I’m travelling to Prague for a holiday, and I had an overnight stopover in Zurich. I “slept” in the terminal (lay down and waited for morning) and then just after 5am, as the airport was waking up I got up to find the railway station. My plan was to take the train to the city and explore for a few hours before returning for my connecting flight.
I knew the first train was just after 5:30am. I used an interactive map in the terminal to find my route, and walked down. I followed the signs for the exit, only to find my way blocked just before baggage reclaim. There were 4 doors but none would open.
I walked back and forth a few times, and eventually found a lady opening up a kiosk. I asked her how to get out, and she directed me the way I’d been going. I told her the doors wouldn’t open but she said “Impossible, I’m here all the time”. So I thanked her and reluctantly headed back to the “exit”. Sure enough, it was still locked.
I waited a few minutes and an airport porter came by. I asked him for help and he told me to follow him. We started going back the way I’d come, and then he pointed round a corner and told me to go up the escalator. He left. The escalator took me back to my starting point.
After wandering around a bit longer I saw a lady setting up the connections desk, so I asked her for help, and explained where I’d been. She directed me back towards the locked doors. I said I’d been there. She said no, I needed to follow the signs for the baggage reclaim and exit. I said I’d done that. Then she said “No, I know what you’ve done. You’ve gone that way but you need to go there.” For “that way” she pointed to where I’d slept, and for “there” she pointed to the escalator leading to the locked doors. “Follow the signs and they’ll take you out.”
I thought I was going mad by now. I started down the escalator for the umpteenth time, but this time I recorded my journey, showing the signs I was following and the red lights on the doors.
When I returned I showed the lady my video and she said “You must be too early, they’ll open at 7.”
So I went back down and waited. At 6:55am the doors clicked, the light turned green, and I escaped.
What can I say about this story? Thank you for sticking with it?!
Halfway through the adventure I was starting to get upset. By the time I started recording the route my distress was beginning to get quite severe. I’d done everything right. I might be in a foreign country but I’d understood my original instructions, and followed them correctly. I’d then asked several people politely and clearly for help and they had given the same instructions (except for the porter who must have thought I just wanted to get out of the area I’d found him in). And everyone had told me I could get out, and yet I was coming to a locked door again and again. I was doubting my sanity, seriously, I was beginning to think there was a different reality in my head than the one I was physically moving through.
I can only guess that my helpers weren’t totally aware of the time when I approached them. Maybe they assumed that I’d just landed and therefore the baggage reclaim would be open and operating.
But I have many thoughts running through my head now. It would take me hours to fully process them and write the analysis down. I’ll try to bullet-point as many as I can.
- I thought I was losing my grip on reality, but in fact it was just misunderstandings and poor signage.
- I thought I was right, then other people convinced me I was wrong, but in fact I was right all along.
- The timing of the first train and the unlocking of the exit doors has got me thinking about God’s timing not being like ours.
- Even though I was getting very upset as time went on, I stayed calm and polite in my interactions and I had the awareness to create video evidence of my predicament. These were victories.
Ultimately, this isn’t an experience I want to repeat any time soon, but I got through it, and I’ve learned a few things. The main thing I’ve learned is that if you stay the night at Zurich airport, you mustn’t count on catching the first train out in the morning.
And try not to lose your sense of humour 🙂