I’ve written many times about the farce of the Berlin airport. But what may not have come up before is the impact that the continued dysfunction of BER (the shiny new airport) on the remaining ones has. The thing is, both of the ones that are currently open have the feeling of a po-dunk regional airport, not that of a major transportation hub in the capital of Germany. The problem, I suspect, is that in the 15-20 years since planning commenced on BER, the other airports have not put much effort into renovating and updating, since they were going to be closed anyway. But so far they remain open, growing increasingly outmoded and enhancing the regional feel (the German adjective “mickeymausmäßig,”  meaning childish or overly simplified, comes to mind).

Of course, big airports are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they’re a status symbol (just ask any Atlantan), but on the other, fancy mega-airports are also often a pain to travel in (just ask any non-Atlantan who’s ever connected in Hartsfield-Jackson). In Berlin, travel is always a breeze, because although you’re 20 minutes outside one of the largest cities in Europe, you might as well be at Dekalb-Peachtree. (What’s that? You’ve never heard of PDK? My point exactly.)

Having done this a time or twenty, I knew better than to expect a line at security or a hold-up at check-in. Still, I showed up 2 hours before my flight like my momma raised me to do, checked in before the counter had technically opened (puppy eyes help here), and entered the security screening–where they failed to check my ID. This threw me off a little, but I recovered as I approached the security line and began unbuckling my shoes. The security woman barked, “No shoes!” Then she took my passport from me and shoved it into the bin of the person who had been before me in line. Shocked and confused, I strapped my shoes back on and went through the sensor. When I arrived, I saw a familiarly overfull bin with an American passport sticking up in the same corner where mine had been. The bin’s owner was being called away for an additional security screening, so I had to act before she got away. I dashed up to her, muttering something probably incoherent in German about how I was terribly sorry, but the security personnel had put my passport in her bin, and though it was silly that they’d done so, I needed it back. I made a grab for the passport, and she shouted (rightly so), “THAT’S MY PASSPORT.”
So I went back to the line, where an older man was restoring order to his belongings. He, too, had a US passport in the corner. “Are you American?” I inquired, waiting maybe 200 milliseconds before launching into the same spiel, which, I’m sorry to say, did not grow more coherent with repetition. He was not, and he allowed me to retrieve my passport without protesting.
And that’s the story of how I almost became an identity thief, and a pretty shoddy one, at that.

Which side of the equation will YOU be on?