: “do you know that YOUR flight is four hours late?”… I liked YOUR flight, it rapidly moved the responsibility from them to me, silly soul that had a four-hour-late flight to catch. “You have to go to that queue” showing me an endless serpentine crowd that even included the Brazilian handball women national team (players, managers and staff). “But, I’ve already made my check-in on-line and my bag is cabin size, can I just move on to security?” asked I. “Let me see your ticket”, said he. “Oh, Lisbon… Hum, You have to go to the queue anyway so they re schedule your connection flight”… I texted home with the latest news from across the Atlantic and a Mahler adagio started to grow inside my head. For the following 45 minutes I found some comfort on watching people coming by, fresh, gazelle looking, having a little talk with the guy in klm uniform and being transformed in sad sheep, pushing their trolleys to the end of the mortified chinese festival dragon that I was part of. Finally at the counter, a nice young clerk announced that I had a connection through Paris with 1 hour intervals in Schipol and Charles De Gaulle. Maybe because of my body language and eye brows movements he told me “you can go to our shop across the hall and see if they can find a nicer connection and then came back for your bag”. Another facial expression of mine… “And you can come back straight to me, you don’t need to go to the end of the line” (vanishing in the faraway mist, thought I). At the shop there were only four people in the line but they were either buying impossible tickets or also re-scheduling connections. After a medium-sized while, I stated my wishes to the girl in the counter, a chubbier Julia Roberts, and she played a little sonata andante movement on the keyboard, looked serious, another swift melody and proposed me a 4 hour scale and a direct flight to Lisbon late in the following day, which I accepted. Back in the check-in counter, I proudly dispatched my bag and received a shy voucher for dinner in the nearby buffet restaurant. The plates were giant-sized and I found some compensation in selecting almost every type of food available to build a not so nouvelle cuisine pyramid. Texted home again with the news and my wife (bless her for the dedication and patience) suggested that I could go to Harlem and see the Tylers museum during my scale in Holland. I made some sketches at the restaurant and watched planes go by. After an hour or so, I decided to go through security and move to the boarding area of the airport. I must say that S.Paulo port authorities did their best to give the worst last impression of Brazil to Guarulhos passengers. Probably because they sympathise with the notion of Saudade and they don’t want to trigger that sad mood in people leaving. Or maybe because they want that getting in the plane may result in a comfortable experience compared with standing in crowded packed rooms. There was wifi in some places, not so surprisingly only far away from my boarding gate, and I could skype with my wife that, nicely explained me that there was a bus, number 300, that took 20 minutes from Schipol to central Harlem where Tylers museum and a yummy collection of Rembrandt’s drawings could save my journey.
Finally boarding started and, naturally, after being squeezed in the boarding gate, we were squeezed into a bus for a digression towards an Eastern KLM Jumbo. A thought came to my mind that after all this I probably would have to seat next to that big yellow bird from Sesame street… But on the other two seats there were only father and son, Danish but reasonably sized. The flight was normal, I slept most of it and we arrived just a little late from schedule. Getting out of the plane I confirmed that European airports tend to place flights arriving from or departing to Portuguese speaking countries in the farthest gates of the farthest terminals. This was particularly sad for my Danish companions that could almost see the little mermaid in the port of Copenhagen through the windows and had to walk all the way back to central Schipol. So, after walking – and minding several gaps at the end horizontal escalators – the length of Liechtenstein or S. Marino, when I arrived to the external square where buses smoothly and efficiently remove people from the airport, I found out that “300” was a type of bus and not a line. So there were 300s leaving to several different places… But Holland is remarkably and wrinklessly predictable and a 300 saying “Harlem stopped almost at my feet. Instead of 20 minutes, it took 40 minutes through an afternoon of geometric woods , canals and impeccable lego like houses and apartment buildings. regrettably, the bus didn’t stop right in front of the museum, so I had to walk and go through what is considered the most beautiful square in Holland (hastily confirmed), a little bit of a road by a canal and finally arrived to the Museum to hear an expressionless lady telling me that they were about to close in five minutes… Only then I remembered that I might look like someone who had slept in the street and probably smell like one. So I walked back to the bus stop, hesitant about sketching or not, passing cafes and bars terraces where insensible tall dark blond dutch people harmoniously drank their glasses of wine and beer wrapped on their top quality clothes. I decided to go straight back to the airport where the ones of my like were evidently sons of connection flights and transatlantic displacement. Seated in an isolated chair in the bus I watched again the same canals, crossroads, civic centers, apartment buildings growing dimmer contrasted by the early dusk lights.
The Lisbon flight went very smooth, but also starting from a faraway boarding gate, near to Belgium this time, probably to make the air distance shorter.
After collecting my bag in the record time of 30 minutes and proudly coming out of the inner guts of Lisbon airport, I found the longest queue I had ever saw for taxi. Listening a conversation I understood that the monster line was due to the arrival of a packed Jumbo from Brazil…