July 31, 2010

The free night

Who doesn’t like getting free stuff? No one I know of. Back in UC, the pizza parties were most notorious for the number of irrelevant people who turned up.. simply because of free food. Likewise, people turned up in un-shy numbers to any “free event”. Be it movie night, sandwich giveaways, some boring drone of a lecture (as long as there was free after-food) and what not. Other than that, attending some “fairs” or showcases where they gave free pens, notepads and the likes were also immensely popular. Coming from that well-advertised practice to this part of the world in Europe, where nothing is free, your head kinds of forgets how it feels to get free stuff. Until Germany gave us a taste of it. All thanks to France though.                          

So as everyone knows by now, I was at a conference in Berlin 2 weeks ago (though it felt more like a holiday). We’d booked a lovely hotel with a super-convenient location, awesome rate, great views and what not. And at the end of our 6 day stay we were happy to check out and try and get back home to Paris. And so there we were at the airport, unable to understand why our flight was never called and why they kept pushing back the boarding time while the flight was sitting at the tarmac just beyond the boarding gate right in front of our eyes. And we were offered no explanations either. A lot of tongue-clucking, under-the-breath cursing and one loudspeaker announcement, we were finally boarded onto the flight a whole 90 minutes late. But home’s home right? And in an hour-long journey who cared how late you got back? K and I eagerly clicked pictures of ourselves with the other Air Berlin flights in the backdrop to keep as one of the last souvenirs from the pretty awesome trip. However the flight didn’t leave. Not for an entire hour as we sat inside getting spitefully impatient. Finally there was an announcement… annoyingly in German first. And though we didn’t understand it, the audible groans around us told us it wasn’t good news. Next the announcement came in French. And to my great surprise, I understood every word that was announced and while that was wonderful news, what was announced, wasn’t. The France air traffic controllers were on strike (surprise surprise!) And they hadn’t given this plane a “slot to land”. And so they weren’t sure when (if ever) we would take off. Then came the further starling announcement. They were going to throw open the doors of the aircraft and those who wanted were free to “leave”. Leave where? To where? What next? No clue. The air hostesses were as clueless as we were and offered no further explanations. And mercifully, another long clueless hour later, the flight was officially declared as canceled.
And so for the first time ever, I unboarded a plane that hadn’t moved an inch from where it sat. To add to our woes, we had to await our bags at the carousel first before we went and battled with Air Berlin to see if they were giving us any accommodation, food or anything of the sort. And have you noticed? Your bags are always almost the last ones. It’s like some weird karma. Needless to say when K and I waddled out with our bags we were amongst the last in the long, snaking queue that terminated at the Air Berlin counter. And they were imploring people with friends and relatives in and around Berlin to head out there, leaving them with lesser people to accommodate.          
After what seemed like hours but was probably just one, our turn came. They were out of rooms in their 2 backup hotels. Could we wait a bit till they could see what they found for us? Did we have a choice? We briefly considered heading back to the hotel we’d stayed in and setting camp in a single room there. But we decided to wait good-humoredly with the rest of our gang. And noticing the poster tube in our hands and with a lot of time to kill, curiosity overcame their initial reluctance. And K and I ended up giving short impromptu presentations of our projects to the very interested folk who were fascinated that they’d finally encountered people who actually worked for nanotechnology. It was the most fun I had in recent times sharing my work. Far more the conference anyways. And finally they’d found us a hotel. The staff guy who told us that said it was a goood hotel. And my curiosity got the better of me. How good could it be?                                          

We got a taxi to the place. And the moment the taxi pulled up into the driveway, I knew something goood had happened. It was larger than the airport waiting lounge. It was a top-end 4-star hotel. And aptly named “Berlin Berlin”. And at that instant the really decent hotel we’d stayed at earlier seemed like a less-well-to-do cousin. And? They had only the executive suites available for us. All paid for of course. And that’s how France gave us the gift of one extra night in the lap of Berlin’s luxury. Free food? Of course. Their entire 12-course breakfast menu was ours to feast on. The experience? Priceless.                                                     

Bonne Vacances everyone! We’re headed to the Homeland. Which means… more things to blog about right? Absolutely! Happy Holidays everyone!


Madhumathi said...

this post makes me feel jealous of u ;)

PrivateMartin said...

absolutely brilliant! now thats what i call a proper free gift. not the ones we collect in funfairs like pickles from Patak's and Habib's free rice. LOL

Jaya said...

Madhumathi-> Some thing to go on! It was a fabulous experience. Sorry for the delayed reply and keep visiting!

PrivateMartin-> It so was! It was perfect in every manner. :D

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