Before heading out to Africa via a 24-hour layover in Copenhagen, I checked all my sources for low-cost hotel options. I found absolutely nothing, so I moved on to hostel and guesthouse searching. The best deal I could find anywhere in the city was $99 a night—not what I usually consider a budget price for an aging one-star property. The Absalon Annex offered tiny rooms in a good location near the train station, so I booked a single.
“Your room is on the 5th floor, but the bathroom is on the 4th,” the check-in girl explained. I wasn’t too worried, because I only wanted a place to sleep in between flights, and since I knew I’d be jet lagged, I didn’t plan on doing much of it anyway.After an afternoon trip to Malmo, Sweden, I came back to the hostel. I bought a falafel sandwich at the train station (it cost $8.50!) and ate it slowly while trying not to fall asleep at 6 p.m. I finally crashed about 8:00 p.m. and hoped not to wake up until at least the early morning. As usual, it didn’t work and I woke up just past midnight feeling completely awake. No problem. I don’t fight these things anymore. I had no schedule that night or the next morning, so my only concern was sleeping sometime tomorrow. My Swiss Air flight from Zurich didn’t leave until 10:45 p.m. the next night, so I expected to be pretty tired by then. I spent the night reading and writing.
The first time I traveled on SAS through Copenhagen, I snuck into the Business Lounge on an Economy ticket. It was one of the best lounges in the world (at least as far as I had seen at the time), and I was thrilled to have thwarted the lounge guards. I drank three cappuccinos, stocked up on newspapers, and debated whether I should write a note thanking SAS for such great service: “Dear SAS, thank you for letting me use your nice lounge even though I snuck in and wasn’t supposed to be there.” I decided it would be better to just say “Thank you” on the way out without mentioning my status as a refugee.
Later on at the gate, I found out I had been upgraded to Business for my flight to the U.S. That was even more exciting than sneaking into the lounge, but then I wondered whether I was morally right or wrong for freeloading on this friendly airline earlier. In the end I thought that since SAS apparently decided that I was supposed to be flying Business anyway, it was only fair that I had used their lounge like any other premium traveler. I also decided to say positive things about them to all my travel friends, so I think we’re even now.
Fast forward a year, and I’m back in Copenhagen, legitimately entitled to use the lounge thanks to my Star Alliance Gold status. As I expect after traveling much more over the past year and seeing a lot of lounges, the SAS one in Copenhagen is not as exciting this time. Funny how that works—when you receive an unexpected benefit, like free access to the Business lounge when you’re not supposed to be there, you appreciate it a lot more than when you’re “entitled.”
Anyway, the morning passes quickly, and I do enjoy the cappuccino and newspapers again even though someone has taken most of the English ones. (I tell myself that the paper thief probably snuck in like I did the previous year.) I take a shower and sit down on the same couch I sat on 15 months earlier. I fall asleep for two hours until a German guy starts talking on his cell phone next to me.
When I wake up, I feel more tired than before I slept. I still have two hours until flying to Zurich and then to Johannesburg, a 10-hour flight. I walk around, eat some peanuts, and drink Diet Coke. Just before leaving the lounge, I find out that the flight to Zurich has been canceled. Yes, not just delayed—it has completely disappeared off the departure screen. They rebook me on a flight later that evening, but it’s four hours later.
There’s nothing I can do, so I head back to the couch for another two-hour nap. This time I feel a little better upon waking up. The flight puts me on a close connection to my South African flight, but I don’t feel worried about it. The boarding time eventually comes, and everything works out as I need it to. Most of the time, I’ve discovered through all this traveling, it usually does.
Image: Hunter Desportes