6 May 2021, Arlanda Stockholm Airport

Without intending to, I awoke at 3:30 AM. The plane is scheduled to leave ARN at 1:40 PM.

Yesterday, in addition to celebrating the first birthday of Eva’s grandson Samuel with others of the family, I underwent the all-important nasal cavity test for Covid-19. The results were emailed to me (with an attached, official document) showing, in part, “… has been tested NEGATIVE for Covid-19 with a nasopharyngeal test… using Abbott Panbio Antigen kit (CE-IVD) for SARS-COV-2 with a sensitivity of 91.4% and a specificity of 99.8%”. Whew!

Although it probably has no weight with the travel authorities, I will bring along the document I received from my local medical clinic showing I had two vaccinations of the Pfizer brand for Covid-19 on 16 March and 9 April.

I am informed I will have to wear a mask in the airport and on the plane, changing it every four hours for a new one—and bring my own. I wonder what the rules are for eating and drinking during the flight?

I have checked into my scheduled flight via the Internet but will still have to check in a piece of luggage. I am allowed to have no more than one carryon bag. This will be a backpack which will carry my electronic gear: mobile phone, laptop computer, Kindle reader and iPad with attached keyboard. (I’ll continue writing my journal with the latter while on board). I will need to remove these from the backpack for the scanning device at the end of the check-in line. I have a Known Traveler Number issued by a U.S. government agency, but this will not be useful in Sweden and Denmark—only on my return trip from the USA.

6AM. It’s a grey, rainy day, temperature not too much above freezing. I don’t want to wear so many clothes as to be uncomfortable when I land in Phoenix, where the temperature will be near 100º F.

So, I’ll shiver up to the bus stop, around 200 paces away. After a 7-minute bus trip to the Alvik station, I’ll shiver a similar number of paces to the metro which will take me to Central Station. From there, it’s a 5-minute, walk, indoors, to the Arlanda Express which will take me to the airport within 40 minutes, at very high speeds. (Note: Eva accompanied me the bus stop and returned my umbrella to home with her. A  nice send-off.) 

11:45 AM, Boarding area.

The plane for this trip’s first leg, of three, is scheduled to take off at 13:40 PM. I am excessively early for at least two reasons: I like always to arrive at the airport 2 hours before the scheduled takeoff time; and, the airline and airport information services recommended early arrival to the airport, just in case… (you can fill in the blanks).

After a short bus ride and a 12-minutes metro ride, I boarded Arlanda Express for an advertised 18- minute ride. The train achieved a top speed of 190 kilometers/hour, or around 115 mph.

The airport is not bustling and noisy as it I have seen it in the past. There is plenty of space between walkers and sitters. I had one large bag to check (18 kilograms, 40 pounds). Since I had already checked in online, I was told by a greeter to bring the bag directly to the ticket counter. There was an agent immediately available.  My Covid-19 certificate, my home-printed boarding pass, and my US passport were all I needed for a prompt approval to continue to the security gate, and the bag was whisked away with a ‘priority’ label on it (I think I remember I paid extra for this service).

After briefly chatting with Eva via messaging, I looked for a meal. I have resolved to eat more protein and vegetables, and fewer starches, grains and sugars. Most of the large restaurants are closed, apparently due to the effects of the pandemic, but there was Max with good burgers, in my experience. I was able to order verbally (I hate dealing with machines that want to take my order) and asked for the biggest burger, no cheese, no bread. They offered me a salad wrap, which is what I order in the USA when I go to In-n-Out Burger. It was good. I cleaned my beard and hands in the vacant public toallett, relieved myself, and walked, slowly, the long distance to the gate. And here I am.

There were no complications in boarding the flight to Copenhagen. The plane had around 25 passengers,  but the Airbus A320 can seat between 140 and 170, depending on its configuration. I had but one person near me within a pod of around 24 seats. I couldn’t understand all the announcements about service items because of my poor hearing, but I learned that no coffee would be served, but canned and bottled drinks were offered. I had some tasty apple juice in a fancy bottle. The crew member explained how or why it was special, but I didn’t understand her.

The arrival to Copenhagen airport was complicated and confusing. We were not allowed to depart through the usual front door, but through the rear door, then to board a bus which traveled quite a way to a passenger sorting area. Those who were connecting to international flights could proceed through a maze of corridors, then up a flight of stairs (the only escalator was moving down, not up) to an almost deserted area which had no signage that listed my next flight, or which gate it would be at. I asked a lone employee where I could get to Chicago and she pointed me toward the area where I had to show my passport. I explained my confusion to the officer at the window, and she told me what gate to go to (and it was in boarding mode), which was close by where I exited the stairs, previously. I almost panicked, fearing I would miss the flight, but I learned there was plenty of time after I got to the gate.

(While I was previously traversing the halls and corridors, I saw that the passengers who were sorted into the other line, parallel to the one I was in, were not international travelers and had to get tested for Covid-19 right there in the airport. I passed by a whole large clinic of testers on my way to the staircase.)

Before boarding the plane to Chicago, US citizens had to fill out a simple form to indicate who to contact in the USA if the need arose. I listed my daughter, Andrea, with whom I will be staying in the Phoenix area. Then an agent walked around to the waiting passengers (not many) offering another, larger form which. was for the passenger to attest (without swearing on a Bible or in any other fashion) that one had immunity through some means–or didn’t but could be exempt in some way (I didn’t read it closely because I had my official medical certificate.) After presenting all my credentials to the lady at the desk, she pointed me toward a door behind her and to her left and said, “turn right.” But the employee who was watching everything  (security?) said “turn left,” which I did.

Again, the plane was nearly empty of passengers. It was an Airbus A350 which can carry 300-350 passengers.

I had bought an “SAS Plus” seat, which is one step up from coach. At my age I need the comfort of a large and well-padded seat with plenty of elbow room, and with all the little conveniences that come with the higher price.

As usual, I checked out the movies that were offered on the small screen in front of me. There were some very old ones I had seen and liked, but none of the newer ones grabbed my attention. I decided to watch “2001” by Stanley Kubrick for old times’ sake. Chuck Kingsley and I saw this together in San Jose when it was first shown in 1968, at the new and modern theater, Century 21. Now there are four other theaters close by, named Century 22, 23, 24 and 25. I hope to see Chuck and his wife Barbara on this journey. Chuck and I became friends in 1958. We were both just out of military service (Air Force for him, Navy for me) and were both attending college with a small stipend from the G.I. Bill. I was enrolled at the City College of San Francisco and Chuck was at what was then San Francisco State College (now a state university). We then each lived with our parents in San Francisco, just a few doors away from each other on 42nd Avenue in the Richmond District, not too far from Ocean Beach.

I can’t listen to dialog and especially music, anymore (the cochlea are slowly fading away), But I watched the film anyway, remembering some of György Ligeti’s music which I have since listened to often The movie is worth watching for many reasons, including setting, cinemaphotography, and all the other aspects of high quality film making and presenting.

I have had a nice-enough chicken/pasta meal with asparagus, with tomato juice as an appetizer.

Five hours remain in the flight to Chicago. I did doze a bit in the Arlanda airport waiting room and could possibly sleep now if I let myself. But I’ll resist this in an attempt to get in synch with Arizona time.

Well, Chicago is a whole different matter. It was crowded, bustling and noisy.

The last leg of my trip was to begin in several hours, so I waited in the general area of the departure gate. I was back in the good ol’ US&A. What an amazing variety of people! And, despite the crowds and anxieties and boredom that come with airline terminals, there was general acceptance of the circumstances. No hassles, at least where I was. The added factor for everyone to deal with was the requirement to wear face masks at all times. This nearly gave me hypoxia, and I imagine it felt similarly in others.

The United Airlines plane was packed full. I was in an ordinary middle seat between two large people. The seat was hard and lumpy. The plane took off late and arrived late. I won’t dwell on the problems this created for my body and the arrival to my daughter’s house. I did arrive, and now I sit in her kitchen the following day, recounting, here, my adventures during May 6.

Next: Car rental, Quinn’s birthday celebration, massage to recover from the trip, etc.


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