€uro-less and luggage-less inside the beltway

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you are well and happy. This year Nazy’s sister Shahrzad hosted a family reunion at her home in Washington, D.C. Side-stepping tradition, I booked early and cost effectively. Ignoring past performance, I booked USAir. Things began to go awry at the gate in Zurich.

“There will a short mechanical delay,” the agent announced.

“Who chose this flight?” Nazy asked.

Although I hadn’t flown much since leaving HP, old habits and skills resurfaced. I stationed myself so that I would be able to overhear communication with the mechanics. Unobtrusively, I watched the team behind the counter and noticed cabin crew slinking away.

After assembling and correlating this information, I conveyed my conclusions to Nazy: “We’re screwed! This flight
will be cancelled.”

“Why can’t you ever be optimistic?” Nazy replied frostily.

Watch and learn,” I replied. The senior gate agent approached selected passengers. These few, given new documents, collected their stuff and moved on. “See, my dear,” I whispered. “This ship has hit the iceberg. Business class has commandeered the lifeboats...”

“It’s an airplane, Dan.”

“I know,” I replied, pushing an elderly women and small children out the way.

“Dan!” Nazy exclaimed. “What are you doing?”

“I getting into position, Nazy. We need to be at the front of the queue when they make the general cancellation announcement.” The gate agent blew into the microphone and:

“We cannot locate the required component, so this flight has been cancelled. Please remain seated as we......... Thank you for your patience and thank you for flying USAir.”

But we’re not flying USAir,” I thought.

As the first economy class passengers in the rebooking queue, we got confirmed space on a Swiss flight to Chicago that would connect with a United flight to Washington. 70,000 frequent flyer miles upgraded both of us for the transatlantic crossing. The first leg was comfortable and uneventful. Astonishingly, our three bags arrived in Chicago at the same time we arrived. After clearing customs, we rechecked the bags and were re-secured. Irradiated in the scanning device, I was also selected for an intrusive physical search.

“I thought that the point of this irradiating scanner was to make pat-down unnecessary,” I told the TSA centurion. “
I should have kept my mouth shut,” I thought as I waited for the bomb sniffing machine to clear my briefcase, the FBI to validate my fingerprints and the NSA to confirm my identity.

United Airlines sent two of our suitcases to Washington. They sent the third one back to Zürich. I was going to complain, but Nazy told me that I should focus on the positive developments. We were, for example, in the United States where we could watch ‘The World’s Greatest Democracy’ choose candidates for the Presidency:

Asked about Libya, Herman Cain responded: “There was no woman named Lydia.” Newt Gingrich suggested that 14-16 year old kids drop out of school and get jobs. (“What jobs?&rdquoWinking. Rick Perry’s attention spans only two government departments. There is no such foolishness in Switzerland; our courts, for example, focus on substance:


Although the weather was murky and Zurich-like a the beginning of our visit, it turned beautiful and we took the opportunity to see some of the newer memorials in Washington: the World War II, Martin Luther King, Franklin Roosevelt. Naturally there was also time for some of the more mature monuments as well.

melika and roosevelt dog

Although the reunion was focused on Nazy’s relatives, Melika, flying in from California, was able to join us for a few days and Thanksgiving dinner. We took advantage of fact that we shared a continent to talk with Mitra. And then there was an email from Darius:

“What is the problem now?” Nazy asked.

“He’s in
Germany,” I replied. “And he’s €uroless.”

“What happened?”

“His Lebanese ATM card doesn’t work. His South African ATM card doesn’t work. He doesn’t know the PIN code for his American ATM card..”


“In America, you need to go the bank in person to get a PIN code.”


“It’s an anti-terrorism thing. Terrorists will not come to the bank to get a PIN code.”

“Couldn’t a terrorist use cash?”

“Of course not. No receipt? No reimbursement! Conclusion: no PIN-code=no Terrorism.”

“That’s preposterous.”

“No, that’s the Department of Homeland Security.”

“What about Darius?”

“He seems to have inherited my propensity for travel problems.”

“That’s because he travels...”

“... to ‘interesting’ locations, my dear.”

The situation was critical. In Marburg, Darius, foiled by international-less banking services that made it impossible for him to access his own money, needed cash to get back to South Africa. On Thanksgiving Day, in Washington DC, we had become the emergency rescue team. Melika and I were excited by the chance to shine:

“Why did you give Darius your ‘travel problem gene’, Dad?” Melika asked.

The race was on: Melika and I were in America - where they spoke English and were open 24 hours a day. Darius was in Germany where the shops closed at 5:00PM and they spoke, well, German. Who would find a solution first?

Find out in next week’s edition

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