Thursday, February 21, 2013

Amsterdam Adventure

We arrived in the States about a week ago, which is a good thing, because for a while there we wondered if we would ever get out Amsterdam.

When we checked in at Charles de Gaulle at 5 a.m. on Valentine's Day, we were told that they could issue us boarding passes for our flight from Paris to Amsterdam, but that we would have to go to a transfer station at Schiphol in order to get our boarding passes for our flight from Amsterdam to Seattle. We had an hour and a half to make our flight, so we didn't question that plan.

When we landed at Schiphol we headed for the transfer station, where we got in a long line of travelers who all seemed to be receiving the same response from the ticket agents: "Take a number and stand in another long line." However, when we reached the agent, she took one look at our itinerary and said, "Wait right here."

She stared at a computer screen with a confused look on her face, and tap, tap, tapped on a keyboard. 

The clock was ticking; so, having a hunch about the source of her confusion, I stated, "There are two 'Davids."

The light of understanding dawned in her eyes. 

At this point in time, I'm starting to wonder if we might be the first people who have ever named a child after his father. How could such a common phenomenon cause this kind of confusion?

"May I have the 'Davids' Passports?"

We handed them over.

She scanned them, handed them back, and said, "If you don't get to the gate, you are going to miss your flight. I can issue you three boarding passes, but the fourth one is going to take some time." Certain that we were not going to leave our eldest son in Amsterdam, we shook our heads. "Well then, all of you go to the gate, I'll call ahead and alert them to the problem. You'll get your boarding passes there."

"All four of them?"

"Yes," she assured us, "all four."

We headed toward our gate and discovered that a we had to go through passport control on our way. Of course, there was a long line. David began his "worst-case scenario" prognosticating. Chandler nervously checked his watch. Graham wondered if he could survive for 18 days alone in the Amsterdam airport. I shook my head and pretended I didn't know any of them. I am, unquestionably, the calmest traveler in the family in all situations except severe turbulence. 

Inching our way toward the agent, we said a prayer for all the "juniors" in the world and the price they pay for inheriting another's name. Our flight had been boarding for 20 minutes, and was scheduled to depart in 30 more.

Finally, it was our turn. We handed over our passports and answered all the basic questions:

"We plan to be in the States for 18 days."

"We are traveling for pleasure."

"We live in France."

And then we were asked something that we have never been asked before: "May I see your residence cards?"

Now WHY a passport agent in Amsterdam needs to see the French residence cards of Americans who are traveling to the United States is really beyond me. Could he keep us from leaving Holland because of a French visa issue? Rather than giving voice to our questions, David and I simply handed over our Cartes de Séjour. 

He scanned them, and then asked to see Graham and Chandler's residence cards.

"Sir," we replied, "France does not issue residence cards to minors."

"Why not?" he asked us. 

So there we were, harried Americans trying to explain French bureaucracy to a Dutch immigration officer. Which is something that cannot be done by the average man. It requires a Ph.D. in International Relations. 

David was about to collapse from stress when the immigration officer shook his head, mumbled something about "the French" under his breath, and stamped our passports.

Walking at a clip, we jumped on a moving sidewalk, which ten seconds later decided to stop. Our pace was slowed by weary travelers who had hoped to be riding rather than walking the concourse. At last we reached our gate. 

The screen was blinking "GATE CLOSING" as we gave our reservation number to the ticket agent. Of course, our boarding passes were not ready. Again, confusion. Again, the unsettling assurance that three boarding passes could be printed, but not four. Again, we shook our heads. Finally, an archaic solution arises. One agent prints three boarding passes on her computer and a different agent prints the fourth on a different computer. Why this works is beyond our understanding; but, at this point we don't care. 

We all had boarding passes, and we were on our way!


  1. I'm just saying....
    We like to be thorough ;)

    And he would have been so save with our family.
    Love you!
    Have fun in the big US of A.

  2. Oh so grateful that you made it!! Just such a sweet time with you 4. Loved every second of your stay with us.