The itinerary indicates that LOT Polish Airlines flight 676 to Warsaw and Krakow will leave from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport’s Terminal F. But the departure display doesn’t show any LOT #676, Warsaw, or a 14:40 departure time. My pulse speeds up a tick and careful self-counseling kicks in: I’m an experienced troubleshooter.
I’m supposed to be in the right terminal. An information kiosk is not in evidence. The first official I query in very limited Russian sternly points out the Information kiosk. At my spaseba in sort of Russia, the woman softens, smiles faintly, and says in English, “I don’t know.” I grin and say with a nod of my head as I turn toward the kiosk, “I don’t either.” Her smile broadens.
The woman in the Info Kiosk checks her computer and says I need to be in Terminal E. My pulse relaxes a tick and I back track. A little boy at Passport Control keeps escaping his mom while we wait our turn. I greet the uniformed young man with my best dobri den. My Russian visa get’s its routine exit stamp and I get a pro forma surly look from the young official.
Security is painless, the tunafish sandwich is tasty, I type two paragraphs, and then it is time to board the plane. At 30,000 feet on my way to Poland I notice that I’ve never been to Poland before and Polish doesn’t look or sound like any language I’ve ever read or spoken. And yet I know that Europeans tend to be multilingual and the more I learn, the more interesting Poland becomes.
A friend described how, after World War II, the Poles painstakingly organized the bombing debris into orderly piles while they minutely examined the old photos and prints of their cities from before war. The remaining pieces of Warsaw were carefully put back together. He said that you can find whole stones with visible cracks from the explosions that broke them apart during the war.
Traveling is a useful spirit exercise. Terminals change but one can reorient with a little effort. People are predictably helpful. Small steps add up to reasonable forward movement. Illusions about perfection are shattered but life goes on in spite of the breakage. Life is organized in such a way that healing takes place even when there are visible scars. Our own evolution continues, shaped by the various large and small catastrophes and graces that touch us. Occasionally a stewardess brings a surprise chocolate wafer. In such a universe, a plane flight can become a little spiritual retreat.
Now, typing in Warsaw’s Chopin Airport, the Gate 31 spokesperson announces that flight #3923 to Krakow will be delayed until 17:15. No problem.