I had so over planned packing that when I was done, I still had two hours to lounge around. Much mushy kissy-kissy "I miss you, I'll miss you too," was said by me, anyarm (who came on her lunch break to say goodbye), CR, takayla, and Debbie. Then takayla drove CR and I to the Metro, where we sat on the Orange line for 20 minutes going nowhere because they were doing some track work. We crept along the Orange line for an hour, taking significant amounts of our "bumper time" I left, and we ended up getting to the airport two hours before my flight took off.
We ate at the food court/waiting area, and our trip alomost ended when some asshat left his spilled drink on a slippery floor. CR was behind me, and then suddenly, he wasn't. He had slipped on the spilled drink, and slid all over the place, crashing down on the hard floor, and twisting his knee. He recovered, but I was scared he hurt himself badly. But the end result seems to be he got damp and sticky.
Our first flight to JFK was late due to "planes coming in late," the only excuse ever given. There were a LOT of mad, mad people, and I had decided before this trip to try my best to be very calm and mellow. Que sera sera. Other people... wow. I mean, abusing the Gate Agent because the plane was late? The Gate Agent? Notably a crowd of Greek gentlemen in expensive suits. Many whom did not speak English but had the international symbol of "disgruntled" the whole flight. "We have connecting flught, eh??" complained their translator. Yes, we all do, now sit down and wait like the rest of us. Just because you wear a suit and tie doesn't mean you're bloody important. We finally got on the small commuter plane, and right before we took off, the stewardess, who was giving a great example of "you get what you give to others" almost started a huge fight because the Greeks were in "the exit row" and didn't speak English. Now, this I could understand, because you want them to know what their row meants, and what to do in an emergency. The guy who was their translator offered, many times, to tell this stewardess, "They don't speak English, I can tell them what you are saying," but the stewardess was so mad at the Greek people looking at her blankly, she just got fed up with them and told them all to get the hell off the plane, stating, "If you can't understand my instructions, then you have to leave!" This caused some guy in front of me, whom I am SURE was a jock in high school because of his elite boorishness, started screaming at the translator that they were late enough and to shut the hell up. At this point, he muttered something about having an American right to throw off middle eastern towel heads from a plane. I almost said, "They are Greek, you idiot," but that would have made things worse, I am sure. Well, luckily, his little racist comment was not heard by anyone but me and his trophy wife, and I decided to reach within myself and try to find peace instead. The stewardess then finally listened to the translator, who told the guys to move one row back, which they did, and we finally could take off. But she was a snippy little bitch the rest of the trip, which was pretty short (40 minutes).
We found you can't play the PSP on planes because the wireless on it can't be manually turned off. Well... pooh.
We got to JFK with just enough time to run across half the damn airport (it must have been easily over a mile in corridors) to get to our flight to London. We had to go through TSA... AGAIN! I hate TSA. The flight was boarding on time, but took a while to depart due to some snafu where the gate jammed and couldn't pull away from the plane. But we had the best damn seat that could still be in economy: exit row seats. Now, takayla arranged this for us when she set up the trip, and this row not only had more leg room, but was at the beginning of the isle, so there was a HUGE area in front where we could stretch out. THANK YOU, takayla!!!!! Sadly, the TV/Video was borked (on the whole flight), but I wanted to sleep anyway, so that only seemed to anger the other passengers. Thank goodness for my MP3 player; I could listen to my own stuff while people lined up around me to use the restroom near our seats. I got about 2 hours of sleep in 10-20 minute increments, interrupted when people lining up for the bathroom stepped on my feet.
We got a meal, I had the chicken in gravy with mashed potatoes, and it was surprisingly good. CR had a veggie platter by special order: eggplant lasagne, which made him a little sick. For breakfast, he got a bagel, and I got a croissant, which was weird because they were both technically vegetarian.
We arrived in London with only an hour to spare, and we fled around Heathrow airport, and just as feyandstrange warned me, we had to go through "Her Royal Majesty's Customs" (really, it was called that). Compared to TSA? They were slower, but asked for less, like they don't make you boot your laptop or take off your shoes. I wish I could have stayed at Heathrow a little longer, but we just made it to the British Airways terminal in time... to wait for a plane that was late taking off due to some minor equipment malfunctions. At Heathrow, once you get to your gate, you are sort of trapped there, so we didn't get to shop at the Heathrow mall which had all kinds of British goodies.
I tried to call my wife or use the cell phone, and got, "do DOO DEET!" and a message about the call being refused, even though I had full signal from "UK Vodaphone." I was so mad.
I slept a little on the Stockholm flight as well. Breakfast was a cheese/slaw roll (really, and it was also better than one might expect from airline food).
I am SUCH a sucker for small children speaking Swedish. It's so fucking cute I want to squeeze them until they squeak "Uff da, slutta!" (Good God, man, stop!). I just HAD to say that. It was like listening to my mother speak Swedish, but in a little kid's voice.
We got to Stockholm around 3:00pm (their time), and man... it was SO easy to get through everything. I swear to God man, it was get off plane, walk out gate to line for passport control (which would have been fast had it not been for some asshat family of 12 insisting on all going at the same time, and causing such a commotion that police had to get involved to sort it all out), then the passport control opens up to the luggage area which was right next to Customs. Like less than 20 yards of walking and POOF... you're in Sweden. Again, the green exit is huge and everyone pours through that, and the red exit is to the side and you have to dial a phone to get someone to show up now. They really seem to be saying, "Don't bother declaring anything, we're not really interested."
We managed to find this mysterious bus that drove to Stockholm Central Station, which is a huge sprawl of several buildings that connects bus stops, trains, and the Tunnelbana (Subway). Stuff is a bit old and dirty, and the whole town so far has had the feeling of Baltimore with a European aftertaste. Well, that and half the stuff is in Swedish.
It was also overcast with light rain that came and went. I tried to use my phone, and got "doo DOO DEET!" and an annoucement in Swedish. Call refused. DAMMIT! The Cingular people lied to me! Grrrr...! Later, I found out that I *did* have access, but unlike wat the stupid ass lady said to me a few days ago, you have to dial 001 instead of 1 in front of everything to call the US, which means my pre-programmed voice mail number does not work, and incoming calls are REALLY flaky.
Sven and Karin were waiting for us at the bus station. It was so good to see them. Sven has lost a lot of weight, and looks great. Karin is a delight, and I love speaking with her. We took the Tunnelbanna from Stockholm Central Station to Rödmansgatan, which was on the green line, to get to my hotel (they are staying at one of Karin's coworker's apartments a few stops down). Apparently, Tunnelbanna tickets are purchased as time as well as destination here. We then ended up at our hotel, Tengerlunden, and the room is small... like New York small, but clean and comfortable. It is a good home base with an great view of Tendgerlunden (Tendger Park), a small park dedicated to some poets. Across a park where I caught two goth teens on the grass snogging under an umbrella. Hot and wet clumsy teen goth sex! Woooo! I decided not to take pictures to be polite. Sorry, stodgycat.
After we freshened up, we met Sven and Karin again for some dinner at a Greek cafe. Back to the Greek thing. I learned olive pits are really fucking hard when you bite down on them. We exchanged a lot of data about one another, and made arrangements to see one another tomorrow around 11am. We're going to Skansen and celebrating midsommar. I will learn a dance about small frogs, apparently.
Then we found a 7-11 across the street for some munchies. Wooo! I ate some crispy-crunchy caramel bar named "Bjerk," made by the fine people at Marabou (now owned by Kraft), which was great. Then I got some WASA crisps, and it's so cool to see several flavors at a place like 7-11, when in the US, you only see a few boring flavors like rye, light rye, dark rye, wheat and rye, and matzoh that tastes like rye. Here they have a breakfast kind, a cranberry kind, and then I ended up getting "traditional rye" just to be ironic. I got "Pepsi MAX!" which is their brand of diet Pepsi here. Comes in yellowjacket colors. Swedish Slurpees are disappointingly small, yo. We're talking standard disposable party cup size.
European transformer works great on the laptop. I am taking many pictures... when I remember. I will upload them in my $10 windows of Internet access.
Swedish TV it playing in the background. It has a lot of weepy teen dramas like Dawson's Creek and Veronica Mars. Later, it played "The Ozzbournes" was was kind of... embarrassing as an American, but weird at the same time because they don't bleep the swear words here (same with "Pimp my Ride"). So you get to hear (and see translated with subtitles) Ozzie go, "I fucking don't want to go to bloody Fiji, right?" and Kelly swear at her mother about some sitcom. I learned a lot of new swear words in Swedish.