The Day the Sun Stood Still

I’m backdating this post to the date of the events I’m describing.

The bizarre thing about taking a noon flight from Copenhagen to San Francisco is that local time when you arrive is not even 3 PM. It’s as if time stops outside the plane.

Inside the plane, time does something else entirely. Eleven hours becomes eternity.

The flight was unendurably long and cramped, though I did have an empty seat next to me in the middle section. Because of the way the flight arced over the pole, we spent many hours flying through darkness, during which time the cabin lights were dimmed. Many people attempted to sleep, but after the failure of my efforts on the eastbound flight, I didn’t bother.

I don’t know whether I would have felt more or less dislocated in time if I had slept, but even though it was dark over Iceland and Greenland and much of Canada, my body was not willing to believe that it was bedtime–not until much later, by which time bright sunshine was streaming in the windows.

On the other hand, at the time we departed, I very much wanted to be back in bed.

Our tickets told us to be at Schiphol three hours before departure time. That meant getting up at 3 AM. When we arrived, there was no one working in the SAS ticketing area. We were told that no one would be there until two hours before departure time. That left us sitting around WITH our luggage for an hour before we could check in.

Then there was the security check. This was much more extensive than the cursory inspection we got at SFO. I got a pat-down that included pulling on my bra strap, and one of the agents very nearly confiscated all my food, claiming it qualified as “liquid.” (If we hadn’t had to spend that night in the hotel, more of it would have been frozen solid, but my options for food prep were limited by the cooking facilities available to me, so I couldn’t carry the same things I’d had with me on the trip over.) I finally escaped with only the sacrifice of a tube of mayonnaise. (Yes, you can buy mayonnaise in tubes in Holland.)

While I was having that delightful experience, agents were asking my husband for the value of everything in his computer case. Getting our Macs mixed up just added to the adventure.

Even the extra security didn’t take up so much time as to prevent us from being really, really early. I had my Kindle, which saved my sanity; Stefan was not so fortunate. Bored and exhausted is a rotten combination.

At last we took off for Copenhagen. I had learned not to drink the coffee that SAS serves, and opted for tea.

We had a four-hour layover in Copenhagen. There are a lot of stores in the Copenhagen Airport, which is much bigger than it looks on the maps, but if you are not shopping, there isn’t much to do. We did need to eat breakfast, which we ended up doing in an American-style sports bar. Since I don’t do burgers for breakfast, I ate what I’d packed, leaving me with one less container full of “liquid” (cooked apples, yogurt, and melted gjetost cheese).

We avoided attempting to consume the obscene “French hot dogs” that we saw advertised at the grab-and-go stands.


Eventually we headed over to passport control, where I got my exit stamp. Because there are no passport checks between Schengen countries, even for Americans, I did not get an entry or exit stamp in Amsterdam, only in Copenhagen. Stefan, as a Dutch citizen, didn’t get any passport stamps at all.

As a compensation for that, perhaps, immigration on the US side collects photos and fingerprints from permanent residents. Though that process doesn’t explain why it took us so long to get through immigration. Ours appeared to be the only plane arriving at that time, and about half the people on it were US persons. Usually that line moves much faster than the one for foreign nationals, but the booths appeared to be somewhat understaffed, and it took us an hour of queuing to get through. (Passport control in Copenhagen took about 5 minutes, both directions.)

At least we were able to collect our luggage quickly, and on the arrivals side the trolleys are free. (I’d paid $5 for one when we were departing.) Customs ignored us, which was just fine with me.

We did get to see the sun when we finally walked outside the airport (forgetting to exchange our euros, which meant a drive into Walnut Creek a few days later), although it was raining intermittently. We’d just missed a huge storm, and had been fortunate enough not to suffer any delays in landing, but the rain added to the clogged state of the freeways as we headed home…right at rush hour.

So it took us two hours to get back to Oakley from SFO. At least. I’d had delusions of a nap before dinner, but that obviously wasn’t to happen, since we arrived at 7 PM and I was by then quite literally faint with hunger. (Well, probably also faint with exhaustion.)

If there is a next time—and right now I have no expectation of flying to Europe again for the foreseeable future—I am going to choose the departure flight time much more carefully. Jet lag is the suck.

WordPress fangirl, ghostwriter, linguistic alchemist, podcast consultant, and accidental vapor advocate. Married with 2 cats.

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