Friday, June 27, 2008

Things Do Not Always Go As Planned (A Very Long Italian Story, Part One)

As is our usual habit after long journeys in which we do not take the time nor make the effort to blog in real time, we'll be visiting Italy in episodes. Our first episode begins:

Travel is an adventure. Always. Even the most mundane trip to a nearby city can be filled with wonder and unique experiences. Any time we set our feet on a path with expectations of arriving in a certain place at a certain time, there hangs the possibility, even the likelihood, that all will not go as planned. A flat tire will slow one's journey. A diversion will cause an unanticipated delay. Some form of weather will hinder one's means of transportation. It happens.

Monkey and I rose early on Sunday (the 8th), packed up the Penguin, made our way through our departure checklists, and began our journey with a short drive to Eppley Airfield in Omaha. As luck would have it, it poured buckets as we drove, but as we arrived at the airport and boarded the shuttle for our terminal, the storms abated.

We were scheduled for a flight from Omaha to Chicago, then, after a three hour lay over, or so, we were booked from Chicago to Newark. From Newark, we had a 9pm flight to Lisbon, and then a short flight to Milan, where we should have arrived at around 3pm Italian time (15:00, as they like to say). Our flight in Omaha was delayed about an hour (word on the tarmac was that one of the flight attendants was late for work), but we made it to Chicago with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, our flight out of Chicago was delayed. We had time between flights in Newark, so we weren't too concerned.

We boarded the plane in Chicago, where, by the way, it was also pouring buckets. We pushed back from the gate, and taxied out to the runway. The pilot told us that departures were stacked up, due to weather, and that we would leave as soon as we could (like, maybe in an hour). The plane groaned, but, we kept our cool, mostly. About two hours later, we were still sitting on the runway, and the pilot told us that departing flights had been suspended. After another hour, he said we were not going to take off, and he taxied back to the gate.

After we got to the gate and everybody started to gather their stuff, the pilot said that we were going to take off, so don't go anywhere. At this point, we had been on the plane for several hours, and there was no food on the plane. People were getting grumpy. Particularly the two kids with the young mother who had expected a short plane ride home to Newark, so didn't bring any food. Monkey offered her one of her protein bars, which she always takes for us on trips. The mother took it and thanked Monkey.

After taking on fuel or something, the pilot backed us out of the gate, but, fifteen minutes later, he pulled us back in, because the crew had gone into overtime, and, by some FAA rule or something, they had to be replaced. He gave us thirty minutes to jump off the plane and get some food, then said we were leaving, no matter what. The foodless mother hopped off and bought a bunch of bagels, which she distributed to everyone within two rows of her. That was thoughtful. But, of course, thirty minutes really wasn't as hard of a deadline as the pilot made it out to be.

Eventually, after six hours on the ground in this plane, we finally got airborne, but, by then, we had already missed our connection in Newark. We got in at about 10pm and made our way to the ticket counter to book our new flights for tomorrow. The fellow at the counter was very helpful, and, after a bit of a disagreement (a friendly one, of course), he made reservations for us on a non-stop flight the next afternoon to Milan on Continental. However, due to some wierd airline alliances or something, we had to come back to confirm our reservations before the flight. Then, he gave us a meal voucher and a free night in the local hotel.

Monkey wanted to make sure we were all set to fly, so, we planned to come back well before our scheduled flight, and hang out at the airport after we'd gotten our confirmations and boarding passes. I thought that was a fine plan. For the moment, however, we took the shuttle to the hotel, bought a couple of hotel restaurant cheeseburgers with our meal voucher, and hit the hay.

A night in Newark. We hadn't planned on that, and it certainly wasn't Florence, but, it was out of our hands. We slept, hoping that tomorrow would be a better day of travel, and knowing that, most likely, our next night's fare and lodgings would not be a cheeseburger and an Embassy Suites hotel room.


comoprozac said...

Sounds like it was a good start.

mary beth llorens said...

hey tony,
can't wait for the next installment. monkey?! is there some backstory?
mary beth

Laura said...

hi monkey friends. looking forward to tonight and seeing some PICTURES, even if they are still on your camera! are we *the ambassadors*??! just checkin'. can't wait.

Anonymous said...

what a logistical travel nightmare! well, at least you knew things would only get better from there... i hope!?! can't wait to hear about the fun stuff!

La Fashionista said...

Ironic that *you* were stranded in Jersey. Me thinks the fates had you right where they wanted you.

I kid because I love! I'm so glad you're home, and I can't wait to read all about your adventures!!!

Sorry I'm a bit slow on the comment, but I just got back into town - from DE (the not-Jersey).

Benvenuti a casa!


La Fashionista said...

PS - I found myself wishing you had a "Jersey" label when I was posting on my own blog earlier this week!