Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Moving Overseas, Part 8

The good news is that things are really falling into place now — something I thought would never ever happen.


First, I walked through icy winds and a light dusting of snow to bring my ailing lory to my veterinarian, Simon Starkey, on Thursday morning to get blood drawn so they could look again to see if she’s diabetic. The blood tests came back Friday morning, showing that she had blood glucose levels that were twice the normal values, which is something that can result from stress or from mild diabetes. Since she was so ill when I initially brought her in (yay, for poverty for making me postpone her medical care until it was an emergency), my vet worries that she might have suffered from a mild pancreatitis that was resolved by the antibiotic treatment, but the bacteria might have caused some permanent organ damage that prevents production of adequate insulin. Oh, joy. Yet another thing for me to feel guilty about.

My veterinarian recommended that I have my lory retested after we all arrive in Germany, and even recommended a university veterinary clinic that he regards as being the finest in Germany (unfortunately, it’s near Munich — a long distance from Frankfurt!). The good news is that in the month since she was treated by the vet, my lory’s weight increased by 25% and she no longer is excessively thirsty, which gives me confidence that her elevated blood glucose levels are probably due to stress.

The second thing I did was spend a couple hours hassling with the Lufthansa ticket agents again, trying to talk with Dave about making my reservations. The first two ticket agents were really nasty. The first one denied that anyone named Dave worked there as a supervisor, and after I told her that I talked to him a couple days ago, she then informed me that unless I could provide his last name, she couldn’t (wouldn’t?) help me. So I called back half an hour later and found myself talking to a different ticket agent who was very suspicious, demanding to know who I was and exactly why I was calling. I told her my name and said “if you mention ‘birds’, he’ll know exactly what you’re talking about and who I am.” She immediately got very nasty.

“Lufthansa does NOT SHIP BIRDS!” She snapped at me through the phone.

“Ooookay,” I said. “Whatever. I’ll call back later.”

Well, as they say, the third time is a charm, and the third time that I called back, I finally got a less-than-charming agent who told me that Dave works on Saturday afternoon, and to call back then. When I asked for his telephone extension, she denied he had one and then almost hung up on me, but I managed to find out Dave’s time zone before the line went dead.

After all these exposures to the Lufthansa ticket agents’ terrible phone manners and vicious corporate mentality, I was more anxious than ever about the flight itself, fully expecting that on my departure day, the Lufthansa counter ticket agents would start screaming at me when I checked in and refuse to allow me or the birds to board the plane — or worse. Even if everything went smoothly (unlikely, considering how nasty and rude the Lufthansa ticket people are on the phone), I wasn’t sure I could endure an eight hour flight trapped on an airplane, wondering when the screaming or drama would start, and wondering if, after I arrive at Frankfurt, I might discover that they had “accidentally” forgotten to load my birds on the plane. This would necessitate my immediate return to JFK to pick them up because my permits specifically state that I must travel on the same flight with my birds, and their US and EU health permits will only be valid for a further two days after our arrival at Frankfurt.

Fortunately, the mysterious Wayne showed up, soaking from an icy NYC downpour, to distract me from my worries. (Yes, Wayne really exists!) He was great; chatty, informative and friendly, but seeing myself through his eyes was a little strange. I began to suspect that he viewed me as “The Cat Lady of Books.” While he looked over my books, I finally laughed nervously and said “I’m not crazy or anything! Well, okay, maybe a little crazy .. ” before I let my voice trail off uncertainly.

“How many of these books haven’t you read?” he asked.

I considered the thousands of books a few seconds. “No more than a couple hundred,” I estimated. Wayne then told me about a book club he joined after he first moved to NYC ten years ago. He ended up receiving roughly 100 books before he quit because he never read any of them.

Wayne gave me a brochure and outlined the moving procedure. He said that the movers are available seven days of the week, and that it will take them just four hours to pack up the entire apartment and load it on the truck. My things will then be transported to a warehouse, where they will be “palletized” and packed into a shipping crate. At that point, the crate will be stored at the dock, waiting for space on the next available ship. This wait period can be as long as two weeks. Once the crate is on a ship, transport across the ocean will take a further two weeks, and then after the ship docks, it can take as long as ten days for all the paperwork and whatnot to be finalized before the crate is released to a truck which then transports the crate to its final destination, where the movers unload and unpack everything, and clear away all the packing debris. The entire process takes 6-8 weeks.

Wayne then disappeared into the rain and darkness and worked up a formal estimate while he rode the train back to his office. The estimate, which was an average of a “best case” and “worst case” scenario (depending upon whether I dismantle the parrot cages before the movers arrive) was actually quite reasonable. However, I am asking two other movers to also bid on the job, just to see what they can do for me. This might involve having them come to my apartment as well to look over my possessions before committing to a written estimate of their own.

After another restless night filled with abuse from faceless, screaming ticket agents — “LUFTHANSA DOES NOT SHIP BIRDS!” — followed by the vision of a shipping crate with my birds inside being abandoned on an empty luggage conveyor belt as I was handcuffed and dragged off to jail, I found myself unable to call Lufthansa one more time. I waited until the last minute on Saturday to call Dave, but I just couldn’t deal with one more rude or screaming ticket agent, especially when all of them are dead wrong: Lufthansa really does ship birds.

One of my readers recommended KLM Airlines, so I called them and learned that they are affiliated with both Northwest and Delta Airlines — both of which I’ve flown in the past, and I’ve also relied on Delta extensively to ship my birds all over the country for years. The person who answered the phone told me that KLM doesn’t ship birds internationally, but Delta does, so he immediately connected me with Chad, one of the Delta ticket agents, who was everything that the Lufthansa agents were not: informative, genial, kind and easy to deal with. I was so relieved that I wanted to cry.

I made my reservation to depart the evening of 19 November at a time that was much more suitable than Lufthansa’s 900pm flight. Even though the Delta ticket (round trip, alas) was $43 cheaper, I am only allowed one piece of checked luggage, and each extra piece costs $50, so the tickets ended up being nearly identical in price. But the big difference is this: Delta charges $230 per pet shipping crate, regardless of size or dimensions. This is in direct contrast to Lufthansa’s quoted price of $200 per medium-sized crate or $400 for a large crate, both of which must conform to very specific dimensions. So this actually translates to a significantly cheaper cost for me if I put all my birds into one large crate (with a separate compartment for each bird, of course) instead of into two medium-sized (also compartmentalized) crates. As I mentioned, Delta is also very lenient about specific crate dimensions (I will be flying on a 767 which apparently has a roomy cargo hold), but despite that fact, I decided to stick as closely as possible to the FAA-approved animal transport crate dimensions so shipping my birds would cause as few problems as possible.

After making my airline reservation, I felt such relief that I was dealing with a carrier that has a corporate culture of treating its passengers like people rather than drooling imbeciles. Before signing off, I thanked Chad for making this as painless as possible. I doubt I’ll be having any nightmares tonight.

Now that I had my airline reservations made, I wrote my official notice to vacate my apartment to my landlord (I am required to provide a 30-day notice) — barely resisting the urge to tell him exactly what I think of him for all the unnecessary and illegal frustrations he’s made me endure throughout the years, although I assure you that his time is coming, just as soon as I get my $2000 deposit returned. I mailed this notice by certified mail, so my landlord can’t lie his way out of refunding my deposit without the law coming down firmly on my side (as they always have in the past).

I also dealt with the parrot supplies wholesaler who is sending me five collapsible cages for the birds to stay in while their much larger cages are in transit, so those should be arriving late next week. (I planned that these cages would all fit into the suitcase I am planning to purchase for use as my extra checked bag, crosses fingers). As soon as these cages arrive, I will start dealing with dismantling and scrubbing all the bird cages.

At this point, I was supposed to call Tom, the man who will build the shipping crate. But I was just so tired of talking to people and having to deal with spending hundreds or thousands of dollars and making dozens of decisions in such a short period of time that I just couldn’t face doing anything more. So to celebrate, I walked through the cold and dark to a store that is half a mile away to buy some cashews. By the time I got home, I felt ill, so I only tasted a couple of them before crawling into bed.

I’ll call Tom tomorrow or Monday morning. Along with all the other things I need to get done on those days .. sigh!

Comments

  1. #1 biosparite
    October 17, 2009

    I have encountered rude flight attendants on Alitalia. Germans can be pretty hard to take. Churchill said the German soldier is at your feet or at your neck.

  2. #2 travelgirl
    October 17, 2009

    try to relax… take a few very slow and deep breaths! it will all be over soon.

    and i’m available on IM if you feel the need to rant :)

  3. #3 cromercrox
    October 18, 2009

    Fingers, toes, feathers, paws, fins and any other body-wall extensions I haven’t mentioned … er … crossed. And I don’t think I’ll be flying Lufthansa, either. You can fly KLM from Schiphol to Norwich, though, if you’re planning on visiting Cromer…

  4. #4 Bob O'H
    October 18, 2009

    I’ve flown the Schiphol-Norwich route a few times. For some reason I always walked to and from the airport (this was when I lived in Norwich, in the Golden Triangle) – it somehow seemed right. I guess we would fly to Norwich, and then take the bpullet train to Cromer.

  5. #5 Rugosa
    October 18, 2009

    Your blog used to be a regular read for me, but for some reason I stopped following it a few months ago. I checked in again to see your beautiful birds and other images, and lo and behold, big changes! Congratulations on your marriage and your impending move! The relocation nightmare will end, you have an exciting time ahead of you. Best wishes for you, your spouse, and your birds.

  6. #6 Sammy
    October 18, 2009

    Ahh, Lufthansa. I went with my parents to a conference in Switzerland some years ago, and since we live on the West Coast, the plan was to fly United to New York and transferred to Lufthansa there.

    The United flight was late, and by the time we arrived at JFK, got all the way to the other terminal, and found the Lufthansa desk, it was too late. The Lufthansa agent at the counter told us we couldn’t catch the plane, even though it was just barely time. She claimed that since it was United’s fault we were late, United was responsible for finding us accommodation until the flight the next night. We trekked back to United only to have them tell us that once they dropped us off, it was all up to Lufthansa. Back one more time, and a different Lufthansa counter agent told us that if we had been there at the time we were there earlier, we should’ve been able to catch the plane. Lovely. And since nobody took responsibility, we had to find a hotel ourselves at 1 am.

    Anyways, just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone in having bad experiences with Lufthansa. But I’m glad you found nice Delta agents in the end, and I hope your lory will be okay!

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