Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Travails of Travel

As you may know, CINCHOUSE and I traveled to Italy for a week. And a wonderful week it was. However, getting there and back, not so wonderful.

Now I have to confess, I don't travel very well. Kind of like a cheap wine. Though I do love to fly, sitting over the Atlantic in a packed metal tube filled to the max with my fellow humans, at night, with nothing to see, does try the Old Sarge's patience. What little he has.

Things started rather well, that Sunday, May the sixth. The Missus and I departed the humble abode approximately ten minutes AHEAD of schedule. Yes, I've emphasized "ahead" because seldom, when travelling  with the family, have we ever departed ahead of schedule. The norm is 15 to 20 minutes after my planned departure time.

Of course, the Missus knows that my planned departure time is based on my experiences in the Air Force. The old "the flight departs at 0530 from the MAC terminal, all personnel must check in at the terminal no later than 0330". Yes, the standard "hurry up and wait" mindset of the military. It has served me well in the past. My motto is that it's better to sit around at the gate and have plenty of time to catch the flight then to be driving on the airport access road and seeing one's flight taking off. Yes, I've had that happen. Not to me, but to people whom I was transporting to the airport who decided that 30 minutes prior to boarding was ample time to leave for the airport. Sad that no one had informed the other people on the highway that we would be making a rapid transit to the airport. Traffic tends to slow things down at times.

All that being said, there we were, ahead of schedule, heading for the airport on a bright, sunny Sunday morning. Two miles from home, the Missus asks me if I brought my black jacket. No, I responded. I have two jackets, why would I need a third? Of course, the Missus tells me we need to go back and bring that third (black) jacket in case I spilled something on the two I had. Although I am generally not a sloppy person, the Missus seems to think that I am a hopeless slob and should be covered with a large plastic tarp at all times. Lest I ruin my clothes.

Back to the house we go, to collect the black jacket. As I dash into the house, the Missus yells out "Oh and bring your other shoes!" What "other" shoes I ask. She looks at me as if my IQ has suddenly plummeted to around 50 and says, "your walking shoes, you know the ones the Nuke got for you". Rather than argue the point, I grabbed those as well. Oh goody, I'm taking two things with me to Italy which will probably stay in the suitcase the whole time. (I did wear the black jacket, once. And not because I'd spilled anything on the other two. I did it just because I could. And the Missus told me to wear it. Sigh.)

Eventually we board our aircraft. To fly to Atlanta. Atlanta in the state of Georgia. Why Atlanta? That's not on the way to Italy. Well, in some things I can be painfully idiotic. Like my extreme distaste for driving anywhere within 20 miles of the city of Boston. So we would fly out of Providence instead. Yes, why add an hour of driving to the trip when you can add three hours of flying to the trip? I really must get over this loathing of Boston traffic.

As we board the aircraft, I am scanning the row numbers, looking for our seats. We keep going and going and going. Ah, here they are. The very last row. And on this particular aircraft, they are seats with no windows. Yes, our seats had no window. Would've been ridiculous to put windows there I suppose, as the engines were mounted there. Wonderful, no window to look out of. And we are right next to the lavatory. Always a plus.

We eventually got to Atlanta and boarded our connecting flight to Rome. Yes, Rome in Italy. This was a thoroughly modern aircraft I suppose. Everyone had their own personal little TV monitor on the seat in front of them. With a selection of programming no less. Okay, this shouldn't be too bad.

Alright we're airborne. After about three hours I look out the window and see the coastline of Rhode Island going by. Yes, the coastline of the state we had left about 7 hours ago. Hhhmm, really need to rethink this whole "I refuse to drive in Boston" thing. Certainly would've shortened the trip.

So now we're out over the Atlantic with a long journey ahead of us. I'm checking the movie selection, it's not bad. It's not really the latest and greatest, but it's not bad. Also there are at least three movies listed that I have not seen yet. Okay, long flight, but I should be able to stay relatively entertained.

At this point in time, as I'm selecting my movie, I notice that the seats in front of us are occupied by a pair of rather tall people. A married couple I presume. A rather large married couple. Rather tall, somewhat fidgety people. The type who feel the need to shift about in their seats constantly. Usually I get stuck next to these type of people, as they're in front of me, I foresee no problem.

So the movie begins to roll. And that's when it happens. The female giant (sitting directly to my front) now reclines her seat back. Reclines it rather abruptly and with a certain amount of vigor. Catching me quite by surprise. Also, my little TV screen which was perfectly placed, is now pointed at my midsection. As my eyes sit in my skull, and not my abdomen, there is now the need for some, shall we say "realignment".

I discover, to my chagrin, that my little TV screen will only deploy up to a certain, rather shallow, angle. An angle which makes it most uncomfortable to view while sitting up straight. After some contorting and realignment of my bodily parts I can now see the movie again. At this point, the giantess shifts again. I swear the flight crew must have been constantly adjusting the aircraft trim to account for these two rather large individuals shifting around.

Finally the giants had found a comfortable position. I reset the little TV screen, scrunch down and go back to the in-flight cinematic experience. For about seven hours plus. I kind of lost all track of time somewhere south of Ireland. I was straddling multiple time zones and my brain really stopped trying to figure out what time it was somewhere south of Iceland.

'Twas then I noticed that it was no longer night. Warily I opened the little window blind and peeked. Yes, the sun was up and it appeared to be a lovely day. Somewhere over southern France I gathered. Geography was always one of my strong suits.

So now I abandoned the in-flight cinematic experience to indulge my love of being in the air and trying to see things far below the aircraft. And what to my wondering eyes appear but the isle of Corsica. "Hey, honey, look we're flying over Corsica!" I nudge the wife, wanting to share my excitement at flying over the birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte. The look she gave me was probably similar to the look I would've gotten had I nudged her and announced "Hey, honey. I just wet my pants!" Yup, she was very tired and in no mood for a geography lesson.

But I could scarce restrain myself, because there, in the sea to the east of Corsica, was the isle of Elba. The site of the Emperor's first exile. As I turned to the Missus to announce that little tidbit, I realized that I had annoyed her twice already on this trip. Twice in the first day. Going for the trifecta at this time was probably not very smart. Though I can be rather dense, I'm not that dense. So little Elba had to slide beneath the port wing with no notice. My love of history is not shared by my better half. She appreciates history but does not love it as I do. Farewell Elba!

Eventually we land in Rome. At Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport. It was exciting at first. Then I realized (as all travelers eventually do) that all airports look pretty much alike. But we had arrived and were ready to start our "Taste of Italy". Ready being a relative term. The only taste of Italy we were really looking forward to at this point was the comfort of the beds in the hotel. We were exhausted.

But we did find the representative of our travel company rather quickly and both of our checked bags had safely followed us to Rome. Then things really started to get fun.

Our travel rep led us out to the bus which would be taking us to our hotel. It would turn out to be the bus that would take us all over Italy, driven by our own Giuseppe. The man who would show us the best of Italian traffic customs. The first being that people waiting for a certain city bus, don't like having a tourist bus parked in that particular spot. Seems to upset their sense of order I suppose. But Giuseppe and one of the locals had a very long and colorful chat about this. I don't speak very much Italian, but the gist of the conversation (as I understood it) was that the local chap felt that Giuseppe should be thrown out of Italy for parking in the wrong place and confusing the locals. Giuseppe, for his part, seemed to be carrying on a running commentary about the local chap's ancestry and complete lack of social graces.

The Italians are a passionate folk.

This story will continue. I have so much material from my week in Italy, that I could probably write a book about it. And maybe someday, I will.


  1. "This story will continue"...looking forward to it! I plan on using your posts as somewhat of a lessons learned document as my wife and I will visit Rome next year. I too am a Marriott Rewards points junkie and am saving them up to hopefully upgrade to business class to avoid tall people and window-less seats among other things.

    1. Definitely do the upgrade! People deplaning from coach-class look like traumatized animals being led to the slaughter. And looking forward to it. People deplaning from first-class look like they just stepped off the cover of GQ and are ready for a round or two of golf. "Another cocktail Muffie?"

  2. If I ever fulfill a bucket list item and get to England ... it's gonna have to be in business class at least.

    1. The Missus and I are seriously considering the UK for our next overseas adventure. If I can afford it, I will not fly coach again on an international flight. Cramped and uncomfortable to the extreme!


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