Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Tale of 5 Airports

SFO-O'Hare-JFK-Heathrow-Fiumincino(Rome)/. It started out pretty copacetic as friend Robert picked me up and deposited me at BART. No delays, BART goes directly from about 15 minutes from Benicia to the SFO. No crowds, check-in was a breeze, as was security. Flight smooth, landed almost on time at O'Hare. Nice hotel, country-like setting, comfortable sleep. And then, a storm came in overnight, and I woke to wind, rain, and news that a tornado had touched down in or near Chicago. Still, my flight was not to leave until 1 pm and the weather was supposed to let up.
Arrived at O'Hare in plenty of time, again, easy check in (things are going too smoothly), and boarded early. On the tarmack, Captain Mullins (in a lovely, thick Boston accent) says, "JFK tells us that they don't have space and ability to let us land there, so we're going to have to park here for a while... will let you know when I hear more". Ten minutes later, calm as an ocean breeze, he tells us (again I'm charmed by the accent) "They say we're going to be here for about 2 hours. But in 25 years of flying I can tell you for sure that this can change in a minute." Murmers about connections in NY to Frankfurt, Madrid, Milan, and Mumbai. My flight to Rome leaves NY 1 hour after we were supposed to arrive. The flight attendant quickly senses danger. "I'll just go check and see if he's kidding."
We drive to the holding area for sad, unwanted planes. The wind buffets us about. The captain tells us that they've decided we need to go back to the gate before the plane is torn to bits by a tornado or something. We are told we can de-plane but be back in 30 minutes. No information about connections or what will happen to us in NY. Perhaps we'll be put on another flight (maybe first class?), or put up in a hotel. I'm thinking that maybe I should change my plans and spend a month on the east coast instead of going to Italy. The leaves are beautiful at this time of year, aren't they?
I practice mediation and equanimity now. In the universal sense this is not a problem, it can be overcome, getting upset will only serve to raise my bloodpressure, and who's to say that it might not be as bad as I expect. A "service" agent is at the gate, and a woman standing in front of me is raising her voice, "but that's 24 hours from now!!" My turn and he says, "I'm afraid it's the same for you. You'll be diverted to Heathrow and then take a flight from there to Rome." Equanimity now.
On the flight to Heathrow I was surrounded by Brits. I love their calm, show no emotion, slightly humorous from above take on things. Suddenly, I felt better, know that the empire would prevail, no matter what, and the only thing to fear was fear itself, man the torpedos, full speed ahead, and laugh if they laugh at you. And I managed to sleep about an hour on that 7 hour, overnight flight.
Arrived to a 3 hour wait at Heathrow. Thought I'd change some money, look for a pre-paid mobile phone that would work in Europe (didn't find one) and get breakfast. The STarbucks looked tempting, but egad! I'm in England .. forget about STarbucks!! Pret's Porridge looked like British fast food and who doesn't love porridge, the ultimate comfort food? Warm, creamy bowl of rice porridge with some nice grapes on the side cheered me right up, and I waited calmly for my flight. Emailed Rome to let them know when I'd arrive; prayed that my luggage (which was still foolishly check --more about this another time) would arrive also, I sat quietly, cooling off from hot flashes and/or nervousness.
Last leg uneventful. One quiet young Italian man sitting on my left, very apologetic when he needed to get up to use the bathroom; another very loud, nervous, demanding Italian man sitting on my right, irate that the flight was 10 minutes late getting off the ground and letting me know that there was no excuse for the British to run an airline this way. I gave him a cough drop and he fell asleep.

Arrived Fiumincino 8 hours later than expected on time, called the hotel, waited for luggage, waited for luggage ... how could my bag have possibly made it from Chicago, through all of those changes, when I barely made it myself? Polite service agent let me know that they knew where the bag was ... it was left behind at Heathrow, as he put it, and it would be coming in at 8:00 that night and delivered to my hotel. I felt good, knowing that it was there, traveling, like me, sola. We would be reunited soon.

1 comment:

blaine nell said...

Oh Laurie, what a wirter you are.
I cannot wait to read the next chapter.
Hope it will not be delayed. :)
Enjoy your adventure.
Blaine and Max