Bulgaria Air – Part 2

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Dear readers,

In my haste to blog, I have forgotten to do so. and I am heartily ashamed. However, Now that I have successfully retrieved my account, I feel it my blog-ridden duty to complete the story I started last year. So please, enjoy, and hopefully not wait so long for further instalments.

And for those of you that may be here for the first time, I strongly suggest you look at the first part, creatively entitled “Bulgaria Air.”

So.. the saga continues….

However, it was now that Bulgaria Air’s amazing management skills kicked into gear. There were several check in desks manned, and, of course, several more that were not. With the plethora of flights apparently leaving at this time, flights whose existence had been known for several weeks, I marvelled at the fact that there were unattended desks at a time when maximum staffing was obviously required. Having spent my life in an industry that requires allocating enough staff based on known business, I was less than amused to see that the concept of providing enough staff to cater for a peak period was obviously an anomaly here. But I stood back to watch. I noticed that there were approximately 4 manned desks in front of us and to our left, a series of vacant desks to the right, and then another series of manned desks further up the line. And in our line, we were so unbelievably fortunate to have a lady who either believed she was a manager, or wanted the world to think she was. She began calling out to the waiting masses in the line that stretched in front of her. Now, fortune smiled upon me because next to me was my lovely Bulgarian wife who understood what she was saying and she passed the translation on to me. Unfortunately, we remember that we are in an airport filled with international travellers, and not many of whom spoke Bulgarian. So this outcry was nothing more to them than a staccato attack of a seemingly unending string of syllables. What this intellectually and logically lacking woman was saying was that they were now only serving passengers travelling to Amsterdam and Madrid. To me, it sounded like she was ordering a pizza and could anyone remember where she had left her camel. But no. She was calling for passengers whose planes were scheduled to depart around 15 minutes previously. Now, 1 or 2 people in the queue understood what she was saying and surged forwards. Unfortunately, the remaining 98% of people were looking for her camel and hoping for some pizza, and so they felt it their duty to surge as well. Enter Mr.Chaos – very please to meet you sir. We were now around 3rd in line and rejoicing at the prospect of our tile race victory. But this was not to be. People travelling to Amsterdam and Madrid were surrounding us, pressing forward, all thoughts of pizza and camels forgotten. We let them through and this woman continued to shout to no one in particular.

It was then that I noticed something a little peculiar, disorganised and unfortunate. In our line, there were several people travelling to Paris who were obviously a little miffed at having to relegate their hard won spots at the front of the line to those in greater need. However, this stupid woman’s cries were apparently only for those in our line. The remaining desks and frazzled staff had received no such instruction and continued to serve those on all flights. Yes, Teddy and I had found ourselves in the only queue with a censor.

I have a law. Well, I have several. And these are inescapable truths and facts that I have learnt over time that only apply to me. And one of those is this – Jon’s Law of Supermarket Queues. This law states that no matter what queue I am in; no matter what I am purchasing, waiting for, or attempting to do, the queue that I am in will ALWAYS be the slowest. This has been proven many, many thousands of times during my life, and I am yet to be the fortunate recipient of an exception. And for you, dear people, you have the benefit of knowing this. Because if you should ever see me standing in a queue, then you can be 100% guaranteed that if you join another one, you will get to the front, get to the top, get to the ride, get to whatever destination it is that we are all queuing for, well ahead of me. This is my gift to the world. People actually now offer me money to not join their queues. Because if I were to join their queue, then the forces of nature and the great God of Waiting, will dictate that this queue will become the slowest moving on the planet.

You are all welcome.

So, back to the queues and the dictator. What Teddy and I discovered was that anyone in our queue who was heading to Paris simply strolled over to another desk where they were checked in immediately. This stupid woman who was trying to control our line, had decreed that they would only be serving passengers to Madrid and / or Amsterdam, and yet completely and utterly failed to pass this information on to all of the staff who were working at other desks. So that anyone who was travelling to Paris or Madrid and was in our queue got to watch the passengers for other flights leaving after them being checked in before them in other queues. Needless to say, this fact was not appreciated by pretty well everyone in the airport. ….. A rather irate lady demanded to complain to the manager, and was told rather curtly that there was no one to complain to – complaints could be entered on line if needed. Which struck me as odd. What if I wished to complain about the fact that there was no one to complain to? Go on line? What if there is no wifi? Go on line and complain about the fact that there is no wifi. If I could go on line, I wouldn’t need to complain now, would I? Seriously Bulgaria Air…

Anyway, we managed to check in at some time after 7am and we rushed through security. Shoes, belts, watches, phones, wallets and laptops were all shed and then hastily reassembled after we had entered. But it was all for nothing. It was now 7.30am and our plane wasn’t even boarding yet. At least that’s what the screen said. Silly me for believing it. I should have known that when the screens in the airport tell you that the flight isn’t boarding yet, that they have, in fact, already filled the plane, and that you are about to be paged for daring to hold up a plane that still had most of its passengers in a line wrestling with an irate and incompetent woman who was looking for her camel and her pizza. Nevertheless, 10 minutes in duty free (where I noticed that there were no Easter eggs yet available – perhaps the Easter Bunny was still queuing) and we proceeded to the gate. Alarm bells started ringing as I noticed that for a flight that wasn’t boarding, there was a very remarkable lack of anything resembling passengers waiting to board. So board we did.

And here comes the final straw. Naturally, as we were one of the last on the plane, there was absolutely no space to put our hand luggage. I pointed this out to a flight attendant who looked at me as if I was the last thing she needed – a customer with a question. My little suitcase was whisked off down the aisle and mounted in an overhead locker some 6 rows behind me. Needless to say, this now made it impossible for me to retrieve anything I might need during the flight – my pillow, a book, a customer service instruction manual written in Bulgarian!! It also meant that once we had landed, the probability of me actually getting to retrieve my case prior to leaving the plane was next to zero. I would be forced to wait until all 34 rows behind me had disembarked before I could venture backwards to retrieve my belongings. But it was not to be. Teddy and I took our seats, relieved that we would be leaving very soon. Not wishing to ask the harried flight attendant to do anything else for me, a paying customer, I managed to fit my jackets at my feet, and observed the following passengers endure the same storage dilemmas as they entered. Unfortunately, I also noticed that the following passengers were actually looked after. It turns out that there were in fact three empty overhead lockers in business class, and the same incompetent idiot that had stashed my cases in the boot of the plane then proceeded to place others in slightly more accessible areas. Jon’s Law of Aeroplane Storage is being written as we speak.

Now, it was 8am, some 40 minutes after we were due to leave. It then struck me that we had booked the first flight of the day, and we were substantially late. What sort of business is an hour overtime 1 hour after the start of business? Luckily, I was too tired to contemplate this further, and I went off in search the sleep that I needed. Teddy was also searching and she found hers very quickly.
Finally, nearly an hour and a half late, we left. And as we disappeared into the Bulgarian air, I thought that Bulgaria Air’s mission statement, complete with typo, could not have been more apt.
“Bulgaria Air is an aviation company famous for its traditions. At present we have added to this an ongoing strife for offering better quality service by new, secure and comfortable aircraft.”
While I thank them for their additions, any further trips can be made much more pleasurable without adding any “ongoing strife” to my journey.

Bulgaria Air

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Bulgaria Air. No, not the oxygen, nitrogen, argon and carbon dioxide mix that floats around this amazing country, but the country’s flagship airline that, in their own words,  “offers its customers air transportation services of the highest quality.” Maybe it’s me, but perhaps the meaning of their claim got lost in the translation. And after my experience with them this past weekend, I feel that they should either review their policies, or get another translator.

My wife and I recently had the pleasure of spending two weeks in Bulgaria for Christmas and New Year. This was an amazing little holiday, filled with family, food, friends, more food, fun, a bit more food, some travel, alcohol, and some more food. So much so that I had the feeling that my wife’s grandmother was trying to fatten me up for a ceremonial slaughter. I began to feel like the thanksgiving turkeys, or the force fed geese. I even asked her if there was something special that I should be eating in order to make my liver easier for her to digest when the time came. She just smiled and twinkled her eyes at me, in the way that only grandmothers can. Now, I am sure she is hiding in our apartment somewhere, scales and spices in hand, just waiting for the right moment to strike and to serve me on a platter. I’m sure there will be Cumin involved, and perhaps I will be served with some Rakia on the side, just to aid digestion. But I digress.

Our holiday was over, and we were returning home to Paris. Our flight was due to leave Sofia airport at 7.20am, un godly hour by anyone’s reckoning, and so we arose around 4am (ish), and proceeded to do all those things that one does prior to travelling. Suffice to say, we arrived in the departures hall at Sofia International airport around 6am.  Where it appeared that the majority of the population of Sofia was also. Several hundred people were queuing to check in – a strange sight in an airport that has perhaps 4 gates and room for only 2 or 3 planes at any one time. So we selected a queue and began the arduous task of waiting. I began to amuse myself by studying the various signs around the airport that were written, naturally, in Cyrillic, the chosen alphabet of Bulgaria, consisting of 33 letters and dating back to the 9th century. My attempts at both pronunciation and comprehension were nothing short of abysmal, but I continued nevertheless. It was a way to pass the time.

Now, seeing as it was stupid o’clock in the morning, a time in which the sun had even refused to rise, I began to question certain things. The sun has quite an easy life. It gets up. It charges across the sky from one horizon to its opposing number, and goes to bed. Not a lot to do in the life of the sun. So at a time when even the sun had refused to begin its sun related day, I wondered just what it was that we were doing at that time. If the sun was still sleeping, surely we should be as well. But it was not to be. Teddy and I were queuing. Well, that’s not strictly true, because a queue, by its nature, moves. You form a line, and you advance. we had successfully managed the first part, but the second part was frustratingly eluding us. And it was here that I came up with a concept – a new concept of speed. Speed is referred to in miles per hour, kilometres per hour, metres per second, and other relative distances per time factor. However, none of this could possibly apply to us. I noticed that the floor of the airport was set in ceramic tiles, and I began to notice that our speed could actually be measured in  the number of tiles that we advanced over in a given time. At one point, we reached the dizzying speed of 2 tiles in 4 minutes – and I realised that a family of 6 had just checked in and we managed to advance at a great rate as the queue moved to occupy the space that they had recently vacated. Nevertheless, I continued with my analysis of speeds and signs and the minutes just flew by.

We were getting closer. We had reached the rope and bollard arrangements that were characteristic of airports the world over and the end was in sight. The boarding time for our flight was long past, as it was for every other flight leaving at that time and tempers were fraying. It was now 7am and by my reckoning we had around 16 tiles to go before we could reach the front of the line. At our current speed, we would be checking in around March the 7th – just in time for Easter. (I wondered if they were selling Easter eggs in duty free!!)

What it is..

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Hi there,

Welcome. For years, I have wanted to put down my thoughts. And while I use the term ‘put down,’ it immediately strikes me that this term has several meanings. Is this ‘put down’ in the sense of an ailing pet, relieving it of its aged or malaise ridden ailments? Or more generally, as a boxer will ‘put down’ his opponent, both physically and / or verbally? (I nearly wrote ‘mentally’ there, but was thwarted when I tried to remember a boxer who did anything mentally whatsoever.) Or, more mundanely, is it simply an expression used to record thoughts and observations. Dear reader, I regret to inform you that it is this. Although over time I have been severely tempted to ‘put down’ my thoughts (version 1) when they became all encompassing, and I have also been tempted to ‘put down’ my thoughts (version 2) when they have annoyed or vexed me. I do now, however, find myself deciding that these very reasons are the cause for my wanting to ‘put down’ my thoughts (version 3.)

So, what will you find here? I am glad you asked. Unfortunately, I discover that I am unable to answer, as I have not written a thing yet, aside from some random introduction about putting things down – hardly a positive start to a blog. However, in the interests of providing some form of insight, I can tell you what I plan to include, and who the hell I actually am.

I will, however, state this. I am a blogging virgin. This world is unknown to me, and so if you choose to proceed, you do so at my own risk. I anticipate random changes of font, the insertion of completely irrelevant photographs, and other such e-perils as may be found in these pages (screens?)

There will be no real time-line to things that I may record. Some may be events from long ago; some may be so fresh as to have real and visible unhealed scars; some may be only hours old. As such, these are the beauties of life.

So.. if you will, please take these paragraphs as some kind of random introduction, and proceed at your peril. And if I happen to bump into you along the way, you can be sure I will be pleased to meet you. I just hope I remember to say it.