This past week has been a week of decompression, which I did not realize but I needed. I was spending the week at a friend’s apartment in Kiev – he works for the embassy, so when I was in the apartment, it was like being in the U.S. However, when I stepped outside, I was definitely in Ukraine. Apparently, all of the stress of the past 27 months came up during this week, because for most of the week, I was exhausted, and being as I was in such a nice place, I had little motivation to do anything.
I managed to take care of all of my close of service checklist items without any stress (of course, I had already completed a number of the items prior to coming to Kiev). I was also able to see some friends one last time, have some nice dinners, and shed some more of the ballast I had with me (I still ended up overweight, but apparently that does not matter because the airline did not follow the policy and just charged me a standard fee for the second bag – no overweight fee).
I also had the chance to do some reflection on the past 27 months, though that is all out the window at this moment, as I sit here at the Kiev Airport and write this blog entry. In short, I am more than a little irritated – 27 months of rude people and bad customer service finally took its toll, and I have had it.
The driver picked me up this morning at 6 a.m. The travel assistant originally said 6:40, but something told me to make it earlier. It was a good thing I listened to my instinct, because as we were driving through Kiev at a little after 6 a.m., the driver was pulled over by the police. This is more common than a person would think – the police pick a random spot and park, then pick a random car to pull over in order to “check its license and registration”. My driver was polite but told the officer that we were on our way to the airport and that I was a diplomat (hey, whatever works). We got away without paying a “fine” and ended up taking a detour because of something related to preparations for Euro 2012.
Next stop – the airport. Luckily, I thought, I am flying out of the new terminal, which is usually faster and involves less hassle. Not today though. Apparently a person cannot check a second bag without first going to a separate cashier and paying the fee. So I got up to the counter and asked for my boarding pass from Amsterdam to Mpls, since I already had the one from Kiev to Amsterdam (that’s a whole other story of being unable to print it out yesterday – hooray for “airline partners”, as you cannot use ANY of the sites to check in and get your boarding pass). I checked one bag and told her I needed to check a second, so she told me I had to take my bag over to the cashier and pay, and THEN she tried to keep my passport and boarding pass!! I told her I was not going to wait in line again – her response? “Why are you so mad?” Um, TWO YEARS of bad customer service and rude people. I told her I was tired of a country that made EVERYTHING difficult. Hah – how true my words turned out to be (did I jinx myself??).
I get over to the cashier, who said “five hundred ten grivna”. SERIOUSLY? I told her I only have dollars, and she said “you can exchange money over there.” Well, no, I am trying to get rid of my grivna, not get more! She let me use a credit card to pay, then I just went right back up to a counter and jumped in. Of course, this made the person who was about to get help mad, and confused the person behind the counter. The other young woman said “I was here before you.” I said “no, you weren’t – I already have my boarding pass”. Her response: “I didn’t see you”. Well, too bad, because I was already there. She and the agent looked at me like I was crazy, but all I wanted was for my bag to be checked and get out of there. Honestly, I don’t CARE if they thought I was rude – call it a personal weakness, or influence of this place.
Security…in reshuffling my bags I forgot that I had two nail files and a neat gadget/tool in my hand bags (they were in my checked bags). The security guy made me take out the box (they were at the BOTTOM of the bottom of the bottom), which meant I had to unpack EVERYTHING, and the box fell, which meant everything IN the box went all over the floor. So I had to repack the box and the bag, and he would not give me my tool back (it did not have a knife) because apparently I look like a dangerous criminal to them. I mean, REALLY? There is no way I could even ACCESS the tool, much less use it to hurt someone.
Finally got my bag repacked, and then made it to the passport agent, who took an extra long time with my passport, and when he asked if I work for the embassy, I did not say yes or no (trying to make SOMETHING about this easier). He still took a long time, but he was nice, and commented on my shirt.
So here I sit – at least they have free WiFi in this terminal. It is 7:55 a.m. in Ukraine and I could already use a drink, knowing that this is only the beginning of my long journey back to the U.S. Makes me wonder what else the day has in store for me – maybe it will be like last Sunday, which started horribly but ended wonderfully. I had a three-hour flight to Amsterdam, then two hours to make it through customs and then security (AGAIN) for my flight to the US. At this point, I’ll be honest – I just want to get OUT.