Monday, June 25, 2007

The Bureaucratic Bottleneck vs. the Network Nexus

Wednesday, June 20th, Salt Lake Airport

After depositing the children in Salt Lake, I started through security. As I reached inside my marvelous new purse, I realized that I had forgotten to add the boys’ IDs to the envelope of other items—suggestions on handling tantrums, instructions on Danny’s excema medication, insurance information, power of attorney, cash, etc—I had already handed to their grandparents. I called Linda’s cell phone and she dispatched her husband to come grab them as I wound my way through one end of the snaking security line. Whew.

I made it through security and settled down to business. Locate gate, bathroom, lunch, water—
“Excuse me,” a fifty-something man interrupted, “But how did you just get water out of that machine?”
“I swiped my card and pushed E8,” I answered helpfully.
He looked frustrated. “But that’s exactly what I did!” he said. “Why did it work for you and not for me?”
I smiled sweetly and shrugged. “Maybe I’m cuter,” I suggested.

I fed and watered myself, lest I wilt like a delicate flower, and then made Important phone calls. I started with the courthouse. After waiting on hold for a Jurassic period, I spoke to a clerk.
“I’m leaving the country for several weeks,” I explained. “I need an extension of the deadline on my traffic ticket.”
She was hardly helpful. “We don’t do extensions over the phone,” she said. She sounded stiff and self-righteous, as though any truly responsible citizen who simply had to incur a ticket would at least cancel all international travel plans. She added, severely, “And we accept money orders,” as though that removed my final excuse. Marvelous. I’ll just march into V-markt near Ostbahnhof and try to arrange a money order in German.
After some pushing, the clerk did admit that there is an automatic ten-day grace period (after which they would start proceedings to suspend my license), so if I pay them promptly upon my return to Raleigh, it should be fine. Or, I suppose, I could arrange a money order from Idaho.

As I told Jon, “This is frustrating. I’m sure there have been many times I deserved a ticket and didn’t get one…but this time I feel like I don’t deserve it!”
This ticket will also cut into my budgeted spending money here in Deutschland. That, plus the indignity of this whole sordid affair, are the real issues, of course.

The flight to Minneapolis was nondescript. I think I dozed through most of it.

During my layover, I tried reviewing some German. It was difficult; I was awake enough to function in English, but not awake enough to study. I read some of “The Speed of Dark,” a book about an autistic man that Ronald recommended. I even went exploring through the large labyrinth of concourses, looking for a place that did money orders. I found one business center that did international money exchange, but no money orders. They said there was another branch near baggage claim, but I would have had to go through security again. I sat down and ate dinner instead, trying to ignore Larry King, who was exploiting a grieving mother.

I also called Dad and asked him to read me Jon’s instructions for where to go once I got to Munich. I love technology! I can understand why repressive regimes fear personal communication devices so much. Using my network of family, and their cell phones, text messages, and email, I managed to communicate vital information despite geographic and time zone barriers. In fact, there was a great deal of redundancy; had one approach failed, several others would have worked. Now imagine if I had been trying to get directions about sneaking out of North Korea! Or worse, access a suppressed news story about the penguin smuggling trade!

My thanks to everyone who helped me connect smoothly with Jon once I arrived!
The 9:30 flight out of Minneapolis went directly to Amsterdam. It was an airbus with video on demand! (Jon is very jealous.) I found “You’ve Got Mail,” and streamed it in German. I didn’t understand much of the conversation, but I’d seen the movie years ago and at least I followed the plot. About 1 a.m. Raleigh time, I dozed for four hours, thus crossing, in my mind, the line of demarcation between days.

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