Wednesday, April 4, 2012
25 hours, door to door
We were 15 minutes from leaving the house when my phone burped, and spat out a text message: "Your flight has been cancelled. If you need help, please call us. Have a nice day." What the fuck? A quick peek on the Air France site confrmed it: Our first leg, LAX to Paris, had been cancelled. OK, kick into gear, call Orbitz and fix the problem. Phone tag, hold on sir, I'll find the right person, hold on please, where are you going? Where's Catania? Sicily? OK, let's fix it. Hold on, please. Just a few minutes more, please. 45 ninutes later: OK, you're rebooked all the way through. Have a great flight. Off to the airport. Check bags, clear TSA stupidity, go have some lunch, wait a bit more, confirm the flights, wait some more. Soon enough it's time and we're off! Only 3 1/2 hours behind. Not a problem, we were due into Catania (on the east coast of Sicily) after 6PM local time, so arriving later just means we hit the hotel and pass out instead of hitting the hotel and waiting to pass out, fine. 10 1/2 hours later, a reasonable airline meal, plenty of wine and a restless sleep later, land in Paris. Always enjoy landing here, the countryside is so pretty, and the roads with their endless roundabouts make me giggle nervously at the memory of figuring out how to use them without getting run over by a truck. Good times. Exit to the endless concrete tunnels that connect the various parts of Charles De Gaulle airport, pass through immigration and security with only a minor glitch: Aliana's treasured bracelet kept setting off the metal detector and it's really tough to remove, but she managed. Now, where's the flight to Rome? Delayed. OK, hang in there. When will we leave? And arrive? I thnk that'll be too close for comfort for our last leg? Check with the gate agent. We're OK? Fine, have a nap while we wait. Ahh, boarding time. Delayed. Don't Panic, you have a towel :-) Breathe. Get inline to talk to the agent. Think about kicking the German passenger in front of you who seems to think that abusing the staff will make the plane magically appear. Watch the agent's smile become fixed to her face as she repeats herself again. Finally he stomps off and I smile at her and give her the raised eyebrow and shrug that means, What can you do with an idiot? and we're friends. The incoming plane is delayed, a fresh crew is on its way, your booking is still fine, don't worry. When you get to Rome, your outbound flight is only 100 feet from the incoming gate. May I see your luggage tags? Your bags are correctly checked. May I give you a voucher? We're so sorry, but I think it will all work out. Merci, have a nice flight. Well, OK, then. Get a sandwich, get on board, Off we go, only an hour to Catania. Hey, we're here! Remember I don't speak Italian until we're past customs etc. (My Italian is good enough to get us into trouble, but not good enough to get us out. Better to just speak English.) Here are the bags! It's a miracle! Out the door, find a cab, off to the hotel. 10 minute bumpity-bump with a taciturn driver, clearly not an Italian and we're here. Look! It's my sister and her family: they made it down from Venice and we are now all together. Phew. A quick snack of left-over sandwiches and some prosciutto from the bar menu, and it's time for lights out. What time is it? 1AM local, 4PM yesterday in LA, who cares, we're here.