Well to all you seasoned travelers this will amuse you and to you new or occasional travelers run for your life!!
We were saying good bye to this wonderful place called MTC. Our morning flight meant we needed to get up at 4:30am to meet our Super Shuttle driver who would take us to the airpot. We no sooner made it to the front of the MTC when our driver pulled up loaded our luggage and off we were again. Not quite, our driver asked “Can you wait for 5 mins?” Sure why not. He then preceded to pull out a rug and got on it like Aladdin ready for takeoff. It turned out he was a muslim who had been in this country from Iraq for about 16years and had wanted to open his own food business but failed, then went to work as a taxi driver and then came Uber who put him out of business, so he now works for Super Shuttle who has the contract to taxi missionaries coming and going from the Salt Lake Airport. Well a few ‘allahs” which he hadn’t had time to do yet for his busy morning and then rolled up his carpet and we got underway. We were just grateful he didn’t say “allah-u-akabr”, Ha.
When we left the Fresno airport and breezed through security we thought nothing of it. Ok this is normal, we should be fine from here on out. Salt Lake security thought other wise. My dear wife thinking we were headed off to a third world country without a lot of amenities decided to put about 35 smaller baggies into one large zip lock gallon bag of her favorite and most used “cooking spices”. Good thing we followed advice and arrived almost 2 hours early. Something about those spices lit up their security screens with a yellow color that WAS NOT GOOD!! We were pulled aside, I was given a double shake and pat down, maybe that was a pat UP ooh, trying to keep my pants up with no belt while my hands were high in the air was only the beginning, all spices had to come out. They knew that we were carrying the “GOODS”. My wife tried to explain her reasoning but their look said “Sure, right…lady”. Slowly but surely they narrowed it down to about 10 baggies and each one had to be opened and tested by two different liquids to see if they would change to a certain color. All the while we were being starred at by other passengers going by and the other security guards. Humbling and somewhat disconcerting. If we weren’t smuggling drugs, WE WERE smuggling spices. CONVICTED !!! 18 months in Albania.
To Chicago from Salt Lake was a decent flight and once we landed we had almost a 3 hour layover, only to be told, once we got to our gate that there was a 15 minute layover. Then they said another 15 minute delay, followed by a 30 minute delay followed by another 30 minute delay and another and another. We had a 3 1/2 hour layover at our next stop in Germany so we weren’t too worried. Once we landed however time then became an issue as we had none left to make our flight. There was some up and down escalators and a decent walk but we thought we were still safe. However when we arrived at our gate for Albania, we were 5 mins too late and we had missed our flight!!!
Undaunted, our missionary spirit could handle this. We would just go to the United Service counter and resolve this. It is that simple, however……one important detail to understand about international travel. Border crossing! When you are on one side of the airport it is like you are not in the country your in the safe zone. We were in Germany but technically not. Not until we crossed the line at border security and had our passports stamped did we now enter Germany. All fine and good, right. United Service counter was on the German side of the airport, so crossing the border meant we had to go back through security bag check!!! Know where this is going. United told us there was a plane leaving for Albania in one hour and if we hurried we could see if stand by might give us the chance to make the flight. SECURITY!! Spices. To boot this time they found some trace of explosive element or the such inside my backpack to make me feel like a terrorist, and at one time I was surrounded by four armed automatic AK-47 gun toting German Security police. I was dead. What good was this missionary name tag for anyway. By the time we got through and raced what had to be at least a mile down the terminal we didn’t make the flight.
Ok, we can do this! Nope my wife exhausted as now this had taken most of the day, couldn’t move another inch, she just wanted to sleep on the bench. No worries I can do this and even be smarter this time and leave all the baggage with her as I crossed the border (stamped again) and went into Germany, United Service counter and heard there was one more chance another stand by flight in one hour. Leaving my wife however I left our boarding pass in her care and without a boarding pass they would not let me back into that side of the terminal. I had conquered the baggage security people but was stranded in Germany. If it wasn’t for a kind hearted security woman who could see the frustration on my face, I’d still be in Germany but she let me through!! Went through security with a breeze, actually I wanted to give them a German gesture, but didn’t know any, ha. We made the race again and this time we made it on time only eventually to be told that the flight was full!
All options exhausted and us the same, we were forced to get our passports stamped again, book a room and stay in Germany for the night. Yes, that is right which meant Security again the next morning The only flight the next day was to fly to Slovenia and then to Albania, an all day trip. One missed 2 hour flight by 5 mins. in exchange for two days of hell, oh yeah, can’t say that, two days of adventure!!!