18 November, 2009


Railway station in Rome at 6am

Have you ever had a day so bad you wish you could scratch it from history?!!! Well yesterday was one of those days.

There was a time when traveling was a joy. Wow, that's hard to remember. You know, when the airline food was actually edible, the seats were big enough to get your fat bottoms in them, and you could walk down the aisles without bumping into everyone sitting on the aisle seats. Of course those were the days when the stewardesses were young, and most of the time very pretty. Pretty may not be important, but they had the energy to make it from departure to arrival without looking as though they'd been through a hurricane.

What we need now is a portal where we dial in our destination and "Beam her up, Scottie" would occur.  It would be worth $800 to not have to deal with all the hassle we have today. And yesterday was one those highly hassle days. (Not good English I know, but the stress was unbelievable.)

I hardly slept the night before I left --afraid the alarm clock wouldn't work or I wouldn't hear it. I had to get up at 4:30 in order to be ready to walk at 5 to the railway terminal.  So I packed my bag and bathed the night before and went to bed already dressed. When I heard the alarm it was 4:45am and I shot out of bed. I looked in the mirror and my eyes peered out of two black caves. I decided to ignore it.  I drank some water, and left for the terminal, dragging my suitcase wobbling,bobbling over the cobblestones. On the way I hoped a taxi would go by and I could hail it, but, alas, there was none to be had.

It was chilly, but I tried to move quickly through the dark streets and began to sweat. Now my children will tell you that my "quickly" is a snail pace, but I blame it on them. After all I walked their pace when they were just learning to walk. And I had babies for 14 years. You can get into bad habits after that many years.

About halfway there a man stepped in beside me.  "Going to the terminal?" he asked. I nodded. "That's a heavy load," he said. I nodded and thought, 'you could help me,' but said nothing. He stopped when I stopped and watched me while I tried to get my breath and wiped the dripping sweat from my face. I wondered what the hell he wanted. He didn't look homeless and didn't act like a thief. So I finally said, "why don't you go on ahead, I have to stand here awhile." And he did. Then I could put my bag down look for my inhaler, which I affectionally call my breather.

I reached the terminal in time for the 5:52 Express, but it wasn't an express. Actually it wasn't leaving at all. So another half km to the other train which was supposed to leave at 6:22. With a little time to spare, I bought a caffee latte and punched my ticket in the little yellow box. ( I often wonder why they even bother with a conductor.) Then we, because by now a crowd had formed, waited for the doors to open. The Leonardo express was dark and forbidding, a little creepy really.  By now I was cold and wet from the long walk and wished I could huddle inside.  At 6:20 the doors opened and everyone rushed to get in.

I went into a compartment followed by a couple and waited. At 6:35 there was a jerk, a cough, another jerk and then stillness. Like an old car that needs a push, the train started slowly down the track and we all sighed in relief. "Always late," the blond lady said. "Italians--no discipline." "you're not from Italy?" I asked. "Oh, yes," she said, "but I am not Italian.  My husband is." "Where are you going?" I asked.  "My wife, she goes to Russia," The man blurted out. "Kiev," she said.   "I was a little puzzled. "Isn't Kiev in the Ukraine?"  She burst out laughing, "Yes, my husband always says Russia." And we continued our conversation about nothing in particular.

We reached the airport about 7:15.  Al'Italia expects you to be there 3 hours in advance, for what reason I don't know, but when I reached the gate, I was the only one checking in.  Now I have more than 2 hours to wait. The departure time is 10:10.  None of the stores were open and the only food was found at the coffee stall. Brioche that were burned and full of cream, coranettos and doughnuts. These things lie on my stomach like a brick, so I ordered another coffee latte and rearranged my bags for the plane.

At 9:00 I went to the gate and everyone was in line.  I rushed over, thinking we were leaving early.  But, unfortunately, that flight was going to Casablanca, which I noticed just before I turned in my ticket. Unfortuately, the Chicago flight was leaving much later. It could have been a disaster getting on the wrong plane, but that wouldn't have been the first time I've made that mistake.

There were some announcements, but they were garbled at first. Finally I heard, delays will occur for assembly. I looked at the guy next to me. What was assembly?  No one knew.  At 10:15 we all got on the bus to border the plane.  While we stood there, a cart went by with a lot of luggage piled high.  One piece fell off and lay next to the runway where trucks and carts were flying back and forth at top speed. Everyone was pointing, wondering whose bag it was, but thinking it could have been theirs.  While we waited no one picked it up. Now we know another reason why bags get lost. And with all the traffic, why bags arrive busted and smooshed.

Finally we drove to the plane and settled in our seats. "I must apologize," the captain said. "Our flight is delayed because the ground crew is momentarily on strike."  (Ah, that is the assembly and why do we need the ground crew.) "We are hoping the truck will come soon and push back" the captain continued. (Push back ? Another term I didn't know. )  And why did we need a truck?  It soon became clear. The truck was supposed to push us out of the dock.  Stupid me didn't know that planes can't drive in reverse, they need a tug boat just like ships do.  How did I miss that? I've been flying since 1964. After another 2 hours on the runway we took off.

The food was served immediately, I think to cool everyone's temper. The food, at least mine, was excellent. An Indian vegetarian dish.  The man sitting next to me wasn't so lucky. He ordered lasagna and when he opened it, the pasta looked like cream.  He stood up and shouted, "Is this lasagna?" The steward ignored him.

For ten hours we flew, watching one film after another in total silence. I couldn't use the ear phones, because the number ll seats were out of order.  No ear phones, no a light to read by and no way to call a steward. It was a sorry business.

It was almost time to begin getting ready to land when the stewards burst forth with the last bit of food.  I don't know what they were doing in the back, but there were as many men as women. So one can imagine.

We arrived at Chicago only one hour late. Not bad, and if we had only been 15 minutes earlier I would have caught the early bus. But I took it at 5pm, picked up my car in Janesville at 7:15 and arrived home, beat, at 8:40. 

Most flights are pretty miserable now. Traveling is not fun anymore, but it is nice once you arrive.

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