Now, normally I travel Business Class only when someone else is paying for it [g], or when conditions seem to warrant the extra expense. In this case, it was the latter.
Vilnius is one of those places where you can’t get there from here–wherever “here” is. It takes a minimum of three flights (and 22 hours) to get there, and two weeks before I left, the nice person who was making my travel arrangements apologized for the delay, saying that it was -30 degrees F., and “too cold for anybody to do anything.” Nothing daunted, I put gloves and wooly hat in the pockets of my big down coat, loaded three new novels onto my Kindle (Deborah Crombie’s NO MARK ON HER, Kim Harrison’s PERFECT BLOOD, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s NOBODY’S BABY BUT MINE–all really good books, btw), put three Russell Stover Coconut Cream Easter Eggs and a hairbrush into my book satchel, with an ARC of Louise Penny’s THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY for takeoffs and landings, and set off into the wild blue yonder.
The adventure started off in typical fashion–which is to say that the first flight of this carefully-arranged hegira was cancelled (thus ruining all the other connections). You don’t do a lot of this kind of travel without developing a certain philosophical outlook, though, so I merely ate an easter egg (with Diet Coke; you don’t get through this kind of thing without some source of caffeine, either) and spent a tranquil three and a half hours in the Phoenix airport (flying Biz Class helps the philosophical outlook, since you can go hang out in the airline’s lounge on these occasions; the bathrooms are better, and they usually provide daily papers, snacks, and alcohol), reading NO MARK ON HER, before flying off to Newark (rather than Washington Dulles, as originally scheduled). Began THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, which is very good, though somewhat different from Penny’s usual, in that it involves Chief Inspector Gamache, but is not set in the magical town of Three Pines. Returned to NO MARK, though, as I didn’t want to finish the ARC too soon–a lot of takeoffs and landings still to come.
Well. The connection in Newark to the next leg—to Frankfurt—was only 40 minutes to start with—a long shot, considering that it takes about ten minutes to get to the gate and _off_ the bloody aircraft before even beginning the dash to the next gate (and Newark has roughly 175 gates). But the plane was put in a holding pattern, and by the time we finally landed and taxied _for miles_, my connection time had shrunk to nine minutes, and I was resigned to spending the night in Newark, rebooking _again_, and emailing Vilnius from my iPad to let them know I’d be a hair late.
BUT, what to my wondering eyes should appear, the instant I came out of the jetway, but a nice young gentleman in a suit and a German accent (I was technically on a Lufthansa flight, even though operated by Continental), who seized me, stuffed me into a waiting electric cart and—assuring me that my suitcase was being hastily excavated and would make it, too—dispatched us on a wild career down the terminal, the iron-lunged young lady at the wheel shouting, “BEEP-BEEP-BEEP!” at the oblivious walkers, several of whom avoided instant death only by an adroit leap sideways as we shot past.
I dived into the plane to find the whole German cabin crew standing in the doorway, impatiently glancing at their watches, and thirty seconds after I fell into my seat (leaping over the supine body of my seatmate, who had already put on her sleepmask and reclined at full-length under her blanket), we took off for Frankfurt. Another perk of flying Biz Class is that they offer more or less nonstop alcohol, and a good thing, too. White wine doesn’t really go with easter eggs, but you know, what the heck.
Lufthansa is really just about my favorite airline—insofar as it’s possible to contemplate the word “airline” without shuddering. The food was excellent, the service both amiable and efficient (beyond the alcohol and the warm nuts, one of the little amenities I like flying Biz is the napkins, which are cloth, dazzlingly white, and feature a buttonhole in one corner, so you can button it onto your shirt rather than laying it across your lap and dropping bits of arugula and glazed walnut into your décolletage, or tucking it into your collar and looking like you wuz born in a barn), and the seats really cool: each one was sort of sequestered in its own little cocoon of plastic, within which it adjusted everywhichway, so it doesn’t make any difference whether the person in front of you reclines or not.
I’m so accustomed to random sleeping that I don’t bother trying to readjust my metabolism when flying; I just take homeopathic No-Jet-Lag tablets and sleep when I’m tired. I wasn’t tired at this point, so went through the available movies—new to newish releases, but a pretty dismal looking crop—and watched Part I of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Boringly incoherent, with indifferent acting and good special effects. Let us just say I now have zero desire to see Part II. After all, I read the book; I know how it ends.
Astonishingly enough, we landed in time for me to make the connection with my _original_ Frankfort-to-Vilnius flight, in spite of having to go through Passport Kontrolle in Frankfort and make my way from one end of the place to the next—pausing _en route_ to purchase a small bottle of Cola Light (this is supposed to be Diet Coke, but it really isn’t; it’s Coke Zero. Still, it works, and I’m not inclined to be fussy after twenty hours on the road) for the extortionate price of three euros (one small benefit to constant travel is that I have small amounts of all kinds of odd currencies on hand, emptied out of my pockets after trips, and therefore usually have enough on landing to get me a snack and a cab-ride before I have to change money–_really_ useful, if landing at a small airport in the middle of the night. Frankfurt is _not_ a small airport, btw. It’s about like O’Hare in terms of size and complexity, but much, much better run. They were having a ground strike at the time—this is what caused my first flight to be canceled; the plane I was scheduled to be on couldn’t get _out_ of Frankfurt—but were moving people with great dispatch, little congestion, and no public riots. Or maybe they just don’t let members of the public abuse the staff).
And so I landed in Vilnius pretty much on time, to find that the temperature had risen, the snow was slushy, the skies gray—i.e., much like February in Flagstaff (where I grew up), as I kept reassuring my apologetic hosts—and the baggage claim area sported a large poster proudly informing all and sundry that Vilnius is “the Gender-Equality Capital of Europe!”
And the morning and the evening and the morning again and part of the afternoon were the First Day. _Now_ I was tired.