Monday, June 16, 2008

Documents and More

Since last week, a considerable amount of things have gone down on this side of the world, the top two being 1) I flew to and from Tallinn to turn in those wonderful documents I've been collecting since September 2007 and 2) my mother, aunt, cousin and her children flew into Latvia. Oh, and I shouldn't forget this one, but 3) we went to see Raimonds Pauls in concert on Sunday. RP!!

Tallinn the second time around was about as fun as Tallinn the first time around, though I was able to decide that it would be nice to return to the city to just walk around and be a visitor. None of this "12-hour layover" or "just here to appease bureaucracy" business. But real, walking around and enjoying my surroundings.

Prior to making it to Tallinn this past Thursday, I almost didn't make it to Tallinn. The lines were crazy long at the airport and by the time I got to the counter it was 20 minutes before my flight was to leave (10.20 was the scheduled departure).

Woman at the counter: "Uh, don't you have a paper ticket?"
Me: "Uh, I bought them online."
Woman: "Alright." *picks up phone-thing, tries to call several times without success, finally reaches someone, gives them my info, etc., etc., then looks up at me* "Did you fly to Tallinn on Monday, too?"
Me: "...No, I called on Sunday and had the ticket switched to today."
Woman: "Hmm. Well, it says here you flew out on Monday already."
Me: "..."
Woman: "So go to the AirBaltic counter down there *points*, have them fix it then come back to the front of the line so you don't have to wait again."

So I power-walk it to the AirBaltic counter, where I then got to stand for 10 minutes, my passport shaking in my hands, as this older man had a row with one of the staff behind the counter. This older man had convinced a larger group of people to let him budge back at the ticket counter line, but that didn't help him, as he ended up with troubles as well. Troubles, apparently, that couldn't be fixed. I GET IT, YOU'RE MAD, THERE'S NOTHING THAT CAN BE DONE. But there are *ahem* other people waiting WHO MIGHT STILL HAVE TIME.

I finally ended up with a trainee helping me, who was very nice, but didn't know any of the right buttons to push on the keyboard and had no clue what any of the right codes were that needed to be entered. She was then joined by an older woman who immediately looked at the screen and said, "Oooh, she's not going to make that flight." Once it was understood that there had been an error on AirBaltic's part (I had called 24 hours in advance to change my flight, was told everything was in order and that I would just have to show up at the ticket counter, pay a 70 LVL fine, and go about my business. The catch is that they hadn't completed the transaction on their end; thus, their records stated I had already flown out once on the 9th), we got to work trying to find the next flights, which we did. Then the two women called over the staff member who had been argued at by the angry older man.

Women staff: "Can we give her the ticket without the fine?"
Staff guy: "Why?" *looks at me in an annoyed manner*
Me: "...."
Trainee: "There was an issue with the flight registration and now she's missed the flight."
Staff guy: "And?" *to me* "What time did you get in line?"
Me: "...I...don't know?"
Women staff: "The lines are ruthless today."
Staff guy: "So, why waive the fine?"
Me: "I DON'T CARE! My flight was supposed to be on Monday, I called Sunday and changed it today and was told everything was taken care of, just that I'd have to pay the 70 LVL fine - I came here today prepared to pay a fine. I JUST REALLY NEED TO GET TO TALLINN."
Staff guy: *mumbles something, shrugs, and wanders away to do something else*
Older woman staff: *also kind of wanders away*
Trainee: *prints out a receipt for a ticket and hands it to me* Have a good flight.
Me: "..."
Trainee: "You can go to the ticket counter, now."

My new flight, fine definitely NOT applied (!!) left at 12.55, which meant I actually had the chance to run up and surprise my mom, aunt, cousin and kids as they got off their plane and right before I had to run to my gate.

Tallinn itself was fine, I guess. At least it wasn't raining. I took a taxi to the embassy, turned in my documents, took probably one of each possible brochure laid out on the tables because I was so nervous I would still be missing documents, paid them my 300 EUR and left to find the bus stop I needed to board a bus back to get to the airport.

No time for lunch, though I did stop by the shopping centre for a few minutes to see if Wayne's Coffee there had soy milk on the menu. After standing at the counter for a few minutes of having the servers stare at me staring at the menu boards, I left. No soy milk, no tasty beverage for me.

I bought my bus ticket from a kiosk, proudly (yet eventually...) found the right bus stop and lo! there was the bus at a red light, heading for the stop located on the street. I sprinted through the under-street tunnel and up the other side, just in time to jump on the bus, stamp my ticket and sit down. There were a couple of people on board with suitcases, so SCORE! I was golden.

Until the bus pulled up to the D Terminal for ferry boats.

Yeah, I got on the bus going in the wrong direction and ended up by the flipping sea. The bus driver told me he'd be heading back to the airport, so I bought another ticket from him and sat down to wait. The driver then shooed an annoyed and very much not sober bum off the bus, took a cigarette and coffee break, then sat to wait. 15 minutes later the bus was started up again, we pulled up to the first stop by the D Terminal (at which point the drunken bum got back on the bus...) and were on our way to the airport.

Once at the airport I got to the ticket counter and once again almost didn't make my flight. The lady checked me in and all, but then said, "Oh, but you realise that the gates are closed, now."

Me: "As in the plane is gone already?"
Woman: "No, but the flight closes 30 minutes before departure."
Me: "...please..."
Woman: "..."
Me: "...I just need to get back to Riga..."
Woman: *sighs* "Do you have any luggage?"
Me: "No!"
Woman: *makes a phone call, prints my ticket* "Gate 4."

I booked it to the gate and had 30 seconds to spare before they announced that they were going to start boarding. I ran for no reason, really. Back at the ticket counter I was ready to ask the woman "Do you have TIME to hear my story?! Do you WANT to know everything I've been through just to make it to this day?!" She was smart in sparing herself.

Then tah-dah, back in Riga, just in time for the downpour and me without an umbrella.

The Raimonds Pauls & Laima Vaikule concert on Sunday was great. RP is still his maniac self on the piano (which doesn't say much because he doesn't at all act manic, but the guy has X years of genius in his portfolio). Andris Erglis was also there, in a completely white suit. Good singer, no comment on the choice of evening wear.

This will be another busy week. Wednesday is a curry-cook-off/tasting event, Friday is my aunt's birthday.

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