I have to admit I kind of like Schipol Airport. When I have a little more time, that is. Today it’s just good for a bit of exercise as I speedwalk through its kilometer-long, shiny-clean halls of shops and bars and restaurants, dodging luggage obstacles and bewildered or bored travellers. It's sale season, though, and all the books in English are calling to me to stop and look.
70 minutes to change flights is down to 40 by the time I clear the passport check, but the bank of ticketing kiosks right after that has no waiting, yea ! When I tell it I checked a bag in Clermont, however, it tells me I have a Baggage Discrepancy. Um, I did check a bag, I did I did. And it has my toothbrush in it. Please somebody here be expecting it and tuck it gently into the underbelly of the only Aer Lingus shamrock jet to be seen. There’s jam in there that must get through.
At the gate with supposedly just 20 minutes before we lift off, I get my boarding pass and am assured that everything is fine. It’s just those silly computers. They’ll send your luggage from one company to another ; they just won’t tell you about it on the way. Now it is time to hurry up and wait.
Tic-toc and here I am in Dublin. Er, not really Dublin, just a convenient and fairly reasonable hotel near the airport. Just what I love on vacation, right ? My fellow travellers are arriving tomorrow bright and early and it’s off to Kilkenny straight away, so it’s airport lodging tonight.
No bother. A pint of Guinness and a glorious soak in the tub, and I’m good for the evening anyway.
Though I wonder if there’s anywhere to go for a walk outside.
Heading one direction, the sidewalk peters out after a hundred yards. The hedges on either side of the road don’t leave any margin for pedestrians, so that’s not the way to go. So much for the small road. Along the much bigger road the sidewalk keeps on, probably all the way to Dublin. There’s even a margin between the concrete path and the traffic. I go about a mile, with an impenetrable hedge on one side and constant trucks and cars on the other, before getting too bored with it and turning back. Nothing to see. I’ll get my exercise lifting that pint.
Tuesday. In the lobby this morning are not quite so many members of some red-shirted American swim team. All snug in their beds recovering from a late night yelling back and forth down the hotel corridors, I think.
Time to go find Hogeye Navvy and company at the airport. Mac said to meet them at 7. Er, that would mean she expects to deplane, hike over to the passport check, get through that and on to the luggage area, pick up all the bags, and make it out to groundside in five minutes. I get there sometime after 7 but with plenty plenty time to spare, not because I think I risk holding the group up, but because I fully intend to find a good cup of coffee and a delectable pastry item for breakfast before discovering the proper car rental area.
Good idea, because Dooley’s car rental kiosk is tucked waaaay back under the stairs, out of sight of the more well-known rental agencies, with nary an arrow to point the last bit of the way. On the way over from the other terminal there are signs. But follow them, and you’ll get down to the space in front of the other rental cars with no Dooley’s in sight. It looks like they’ve packed up overnight without a trace. They haven’t ; they just haven’t shelled out for one last sign saying, Yes, Really, Way down that way where the janitors never sweep and it looks like employees-only.
Here they are at last, slowly trickling through the frosted doors of the air-side area in a haze of jetlag. Some want coffee, some want a restroom, some want to practice wandering off, but once we’re all more or less together it’s off to get our cars. Even with a third of the group wandered off someplace, we fill the sad space under the escalator. It rapidly becomes hot and stuffy down there, so they tell the non-drivers to gather outside, where a Dooley van will pick us up and take us to the place where the cars are, so we can at least wait in the fresh air.
Outside is much better, even if we do occupy a dull strip of sidewalk between a parking structure and the taxi stands. Where are these promised vans ? It takes ages for them to come get us. Long enough that we get worried we’re standing in the wrong place. D and I go on a reconn mission, but the other side of the parking structure is just for city busses. This is the place. And there is a white Dooley van at last. Off to Dooley’s Ford lot for more waiting.
For an hour we shift from foot to foot at the car lot, noticing how many Fords there are and how the rest of the cars are mostly Japanese, counting the red ones and then the blue ones, and then finding out what's in the vending machines down the road, when the six people sharing driving duty show up. But we’re still not ready to go. What were they doing at the airport all this time if not the paperwork to take possession of our vehicles ? All drivers to the office ! Apparently a green sheet of paper has gone missing, and we cannot leave without it. Another hour of waiting around.
We are driving three copies of 2007’s Van of the Year. Blue, grey, and silver. We name them after ships, but nobody agrees which (we know too many that went down - anybody know three that stayed afloat ?). I think mine is the Beagle. People start to get in the vans. And then out again. And then in.
And then, miraculously, we’re driving.
Driving on the left is not too bad. We get to start off on the big roads around Dublin where you just go with everyone else. There’s no occassion to go wrong. Later, when you have choices and nobody setting an example, it’s not so easy.