Munich In the curious way that the regional government of Puglia, Italy was reimbursing the Scuola di Bollenti Spiriti for my ticket, the rigid, sometimes almost irrational, rules meant to stop corruption that if the traveler, that would be me, left before Saturday, which was both the earliest time allowable and the latest possible departure time possible, or after Wednesday, which was the latest possible departure, and the only one available given the new daily nonstop flight from Munich to Houston, this lucky traveler ended up in the Munich Airport for about 13 hours or would only be reimbursed for 50% of the cost of the ticket. The hot spirited students and David Tozzo of ACORN Italy all believed that my best course was jumping the metro from the airport to town, but more travel without an intended purpose had no appeal, so to me the airport itself seemed a better alternative. The one cardinal rule in my home is never, and I mean never, miss a flight home!
And, it could have been much worse. I had landed and would depart from the new Munich Terminal 2 Satellite, as it was called. Believe me, I had more than enough time to inspect the model along the concourse. Landing at 830 PM, my first lucky break was charming my way into the Lufthansa business lounge, though in all truth it was less charm than the charity of the attendant for my hopeless situation, who nodded me in. The scene was sort of what one might expect of German rathskeller, except very well lit and almost all men, but that may be how German rathskeller’s work. Free wi-fi, beer, and pretzels? How bad could that be? A too short hour later, and I looked around and I was one of less than 10 people. Ten minutes later there was one woman and myself there. By 10 pm, they had rolled up the sidewalks in this airport to my surprise, and we were in for a long night.
Drifting down the concourse trying to look nonchalant as the pair of police walked by, I saw a German sign for a McDonalds that perhaps in German was saying it might be open for 24 hours and was 5 minutes away. Who knows? I never found it. It might be an urban airport myth or sly German humor. I did find something better perhaps. The Munich airport had allowed a furniture design company to turn a space into a haven for the lost and damned of sorts with hard lounge chairs, some desks, and what not. These were my people it seemed. At the high point there were 7 of us and at the low point only 5. One couple for a while, but then they disappeared. Two floor sleepers. A young man with jogging pants that read “NYATHLETE” in capital letters. And, then two light sleepers, myself and an in-transit passenger from Africa. Later, I found there were even sleeping “cabins” for 10 euros an hour not far away past the giant Camel Smoking Lounge, which seemed strangely inappropriate in the modern, clean setting, and totally unused.
An airport official came by once seemingly to count heads. No police problems. At 1AM a skateboarder made the entire concourse, and I wonder if he had planned the escapade forever. I nodded to the occasional cleaners with their sturdy 8-wheel carts. At 5 AM a worker in a Segway turned on coffee machines. I couldn’t help but remember flying regularly on the last available night flight in my brief collegiate career from New Orleans to New York City’s Kennedy Airport and catching Carey Transportation to New York Port Authority in order to wait overnight for the first bus to western Massachusetts in the morning. I would often wander around 42nd Avenue, maybe watch a movie to kill time in the smoking balcony available in that century, and then later sleep on the benches at the terminal in between thumps from the police batons as they ordered me to move until the bus rolled out. I can’t imagine ever allowing my own children to have done that knowingly, and I wonder at how different the times were then in the mid-1960s where my parents would have booked the flight simply assuming this was part of my life’s experience, as it certainly was.
I’m not recommending this as the preferred way to travel, but as life on the road goes, it could have been worse, and I’ve been there and done that, and though I’m many hours short of sleep waiting for my plane from Germany to Texas to New Orleans, this was actually OK in its own way.