After an extended trip to the USA to visit my kids and grandkids, I got caught in the middle of the whole Icelandic volcano ash cloud crisis. Lufthansa managed to get me to Munich, Germany from Chicago… but not on to Copenhagen. At least not right away. I found my self camping out at the Munich Airport. Let my ordeal make your future crisis easier.
I have always been the hearty type. My motto is ‘Life is a marvelous adventure,’ and Odin knows I’ve had my share of adventures in my 52 years. I have been through countless tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes… but never had I gone head-to-head with a volcano. Nor could I ever envision a case where I would. Iceland had other plans. After a mad-dash take off from Chicago, my Lufthansa flight in the face of this ash cloud was rather uneventful. We landed safely in Munich, where I discovered this was to be my new home until the skies were clear enough to fly safely again.
I, of course, quickly panicked.
I could not get a signal on my cell phone in spite of it being European. My laptop was at half battery. The ATM said there was no money. I had a total of about 20 Euros on me. Let the games begin! My first move was to start asking the Munich Airport staff about things like Internet connections, public wall plugs, and all that important kinda stuff. Basically, they were clueless. They kept mumbling something about a service center in an undisclosed location. ‘Maybe down on level 3’ they said. Seriously? They didn’t really know this stuff? On my search to find this elusive service center, I found a Starbucks. Not only did they have Internet, as most of them do, but it was totally free… and the radius was huge. I didn’t even have to go inside the place to get on-line. Score! I bought coffees anyway just for the principal of the thing, but I didn’t have to.
Now, I said I had only 20 Euros. I had a credit card. There were numerous bank machines throughout levels 3 & 4 at Munich airport, but they were all telling me I had no available funds.
Make Sure Your Laptop is Charged
I immediately got on-line and posted to Facebook since I could not call my husband. There was no cellular signal at all that I could pick up. I knew a lot of his relatives were on Facebook, so I posted a panic message to my profile, which was responded to by one of them almost immediately. Lars read his emails about this situation and promptly called the Credit Card company from home. I did indeed have funds. More than enough for an extended stay at the airport. It turns out those ATMs were telling me that they were out of funds, not me! DOH!
Scour Every Corner
I eventually found a little tiny out-of-the-way ATM that you would not usually notice. It had the funds. Finally, I could breath a bit easier. I would be able to feed myself. There are just an unbelievable amount of restaurants and other eateries at the Munich Airport. I would not grow bored of the food selection anytime soon.
There was nothing to do about that cell phone signal. I walked completely around the perimeter of the airport to no avail. I saw others doing the same. If you cannot do anything about a problem, skip it and go on.
Find a Janitor
Now to address the problem of the waning battery on my laptop. I was told several times by various airport staff that there were no public electric outlets that they knew of. I was sitting there watching my battery go down and down and down… my only link to the outside world at that point. Then I recalled that Tom Hanks movie. No, not ‘Joe Versus the Volcano’ – although that title is also apt. I’m talking about ‘The Terminal’ where he is stranded at an airport for a really long time. It pays to watch a lot movies, it seems, as his adventure helped my own adventure: I quickly sought out the people who really know what is going on at airports – the cleaning staff.
Oh my yes! Thank you Tom Hanks! I was quickly sorted out with not one, not two, but a whole slew of publicly available outlets with which to charge my poor laptop battery. HUZZAH! This crisis was quickly turning more towards being a cool story to tell your grandkids. I now had cash and a stable way to keep connected to my husband and friends.
Pack a Towel in Your Carry-on
The other thing I found out from these helpful folks was that there are also free public showers. They said that indeed, most airports have these if you know where to look. These showers are totally private, but they do not supply towels. I will always carry a towel with me from now on during my travels. I ended up using my old clothing to dry off with. It worked, but a towel would have been much better. Still… travel grime be gone!
Hit the Help Desk
After a very uncomfortable night sleeping on a row of benches with my arms wrapped around my luggage, I decided to ask the Help Desk chick about securing one of the many cots I had seen scattered around the terminal. She quickly got me set up with my very own cot. She also informed me that the airlines & airports have vouchers for just such events. She hooked me up with vouchers for the bus to & from the City of Munich and the Munich Airport, along with vouchers for lots of cool sight-seeing touristy stuff. I almost used them right away, but decided a nap was in order first. This proved to be a good decision.
If in Doubt, Stay Put
Now, I stayed because of exhaustion and planned to go exploring after a few hours of napping. Had I not, I would have not gotten out of there as fast as I did. The staff at Lufthansa actually came and found me, woke me up, and helped me get sorted to catch a flight that had just opened up to Copenhagen. I still cannot believe they did this. Either they are just really cool and caring, or I had made such a nuisance of myself that they could not wait to get rid of me. Either way, that just rocked hard.
If you find yourself stranded at an airport in a strange city, don’t panic! There is always a solution to whatever the problems you face are. Take a deep breath and then seek out the support staff: the janitors and other cleaning folks are the true heart and soul of any airport. They know where everything is, and how to get it done. I am now home safe and sound, and feel I owe a great deal of gratitude to those under-appreciated folks. For the record, Munich is a fantastic place to be stranded, all things considered. I am now looking forward to future strandings. Life is, after all, a marvelous adventure.