I flew to Berlin over the weekend. To be honest, it was one of those trips I hadn’t had too much time to think about, since I had quite a lot to do before I left. But still, I made it to the airport on time and even had a great seat on the airplane; an exit row aisle seat in coach, with no one next to me, which meant I had all the room in the world to stretch out, curl up and sleep for basically five or six hours. It doesn’t get much better than that; in fact, to me, that’s sheer gold.
|Vice President—Content/ Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero|
I connected in London/Heathrow and on the Berlin-bound flight from there I was nearly not so lucky; I was assigned a middle seat in a very packed airplane. The seat in front of me was so precariously close to my face, I broke out in a cold sweat as I considered telling the airline I just couldn’t do this—until I realized some of my colleagues from the U.S. were on the flight. “Do you want to be that person?” I asked myself, as I envisioned the flight attendants circling around me, radioing to the ground crew to remove my baggage from the plane. I couldn’t do it and I stayed, and the person next to me, the one who’d been smart enough to reserve the aisle seat, actually never showed up. The plane was so packed I figured something terrible must have happened to them, that they’d truly missed this plane. But whatever, I sat up and plopped myself down in the missing person’s seat and off we all went to Berlin, merrily.
It gets better, and I know, there is so much talk of serendipity in this column so far it’s almost hard to stomach. But when I reached the hotel in Berlin and told the front desk person my name, she got really happy. Did you know they have you on the club level? She asked me. No, I told her, in fact, that was quite odd. See, I’d made the reservation via a conference bureau and I was certainly not an outstanding guest of any sort, just another attendee. But still, I went with the flow; in my career as a travel writer I’ve occasionally had people who were extremely happy to greet me on my arrival (the opposite has been true as well, trust me). The front desk manager brought me up to the club level for a very special check-in process, where it seemed they were all waiting for me. The attendant told me of the perks that came with being on this privileged level—food and drink throughout the day, free trips to the sauna, free Internet, newspaper. It was as if I’d won the lottery.
When I asked if I could give them my frequent-visitor club-card number, they laughed. We already have it, they told me. Well, actually, you don’t, I said, I’ve only just gotten it. They laughed some more but I knew the jig was up.
They had the wrong person. They showed me the name of the individual they thought I was, and it was truly very close to the person I am, but I was not that person. The woman at the front desk downstairs had actually gotten it all wrong.
I’d have to say, after that realization, the truly, “so happy to see you” delirium came to an end. I wasn’t this super road warrior VIP, I was merely a regular person. The attendant worked at finding me a room on a lower level and told me I could still enjoy all of the benefits he’d told me about, but for an additional 80 euros a day. It sounded so, so mercenary, that I told him I’d let him know further into my stay if I wanted to pay daily for those perks.
I couldn’t believe my lucky streak had ended; it was all pretty mortifying, if you want to know the truth.
It made me realize once again how I’d left my travel fate up to the stars and not to a trusted advisor. Some day I’ll learn, I swear. In the meantime, I did cough up the 80 euros a day to be on that privileged level. I just couldn’t bear the thought of all that good stuff happening a few floors up and my not having any of it, even if my name wasn’t spelled exactly the same way as that very lucky person whose name sounded a lot like mine.