• 21 . 06 . 11
  • In which we take a while to get to Rio, spend some time in their lovely baggage reclaim hall and listen to some new music.

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Going Long

I don’t know about you, but if I had the emergency exit row on a plane with all that extra leg room, I wouldn’t feel the need to recline my seat back at a 45 degree angle. It’s a shame the woman in front of me didn’t concur, and so it was that I spent the next 10 hours in a space that would have even tested an agoraphobic dwarf, in a window seat that, owing to its special location one row back from the exit row, didn’t have a window.

The last thing you want after a 10 hour flight in a windowless window seat, with the world’s most reclined seat in front of you, is to hang around in the airport longer than necessary, so it was a shame that Rio’s airport has what seems to be the world’s worst baggage reclaim. It had an incredibly inefficient baggage delivery system that stopped every time an item already on the conveyor belt got within 10 feet of the delivery chute, preventing luggage from being delivered until there was a free space. Seriously, if a bag has survived the tender caresses of numerous international baggage handlers, I’m sure it can manage a little contact with another bag as it arrives.

To add insult to injury, with fully 70% of the conveyor belt inaccessible to the 350 plus people who had gotten off the flight, baggage began building up immediately and stayed there while people craned their heads to see what was going on. And because nobody could see where their bags were, new items were stuck on the feed belt, turtle-heading through the flaps, teasing with the promise of imminent delivery, before being pulled back briskly out of the way by the treacherous mechanical baggage gods determined not to see any lurid bag on bag contact.

Our luggage finally arrived more than one hour after landing and making it through immigration.

While waiting for immigration, I had overheard a conversation between a Spanish girl and a German girl discussing their travel plans, the only remarkable thing about which was that I could understand them. Even though I can take no credit for it, I’m always strangely and undeservedly proud of the English language when I hear foreigners using it to communicate. As Eurovision went a good long way to proving earlier this year, English really is becoming the lingua franca of Europe (and isn’t that a deliciously ironic statementno, it isn’t, see the comment below!). Of course, we’ll all be speaking Chinese in a decade (and I for one will welcome our Mandarin overlords), but it’s still a nice novelty at the moment.

After fully making it through the arrivals gate and finding out that our shuttle driver wasn’t there due to car trouble, we had to the run the gauntlet of taxi drivers vying for business. This is not something I have missed while renting a car.

We ended up with Jose, a cheerful local, who helped us with some basic Portuguese and pointed out some landmarks, including the Corcavado, the Maracana Stadium and Ipanema beach, which we are staying only a few minutes walk from. The only downside was that for our entertainment, he reached for the CD player and put on Katy Fucking Perry. Now, I don’t particularly have a problem with her special blend of faux-sexy, faux-innocent saccharine-sweet inoffensive pop music, but strike me dead if I haven’t heard her songs at least 5 times a day for the last 3 weeks. Even Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter would piss me off if I had to listen to him that much and he has a voice like melted Galaxy chocolate. I smiled through gritted teeth – how was Jose supposed to know – but I really could have done without it. Especially after 10 hours on a plane in a windowless seat with the world’s most reclined seat in front of me and then another hour standing around waiting for two bags out of 500 from a capricious and inefficient delivery system in a jostling crowd of 350 equally tired and frustrated people.

I might be overreacting. But I’m very tired. We’ll see in the morning.