The itinerary indicated that LOT Polish Airlines flight 676 to Warsaw and Krakow would leave from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport’s Terminal F. But the departure display didn’t show any LOT #676, Warsaw, or a 14:40 departure time. My pulse speeded up a tick and my careful self-counseling kicked 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 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 gets its routine exit stamp and I get a pro forma surly look from the young official.
Security was painless, the tunafish sandwich was tasty, I typed two paragraphs, and then it was time to board the plane. I’m now at 30,000 feet on our way to Poland. I’ve never been to Poland before and Polish doesn’t look or sound like any language I’ve ever read or spoken, but 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 stones with visible cracks from the explosions that broke them apart during the war.
Traveling is a useful spiritual exercise. Illusions about perfection are shattered but life goes on in spite of the breakage. Terminals change but one can reorient with a little effort. People are predictably helpful. Small steps add up to reasonable forward movement. Occasionally a stewardess brings a surprise chocolate wafer. A plane flight can be a little spirit 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.