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!!)