We missed our flight to Helsinki by two minutes last week. We arrived at the check-in desk at 7.47 am, to be told by the clerk, a human devoid of all empathy, that two minutes is a long time in aviation. She had closed the flight at 7.45 am.
With our two children, one of whom was fairly sick, we explored other options. Despite the apparent unfairness of the situation, we decided to take a fast ferry to Helsinki and rejoin our journey to New York there.
But there was another problem. The 10 am fast ferry was cancelled due to ice in Helsinki harbor. At this point, I summoned my inner Sonny Corleone. I imagined throwing garbage cans at the Finnair customer service agents, three of whom hung up on me while they went to run my query past their supervisor.
Finally, a compassionate Finnish person arrived at a solution: they would inform the gate at Helsinki that four New York-bound passengers would be arriving a few minutes late. We then boarded a slow ferry to Helsinki that was scheduled to dock at 1 pm. If we took a cab, we could make it to the gate by 1.40 -- just enough time to board. So we relaxed on the ferry and listened to instrumental piano versions of "Garota de Ipanema" while I downed several more coffees -- necessary for supervising my children, as the wife was also under the weather (hence our early morning tardiness).
But there was a problem. A technical problem. The ferry did not dock until 1.20 pm. This allowed us 20 minutes for running the 250 meter long ramp off the ferry, hailing a taxi, speeding through the thickest Helsinki traffic, and getting to the international terminal at Vantaa. Of course we didn't make it. My lungs heavy with fluid from dragging a gigantic suitcase down a ramp at frantic speed, I was almost relieved when they told us that, at 1.53 when we arrived, we could not board the plane.
After going to the transfer desk, hat in hand, children in tow, my breath still heavy, a God of a customer service agent named Lindström decided to book us on a flight the next day. And we would have a full 24 hours to recuperate in the silence of Finnish suburbia. For reasons barely understood by me, I love Finland. Maybe it's because it's the place where I met my wife, or maybe the sky is so blue and trees so green, or maybe even because the people are helpful and unintrusive. Whatever it is, I was glad we were there.
The problem is that I wish it was easier to get there. It is an important place. And to get to this very important place, you either have to take one of two daily small planes or a ferry, that may or may not be running due to the weather. Wouldn't it be great if the politicians who constantly tease us with big ideas about a chunnel-like undersea connection to Helsinki would make good on their word and get to work digging it? Then I wouldn't have to nearly suffer cardiac arrest just to get between two points that are only 80 kilometers (55 miles) apart.