Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Traveling, what joy?

So let’s recap my latest visit to the states from a traveling view point. Going to the US was relatively easy this time. There was a strange procedure in Rome for getting on the plane. They made everyone get out of seated area by the gate and then slowly let everyone back in by checking their ticket and passport. Then of course they checked your ticket and passport again as you went through to get on the plane. I won’t blame the Italians because I’m pretty sure we Americans have required this system to travel to the USA. I didn’t see this for the flights going anywhere else in the world from Italy.

On the plane things were great. The seat next to me was empty! I can’t remember the last time the plane wasn’t packed going across the pond. I wonder, is this Alitalia’s fault or is it the economic crisis? Usually I take Continental to Newark and its packed solid. Anyway I didn’t care. I dumped my backpack in the seat next to me and connected my Ipad to the headphones and my entertainment for the 10.5 hour flight was set. My expensive Bose headphones have paid for themselves if you ask me. You can truly forget you’re on a plane under their noise-cancelling cushions. It’s a good thing I had this stuff too because this old plane has the monitors in the aisle so everyone watches the same crappy movie. The plane left a little over an hour late so I missed my connection in Chicago. This news hits me like water on a duck’s back. I’ve missed so many flights I no longer get upset.

So the flight to the USA was pretty good with only one missed flight and no lost luggage.

Now flying back to Italy sucked and I took a trip into “Bizarro World” for those of you who know Star Trek (for those of you who don’t it’s when things are opposite of what they should be). First inCincinnati I went through the full body scanner with the new rules. After my radiating experience he asked if I had anything in my back pocket. I did. I had one frickin piece of paper, my travel itinerary. That was enough to make me a pat down victim. So a word to the wise, you can’t even have a piece of paper in your pocket with these full body scanners. No wonder people with prosthesis or other medical conditions are getting harassed. I’m all for safety but this was ridiculous.

Then in Chicago I had to go from one terminal to another. To do that you go outside of security zone so I had to go through security again. It was then that I remembered that I didn’t go through a full body scanner at O’Hare coming into the country (going to the internal USA terminal of AA) so O’Hare must not have them I thought. But I was wrong, going into the International Terminal I had my second full body scan for the trip. I learn quickly and had NOTHING in my pockets so I didn’t get a second pat down. I was amazed how quickly the line moved. I mean consider how hard it is for people to remove obvious pieces of metal, like a watch, when going through a metal detector. I guess the threat of pat down gets people to remember the rules much quicker. I think you American men are going to need “manbags” for traveling. That way you won’t have anything in you pockets going through security.

The plane from Chicago to Rome was about 1/3 full. As soon as we were at altitude people spread out like an oil spill. Again I was about as comfortable as you can get on plane and not be in 1stclass. Again the plane was very late leaving ….

I arrived in Rome and I didn’t even check how much time I had until the flight for Brindisi. I knew I was close but no need to rush because you can’t! As I’m going into the line for security for transferring flights there was an Alitalia person there saying “Qualcuno per Brindisi?” This is strange so I told her I was. She moved a pedestal that let me into a shorter line for security. That has never happened before. In fact the opposite seems to happen. This was now “Bizarro World”. Usually you’re running late and you want to skip ahead so you ask someone and they say sorry because everyone i s running late, which I have to admit is true. Then I knew I was in Bizarro World because after security there was the same lady from Alitalia waiting of me. I felt like a VIP. She told that the plane hasn’t started boarding yet but it will soon so we walked quickly towards the gate. Normal world made a brief appearance as I waited for passport control. A kid cut in front of me and of course it turned into a big problem. He and another student and 2 teachers were coming to Italy from Turkey as part of some exchange program. I learned all this as the 3 other people behind me went up there to talk to the customs agent after the kid couldn’t answer a single question. Bizarro World conquered as another agent came over and escorted them off to an office to talk about their issues. Then I went up customs agent who seemed apologetic. He commented, “I’ve never seen an American with a permesso di soggiorno before.” “I follow ALL the rules”, I commented back in my best Italian. I wanted to add “even in Brindisi” but the less you say the better. My Alitalia friend was waiting for me again after passport control and she explained that they had started boarding but I should be fine now if I knew where the gate was. I confirmed I knew exactly where it was and I promised to go straight there so she went back to whatever she needed to do. I’d never had treatment like this from Alitalia.

I made it to the gate in plenty of time because the plane from Rome to Brindisi was packed. What the hell is going on? Usually the flight to Brindisi is almost empty and I can stretch out and get quick nap on the 45 minute flight. Of course the one time I arrive last was very important because there wasn’t a square inch available in the overhead bins. I had to put my backpack under the seat in front of me leaving just enough room for my feet and that’s it. At least this was a short flight to be packed in like a sardine. My one joy was another person tried to fit one more bag in the overhead and several other people said, “Hey careful, that’s my bag!” as he adjusted things to no avail. I laughed because I know the people complaining would have doing the same exact thing.

In Brindisi all was well. My bag made it fine and it also seemed to have no new damage (still in Bizarro World). I bought the ticket for the bus to the center of town and of course I could see it leaving before I could get out of airport terminal. That was ok because I know how the guy drives and he was back in about 20 minutes. It gave me time to notice that price of the bus ticket has gone up to 90 cents (from 80 cents) at the tabaccaio in the airport, while the price of buying it on the bus is still 1.50. Next time I’ll go straight to the bus!

So what did we all learn here? A lot I think…..


Lori said...

Love hearing about your exploits again. i know facebook is so easy, but the stories are best when you have all of the details.

Keep em coming.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. I felt like I was there with you