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Visiting Norway, Part Three -- 09/30 thru 10/01

Saturday, Sept. 30th

Still didn't get a full night's sleep... woke up at least three times... each time thinking that it's morning, time to get up, lying there expecting the phone to ring at any moment with my wakeup call, only to realize that it's really just midnight, really just one-thirty, really just three a.m.... and finally it's around four in the morning and that's it, I'm awake and can't get back to sleep.

I went out for a run a little past six... my last morning run around downtown Oslo... ran two and a half miles again... then back to the hotel. They have a coffee urn set up in the lobby along with some small slices of pastry. Each morning after my run I stop to get a cup of coffee and fold a couple slices of pastry in paper napkin to bring up to my room. When I get to my room I turn on the tv, drink a lot of water, and then eat the pastry and drink the coffee while surfing from one channel to another. In the morning there are three channels of Norwegian broadcasting, the same kind of news - sports - weather that you get in your town, except in Norwegian. I saw the women's Olympic race-walk incident (where the leading Australian was disqualified a couple hundred yards short of the finish for breaking proper form) on each of these channels earlier this week and it took all three times for me to figure out what had happened. I also had access to a Japanese channel, a German channel, and CNN.

I had done most of my packing before going to bed the night before, so after my shower I got dressed and went down for breakfast. After breakfast I took a walk around the neighborhood. There was a post office a few blocks away and I had a few postcards to mail. Just a few... sometimes I send lots of cards, but when you're working during normal business hours even if you can find a post office it can be difficult to get there when it is open... this time I didn't even send any home... just one to my brother, one to a cousin, one to a friend (Roger Camire, who owns a runner's store in my town and who enjoys collecting postcards from all over the world), and one to Bonnie, showing a painting of a lighthouse. (Hey Bonnie, let me know when it arrives... see how long it takes mail to get from Norway to Texas.)

The post office didn't open until ten o'clock so I wandered back to the hotel, finished packing, double-checked and triple-checked to be sure I wasn't leaving anything behind. A few minutes before ten I went back to the post office to mail my cards and then back to the hotel to check out. Our flight was supposed to leave at 1:40 and we wanted to leave sufficient time to get to the airport (which is quite a distance from town) so we checked out and headed for the train station.

As we entered the lufthavn (airport) I looked on the big video display screens to check for our flight, to see if it had been assigned a gate yet, but I couldn't find it listed. That should have been a clue that we had a problem. So... we got in line to checkin and slowly moved forward. When I reached an airline agent he typed into his computer, stared at the screen, frowned, typed some more... and then looked at me and said "Your flight has been cancelled." He then pointed toward one particular ticketing agent at the Scandanavian SAS counter and told me that she was in charge of rescheduling people from our flight. As I walked over to the ticketing area I could see that there was a hand-written sign taped above her area of the counter: "SAS Flight 907" Oh, okay, so they will be able to put us on another flight, everything is under control...

Well, under control, but... It seems that there are no seats available on any flight to the U.S. out of Oslo today. Okay, so not to Newark but how about to Dulles or to Logan? Maybe to deGaulle and then to JFK? No. Nothing. No possibility. Nothing today, but tomorrow morning, yes, tomorrow morning she can get us onto a Scandanavian SAS flight to Heathrow -- from Heathrow we could get a United Airlines flight to Newark and from Newark we could fly Continental to Providence. In the meanwhile we could have rooms at the Radisson Airport Hotel (a very short walk, just a couple hundred yards away from the terminal, the walking distance inside the terminal was longer than the walking distance outside) and give us each a 250 krone meal voucher. (Don't get overwhelmed, that's only about 23 or 24 dollars, just about enough for lunch in the Radisson restaurant.)

So... we checked into the Radisson, had lunch, took our time about it, finally about two in the afternoon decided it was a good time to phone home... it now being eight o'clock in the morning back home. I also had to have the hotel do some laundry for me since I had packed for this trip without any room to spare and thus had no clean clothes left -- and laundry service for one shirt, underpants and a pair of socks came to just slightly less than buying new ones. And then we took the train back into Oslo.

We wandered around one of the pedestrianized shopping streets. Throngs of people in the street -- it felt almost like the Traffalger Square area in London -- a much younger crowd than a similar street would have held in Vienna -- so many tall Scandanavians, especially the women -- I was beginning to feel positively short -- a busker or street entertainer on every block, mostly musicians but there was a very talented young magician whom I really enjoyed watching perform. I suppose the Quincy Market - Fannuel Hall area in Boston might feel a little like this but the crowd in Boston would be much heavier. No, not more people, just fatter people. I suppose there might be a lot of foreign tourists in Oslo in the summer, but summer is over and the crowds were mostly Norwegian (and if there were foreigners around, they were most likely Swedes or Danes) and Norwegians are fit... or, at least, not fat. I was struck over and over again all week long by the difference between American crowds and Norwegian crowds and it was really underscored on this Saturday because it was daytime and it was really obvious how much trimmer the crowd was. I was really glad that I'd lost those fourteen pounds and it reinforced my desire to lose more.

Later in the afternoon we wandered over to the waterfont area and just enjoyed watching the boats and the people. We decided to eat in the same restaurant we had eaten in the night before. In fact, I had enjoyed what I had on Friday so much that I ordered it again.

We did manage to get a bit lost on our way back to the train station... this was partly the Radisson's fault... we were orienting ourselves by a glimpse of the neon Radisson sign on the roof of the hotel... (We had been staying all week at the Radisson Plaza which, at 35 stories tall, was visible for quite some distance) only to realize that it was the wrong Radisson *grin* Oh well, we eventually got ourselves headed in the right direction and got back to the train station and caught a train to the airport and thus to the Airport Radisson.

Sunday, October 1st

Another night of waking up every hour or so... until finally, around three a.m. I give up and read a book... and at four a.m. I realize that it is ten p.m. Saturday night in Rhode Island so I phone home and get to talk with Nancy.

Take a shower around five a.m., repack, go down to breakfast about quarter to six. Have a nice breakfast, then checkout and walk over to the airport.

Get to the airport about 6:30, have to catch a 7:40 flight. It doesn't take long to get checked in, through the security checks, and down to our gate to wait for the boarding call.

Departure 07:40 - Flight Delayed
Flight Delayed!? What do they mean flight delayed? It's foggy in London, very foggy, Heathrow is fogged-in and Euro air control will not assign us a landing slot until it clears and aren't allowed to take off without a confirmed landing slot. Waiting... waiting... waiting... we have about an hour, maybe an hour and ten minutes to get from one flight to the next... if we had been on time... waiting.... every minute of delay cuts that time... finally we board... waiting... and finally we take off. Our United Airlines flight from Heathrow to Newark was supposed to leave at ten a.m. London time. United does not have much of a reputation for on-time departure *grin* so if they were delayed enough (like if they were a Newark to Heathrow flight that has to be refueld and cleaned before turn-around...) then maybe we have a chance... ten a.m. passes while we are still in the air... we pass low over London, a beautiful view of the city, the Thames, Tower Bridge, the best view of London from the air I've ever seen... nevertheless, I don't think we will make our connection... bright sunshine... we land and I wonder at how this fog had burned off so completely and then I look out the window as we taxi along the runway and the far edges of the airport disappear in a white fog bank.

We have missed our flight... we hurry, hurry, hurry to get to a United ticketing counter... lots of people in lines, the ticketing areas are chaotic... hundreds... thousands of people with missed connections... One of the ticket clerks turns to another and says "I think today we have hit the iceberg!"

After waiting in line for a bit we work our way up to the counter... They can't get us to Newark... no seats on any flight... They can't get us to JFK... They can't get us to Boston... Ah, they can squeeze us onto a flight to Washington (Dulles airport) and then they have to find a way to get us to Newark. Newark? We want to go to Providence. But the final leg of our journey is Newark to Providence via Continental Express, so they need to get us to Newark but they can't find a way to do that. But doesn't United have flights from Dulles to Providence? Yes, but... well, they need Contintental to signoff on our tickets so Untited can get credit applied to Dulles-to-Providence. Continental doesn't fly out of Heathrow, but Virgin Atlantic is their representative... take tickets to Virgin counter and get them to sign them over... wait in line at Virgin... Nope, they don't know what we want but whatever it is, they aren't going to do it. United rep takes our tickets and goes off in search of SAS. Waiting. Yes, Scandanavian/SAS will cover the cost of our Dulles to Providence fare. They are rushed now to get us onto the Heathrow-Dulles flight so we get two boarding passes with one piece of paper to represent a ticket for each of us. Off we go...

There is a thorough search of our carry-on bag and laptop cases in the boarding area. We then need to get seat assignments. Okay, now a quick call home to tell Nancy I'm coming in on a different flight - different airline - different time. As we are talking they call for us to board so I quick ask her to pass the word onto Hamid's wife and we dash for the plane.

We're flying on a triple-seven... I have seat 40D... I had hoped for an aisle seat but D is an inside seat... until I discover that row 40 is way back where the center section has been reduced by one seat and so seat D is an aisle seat. The only problem is that the row in front of me is sufficiently offset that when the woman in front of me reclines her seat my LCD screen becomes impossible to watch. So... the movie was that latest Nick Cage action flick, "Sixty Seconds" but I only caught glimpses of it.

Naturally we are running late and land at Dulles almost 45 minutes behind schedule, cutting the amount of time we have to get our luggage and pass through customs and get to our Providence flight. We are in the back of the plane so by the time we actually get off and start toward the baggage claim area we are down to forty minutes before our next flight.

Hamid's bag is one of the first to come around... where is mine? Wait. Bags and suitcases and boxes and suitcases and strollers and bags and... waiting... waiting... we have reached the boarding deadling (after which our seats can be given away) and have just twenty minutes until takeoff)... All bags have been unloaded but mine is not there. Baggage handler gives me an note to show to customs (so they will let me through) and to show to lost baggage claim at the Providence airport. Our flight leaves from a different terminal. We run to the people mover and board.

The people mover does not move. We wait. We wait. Finally the driver boards this monster bus thing and drives us to the next terminal. Gate A4. Naturally gates one through four are at the farthest end of the terminal. We run. It is very crowded. People standing, chatting, in the middle of the aisle. Zig-zag through the crowd. Running. Gate A4. 5:10 for a 5:20 flight. Whew, just made it.

Stand in line at the counter, behind a woman who is furious that the 5:10 for Dayton apparently took off at five o'clock sharp. Okay, our turn. Stamp. Stamp. Okay... oh, boarding will be delayed... flight will be delayed...

Phone home with the news that I am not sure what time our flight will land because we have not yet boarded even though it is now past the scheduled takeoff time. As I am talking to Nancy they make two announcements -- they are looking for people to give up their seats (yeah, as if...) and they are now boarding. Out to the plane. At first I am worried, it appears as if we have one of those small cigar tube prop jobs, but that's the flight to Raleigh, we're on a Canadair regional jet. Board the plane. I'm seat 13A... window seat, last row... I don't care, just fly me home...

Then they tell us we have to get off the plane and back into the terminal. Inside. Waiting. Okay, now time to board again. It seems they had somehow failed to schedule a crew for this flight and once they rounded up a crew, regulations reguire the crew to checkout the aircraft without any passengers on board. Okay, whatever... at least we are on the plane again... and we taxi... and we wait... and finally we take off...

The flight was routine, we landed at Providence Nancy was waiting for me in the terminal. I found United baggage service, gave them the information about my missing luggage. (They telephoned the next afternoon to say it had been found and that night they delivered it to my house.)

It's good to be back home.

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