After this morning’s very positive experience at Schiphol Airport, I had high hopes for the balance of the day. As usually happens, we had good times and challenging ones. But we survived, and as I type we are trying to stay up to a regular Atlantic Daylight Time bedtime.
Our transfer in Frankfurt was made much easier by not needing to clear security again (the secret here appeared to be taking the subterranean “passenger tunnel” that connects the A concourse where we arrived to the B concourse where we were to depart; if you happen to take the same tunnel someday, there’s an impressive photo installation by Martin Liebscher lining the wall). On the outbound voyage a couple of weeks ago we didn’t know we’d need to clear security while transferring to our SAS flight to Copenhagen, and it created some early morning jet-lagged transition stress.
Things took a turn for the anxious, however, when we arrived at gate B61, a cavernous basement cattle pen with not enough seats for we who were herded in. The lack of seating was inconvenient, but not stressful; the source of the stress was that each of the three Condor staff that we showed our “print out all attached documents and keep them with you during the whole journey” documents regarding Oliver’s need for assistance paid them no heed, and offered us no assistance whatsoever. As a result, when the pre-board call came, there was a crush of about 150 already checked-in passengers crowding to catch the buses to the apron. So we sat down and caught the last bus, which provided a little more calm. It was frustrating the Condor didn’t rise to the challenge of providing assistance.
The flight across the Atlantic was long (the extra 60 to 90 minutes that the westward flight takes vs. the eastward always makes coming home seem like a long slog). Oliver upped for the €9 “premium entertainment” voucher to avoid having to watch one of the two “free” movies on offer; he watched Yes Man and Love, Simon. Meanwhile I watched four episodes of the new Jack Ryan series, downloaded in advance to my phone from Amazon Prime (the ergonomics of watching a film on a plane are horrible).
Oliver had a brief spasm of anxiety during my pre-landing “oh, right, I need to calculate how much we spent on things” calculations. He was very, very concerned with accuracy (as, of course, I was), and wanted to make sure I included everything, and that I didn’t include anything that we left in Europe. He also was concerned that we had a written record of all purchases and of all the places we visited. So I complied, and compiled. And he calmed down.
When we arrived at the customs line in Halifax there were approximately 300 people waiting in line, a mixture of Condor and Icelandair passengers.
Unable to face the prospect of managing a stressed-out Oliver for however long it would take to wend through the line, I redirected us to the line labeled “crew and special services,” rationing that it was indeed special services that we need. We waiting for about 20 seconds before we were in front of perhaps the kindest, most compassionate border agent I’ve ever met. I introduced him to Oliver; Oliver presented his lists; he complimented Oliver on his lists, and told him that he wish that all passengers were as organized. When he noted that we’d done a lot of stationery shopping in Halifax, he mentioned his own stationery interest, and ended up giving Oliver a pen. This experience reminded me that accessible service for people with autism is simple: just be clear, precise, and friendly. Which is the service that everyone should expect.
After a quick diversion to get a form filled out for the items we mailed ahead, we beat a path to the Quality Inn shuttle bay, and were checked in and in our room within 20 minutes. The Quality Inn doesn’t look like much, and it could certainly use some new hallway carpeting and a coat of paint. But the beds are comfortable and the rooms are clean. I expect, in any case, that we’ll be awake and on the road at 5:00 a.m.