23 April 2010

It wasn't the volcano that almost trapped me at the airport

Musings from Florence: Part 4

In praise of Mussolini, people always say, "he made the trains run on time." It always seemed an odd thing to praise a dictator for, but after a week in Italy, I can see how it would be a trait that caught people's attention. Nothing is quite on time in Italy, but it doesn't really matter. The culture has a relaxed--a "tomorrow" way--of looking at the world.

It's a wonderful attitude, until you face it in the airport at 5 in the morning.

On the outward journey, the woman who checked me in messed up my final destination. My bag was going to go to the right place, but not me. When we realized the error, she pressed a few buttons, then shrugged.

"They will straighten it out in Frankfurt."

Uh? "Can't you..." I started but she was already waving the next person up.

Fortunately, the tomorrow-mood is infectious. "OK," I said and walked away. I'd deal with it in Germany. The Germans are nothing if not efficient. However, the tomorrow mood lifted by the time we landed in Frankfurt. Iceland was erupting, security lines were longer and more rigorous than I'd seen in years and I couldn't find a cup of coffee to save my soul.

So I went to the USAirways desk and asked about my final destination. They looked at my records, muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, "Italians," and said that they could get me to Chicago, but they couldn't print a boarding pass.

"You will have to get it in Philadelphia."

"But can't you--"

"No, we can't."

Knowing better than to argue with anyone before my first cup of coffee, I simply nodded and went to my departure gate. Eight hours later, we land in Philadelphia. Custom lines are short, security lines are long AND I cannot go through security to get on my next flight without a boarding pass. So I got to the USAirways gate outside customs. After explaining the problem, the woman called up my records. Her supervisor leaned over her shoulder, shook his head and sighed, "Italians."

"We can't print a boarding pass," the woman said, "because you're on a codeshare fight with United, but the gate agent should be able to get you on the plane."

"But...security won't let me through without a boarding pass."

"We've developed a procedure for this," she said, and went to a cabinet, pulled out a stack of pre-printed forms and gave me a special pass to get through security. Clearly, I'm not the first with this problem.

At the United gate, the agent looked up my records and sighed.

"The Italians will never die of stress," I offered.

"Unless someone kills them for causing it," she muttered and handed over my boarding pass.


Nancy said...

Hi Keena,
Not only did your blog make me giggle the pictures of your trip are awesome.

Unknown said...

Eeeek!! Flying used to be such fun. Oh, I've been to Italy twice, and do fully understand their attitude. Well and good for them, but can be, as you said, problems for everyone else. They have the same motto as Jamaicans--"Don't worry, be happy." Loved your tale, and now I'll go back one and read that one. Great stuff. Celia

Stephanie Burkhart said...

Keena!! Who'd a thought? All that mess because of the Italians. You're a trooper. Thanks so much for sharing.


Liana Laverentz said...

Oh, that's hilarious (to read about--not so hilarious to live). Thanks for sharing!

Liana Laverentz

Francesca Prescott said...

Oh, poor you! But you know, you really were one of the lucky ones to get out of Europe before mega chaos struck! My husband's company has people stranded in the likes of Shanghai and Hong Kong until the middle of next week...

I loved looking at your photos of Florence, reminded me of the crazy days when I lived there. I wonder if the Hotel Santa Croce still exists; it was a tiny, kind of dodgy little dump...but that was MANY years ago! Isn't Piazza Santa Croce amazing? It's such a beautiful town. I must go back before too long. Did you not get to Cinque Terre? It's BEAUTIFUL!

Ok, I'm gushing, but I'm half Italian, so I'm allowed to gush about Italy!

xx cesca

Blythe Gifford said...

Gave me a chuckle. I don't think I would have handled it as casually as you did. Of course, maybe after a week in Italy, I would have caught some of the low stress attitude, too!

Meredith said...

Keena, my friend, I feel your pain. Tia and I had a similar "code sharing" SNAFU with United and Continental on ALL legs of our flights TO AND FROM Maui. A simple key-stroke error by a harried and hurried ticketing agent in Albany was the seed of a shite-storm.

Keena Kincaid said...

Hi, all. Thanks for the comments. You know, I thought the whole thing was more funny than frustrating. I figured I'd eventually get home. But then I travel frequently and it's always something, so I've learned to flow with it.

And the week in Italy helped. LOL!

Meredith, I'm sorry you and Tia had such an issue. I think if the problem had happened on the "to" leg, I would have been less patient than I was on the "from" leg.