Perhaps the world’s second-worst crime is boredom; the first is being a bore.—Cecil Beaton
Falling Prey in Frankfurt
I have discovered how to negotiate large airport terminals: ask questions frequently. Like, about every hundred feet, around every corner, on each level, until someone takes pity on an old gray-haired woman and walks you to your destination. Sometimes that person will carry your luggage, too. Gray hair rocks!
It works. It works in the immense air terminal in Frankfurt, Germany, which is how I find myself in the right place, but way too early. Terminal 1, Level 1, where the hotel courtesy shuttles pick up their guests.
I use a courtesy phone to let the Holiday Inn Express know I am there, ready for pick-up. Forty-five minutes, is the response, so I go back into the terminal and people-watch for a while until my imagination gets the best of me and drives me outside again.
I admit I am not street smart. I haven’t had to be, considering where I grew up (Anchorage in the 1950s.) After that, I moved to smaller and smaller towns until I settled six miles out of a very small town. Even after all my international travels, I remain decidedly unaware of potential traps and pitfalls.
So, on this day when I will overnight in Frankfurt and catch the next day’s flight to Nairobi, Kenya, I’m inside the terminal people-watching and what comes to mind but the guy from Alaska who recently shot up a terminal in Florida after getting his pistol and ammo out of his luggage. I was thinking about how diabolically clever he was while I’m watching people enter the terminal.
I know there are terrorism problems in Europe. I know there are terrorism problems in Kenya. I know the person in the long coat who just came through the doors could be carrying an assault weapon. Or the woman who is fully covered could be wearing a suicide vest. Any one of the suitcases could contain a bomb.
I look around for something to hide behind should someone start shooting.
There’s nothing close enough. I figure I have better chances outside behind the waist-high concrete walls where I waited for the hotel shuttle, so I go outside.
My shuttle doesn’t arrive and it’s a few minutes past the time they said it would be there. I watch the same shuttles come and go, but not mine.
A tall black man approaches and says, “Are you waiting for…. What hotel are you going to?”
Before I can catch myself, I say, “Holiday Inn Express.”
“Come with me. I’ll take you there.”
Alarm bells. Should I or should I not? “What van is yours?” I manage to ask. He points to a brown one with an indecipherable name painted on it. Or is it? Is it a removable decal?
“My colleague asked me to pick you up. He had a break down.” I follow, reluctantly.
He loads my two bags and heads out. I don’t say anything and neither does he. I don’t know the route to the HIE because the only time I’ve been there, I was leaving Frankfurt. I don’t remember it being this far away. Why is he taking this little, remote off-ramp? Will someone find my body before it becomes a toxic waste site?
I recall that he didn’t name the hotel but asked me its name. Not good. I should have made him tell me the name. Too late now.