*written for your pleasure, especially you

The best laid plans

A view on Chaos theory

It was Christmas, my plan was to go to the UK to see my friends and family. Before I left I had carefully selected bought and made presents for all my loved ones. My plans were well thought out as I wrapped up and packed all the gifts and checked the buses and trains to the airport. Then came the snow.

Day 1

I had planned the perfect schedule where I would meet friends in 3 different cities. As the morning I was due to leave approached, the first thing to go wrong was the busses not running and so couldn’t get to the train station. So I took a taxi. Getting to the airport via the solid Dutch rail network was as easy as always, however the train was late so I was worried I was about to miss the morning flight. When I got the airport, I checked in my bag with all the gifts and was informed the flight was delayed for 2 hours. I wasn’t really surprised, the snow was building up all over the country. I waited, took coffee and read my books. The flight information kept changing, 3 hours, 4 hours.. Then it said cancelled.

So I went to the information desk, where I waited for another 2 hours where they tried to deal with everyone waiting. I was offered another flight to another UK city in the evening, which I accepted. My plan was back on track, I rearranged my plans in the UK, somewhere to stay and transport from the airport. The plane was due to leave at 9pm. I waited. As 9pm arrived the display’s said the flight was delayed, then.. cancelled. I went back to the information desk where the queues were so long the staff were bringing out water and sandwiches for people. At this point I knew it was hopeless to think I would be in the UK tonight. There were people saying the airline would book me a hotel near Schiphol, however looking at the queues I realised that this hotel probably wouldn’t have space for me or that there might be someone more in need of it and so tried to get back to Leiden. The Dutch train network I had so come to respect earlier on in the day was now letting me down.

None of the trains were going to Leiden. I asked the NS staff and they kept saying there will be one in half an hour, for 4 hours there was none in half an hour. I watched the displays. They couldn’t be trusted, nothing was working in this amazing rail system. Finally one old industrial looking train turned up on another platform and the driver shouted “This is to Leiden ONLY!” – I ran up the escalators and down again to the platform and made the train. On the journey I called the only person I knew left to be in Leiden and asked if they could help me out- they did and brought me a bike to the station. The snow was thick and heavy, cycling another 5km was hard work, luckily I left all the gifts in my bag checked in at the airport. I relaxed, called my Mum and told her the situation.

Day 2

I called the airline, they never answered. I kept trying. After 3 hours I got though and they told me they couldn’t put me on a flight for that night as I booked though a travel agency and they would have to rearrange the flight, but they couldn’t get though to the airlines as they were dealing with their direct customers.

They also said at present it doesn’t look as though the evening flight would be taking off anyway as so might be better to come to the airport where they could deal with me directly. I cycled to the train station. The trains to the airport were out of service. I gave up for the day and went to get a nice cup of tea with my Leiden friend.

Day 3

As soon as I awoke I could feel the sunlight on my face, oh what a feeling- cold but warm at the same time. I cycled into the train station- the trains to the airport were running!

I got to schiphol around 10am and went straight to the information desk. I saw the beginning of the queue. I was searching for the end of it… I walked.. walked and walked this was the biggest queue I have ever seen! When I eventually found the end of it there was a airline representative which asked my about my situation. She agreed I was in the right place and in the right queue. I was shocked. I kept calling the my travel agent, who informed me they had a lesser priority in sorting out tickets than me being at the airport and so should just wait. So I did. The queue was so slow. I finished one of my books and started a new one. I couldn’t leave the queue as I was travelling alone and so drank the provided drinks infrequently and we passed a toilet around 4 hours into waiting. Around 6pm I was getting close, I could see the desk I was going to be processed at. She told me all the flights had been cancelled to my original destination, but there is one special flight arranged for a Liverpool footballer, Ryan Babel, which had a couple of seats left but will be leaving in 10 min – she told me to run! So I did! Getting though passport control, security and getting to the gate was a challenge but they waited for me and I got on the plane! Finally, it felt like progress. I was sat on a very small plane with only 3 rows of seats, two on one side and one be the window. It had propellers! The football player was sat at the front talking to the captain just before he announced- “We have to wait to have our wings sprayed by a special chemical before we can set off.” I waited again. Two hours later 2 vans with cranes attached appeared and started to spray the plane. One stopped halve way through. Seems it wasn’t working.. half an hour later another one turned up, however this meant we had missed out flight window in the queue and had to wait for yet another one. Just before midnight the engines started, the propellers were turning and there was a cheer though the cabin.

I landed in Liverpool at 1am. I was so happy to be home. I waited for my baggage, I was almost sure it wouldn’t be there and it wasn’t. I then ran though the airport to the coach station for the last coach into the city on the day before Christmas eve. I met my friends, then family and had a very good Christmas, however no one had their presents. I called the airports and the airline several times, it wasn’t until new years eve until they found my bag, still at Schiphol airport. On the morning of the 2nd January, the day before I was to return to the Netherlands, there was a knock at the house I was staying at with my bag. I finally handed some of my friends their presents and set off for the journey back to Leiden.

This year we have heard it so many times in the news that there is Chaos at the airports. I have had first hand experience of it. We can only plan so far as one tiny thing can change every expectation you have ever made.

Today we can travel anywhere on the planet, yet it may not be as simple as you expect. The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.

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