I knew I should have followed my intuition and not checked into the flight and instead rebooked a day or two later after the storm. But, as I suspected, after waiting for four hours, the storm Ciara forced the airlines to cancel my flight, leaving us all stranded in the lobby with nowhere to go. But with some quick thinking, and a good mobile internet connection and a bit of luck, in the end my journey back home was eventful and good fun – and I got home.
The train network was down, buses packed, rental cars all gone. No flights from anywhere to anywhere. I was stuck in Memmingen airport which was the size of a bus depot.
Three Englishmen walked past me and made their way outside to the taxi stand where one taxi stood. They were in their forties, looked quite determined and decisive so I thought they might be good to latch onto. I called to them and asked where they were off to. The taller one responded with, ‘Zurich. Hopefully.’ They carried on pulling their bags to a taxi, concerned only with their own progression. ‘How are you getting there?’ I called again. ‘Taxi. Hopefully.’ I had to make a quick decision. I asked if I could come with them. They looked up from dumping stuff in the boot and said I could jump in as long as I pay a quarter of the €400 fare to Zürich. I paused, looked around, and said yes and jumped in.
We sped off and my heart rate went up. Costs! We were now frantically trying to book flights on our phone – like everyone else, it seemed. The flights were disappearing fast. So the swearing started- ‘the cunting fucking website was lying’. (Turns out they were investment bankers.) ‘You cunts, tickets have gone from BA’ / ‘Need to act fast’ / ‘Get so-and-so on it.’ / Check skyscanner / ‘I’m losing the fucking 4G now. Fucking 4G.’ / ‘There’s no fucking seats left’. / ‘I’m through. Work with meeeeee, babeeeee … ‘ / ‘I want that seat.’ / ‘This is like being back on the trading floooooor.’ / Yes, loving it, come on, COME ON! ‘ ‘You CUNT. I’m back in the fucking start page. You CUNT!’ / ‘Lying fucking cunts – they never had the seats.’
Every travel company got whiff about the sudden demand. Uber call it ‘surge pricing’. Shamelessly bumping up ticket prices to take advantage of people’s sudden vulnerability. Uber go up to 40x.
The flights were all gone for today. We should’ve booked before we jumped into the taxi I cursed.
I considered booking a flight for the next day. I asked my partner to look on her computer.
Hey, Can you book a flight from Zurich to London (anywhere)?
You’ll have to stay over in Zurich!
I’m just going to have to sort that when I’m there.
Wait, we have a friends there!
Don’t have their numbers.
Let me check.
Okay … She’s not there but her partner is. She’ll message him. And he’ll message you.
Okay, he’s messaged me. I can stay with him.
Book the flight!
Okay, I’m going to book.
The travel plans were changing. The tall guy looked up from his phone and belched out ‘Right, chaps, this is pointless. Look, why don’t we go back to the ski chalet. We’ll stop off at the next town, have a boozy lunch and see what trouble we can get into and then take some rotten public transport to the lodge. Let’s have some fun. We’ll catch a flight later in the week.’
Oh shit, my heart rate rose, what if they jump out and leave me in the taxi. How will I get to Zürich. Can I afford it on my own?
‘Mate,’ one of them said, ‘You two go back but I have to get back to London tonight to drop the kids off at school tomorrow. The misses can’t take them.’ What a relief. He was still frantically trying on his phone. Sweating from stress …
Last chance: ‘Swiss Air flight tonight at 8pm €600 – YES! got it.’ Must’ve been important that he took his kids to school (… or else!)
Picked up my phone.
Book the flights! Tell me when it’s booked.
Relief! That was frantic. All in a day’s work for these three, though. They loved it. It was back on the trading floor for them. Just a bit more stressful when an impatient wife is involved.
We dropped the two guys of at Bregenz. One poked his head in through the window. ‘Well, we’ve got a boozy lunch to enjoy. See you later. Oh, and good luck.’
I turned to the fella next to me in the back and shrugged. Actually I’ve got half a bottle of red wine from the airport. I asked if he wanted some. Yeah I need that, and he started chugging it back. We sped off to Zurich.
Switzerland wasn’t too remarkable along the highway. The outskirts of Zürich could’ve been any European city. Nothing special.
I thought back – this is going to be expensive. But, no, I didn’t want to think about that too much now. I was now looking forward to having a few beers in Zürich and seeing an old friend.
I got into Zürich and I had a few hours to spare before meeting my friend at 7pm. I wanted to explore. I put the heavy bags into the lockers at the train station. A few Euros for six hours. I then went outside and found the nearest eScooter. Downloaded the app, added my card details, unlocked the scooter and then drove down to the lake.
This was great! What a quick and efficient way to see a new city. I could drive quickly along the roads, take shortcuts, drive onto the sidewalk. It was an incredible luxury.
My daughter was missing me, I read on my phone. I sent back a message to say, I’ll ring you from the lake. I drove down to the lake and then did a video call with her and showed them Zürich. The technology was simply incredible and the art of the possible amazed me.
Zürich was a like a mix of Stockhom and Stuttgart. It seemed quite familiar. It was very clean and organised as expected. It was also very quiet – there was little noise or hub-bub, even at ‘rush-hour’.
After scooting about for a bit and taking some photography, my friend messaged me. He can meet me at the big clock in the train station at 7.05. At Five past seven! Seeing as we’re in Zürich, we might as well be exact.
I made my way over and stood by the big clock waiting for the face to show 7.05.
At exactly 7.05:05 I took a picture and sent it to him.
I wrote, WHERE ARE YOU? YOU’RE LATE!
But before I could hit send he was stood behind me and greeted me. You fucker I said and we both started laughing although he didn’t know why since he hadn’t received my joke yet.
But, again, thanks to technology we were able to meet up, spontaneously.
We walked to a bar which had a distinct St Pauli feel to it – incidentally where he used to live. We drank some beers there and caught up about what had happened in the past three years since we had last seen each other.
A lot it turned out!
We spent the evening in his flat overlooking Zürich. I slept well on the sofa and the next morning, made my way to the airport and flew home.