It’s good to be back…but it was a series of putts rather than a swan dive into the pool.
An early departure didn’t do me much good since the flight was three late. Close call on the connection, but close was good enough, AND, Alaska Airlines is giving me 2,000 bonus miles for the inconvenience!
After about 8 ½ hours in the middle seat I was wondering why exactly I thought this was such a good idea – I could be home in my cozy little house and be horizontal if I wanted to, as opposed to being restricted to minute head and foot movements and unable to raise myself up for butt re-positioning via the armrests without turning something on, off or changing the channel. But, then, I remembered my $759.00 fare and all was well.
London’s Heathrow Terminal 5 is so complicated it must be the culmination of a Global Security Summit on Terrorism Prevention Through Architecture. On the other hand, when I asked the British version of the TSA agent if my shoes needed to be scanned, he asked me to hold up my foot so he could have a look – then pronounced them, “probably safe enough”. Meanwhile, the battalion of uniformed ladies at the head of the security line were absolutely frantic that we put our 3 oz bottles of liquids into a Ziplock bag that they provided. Apparently, clear & resealable is not adequate.
After a layover in London we boarded a much smaller aircraft for Milan (no dance floor on the upper level). That was when it all became real. Suddenly the only ones speaking English were the British Air Stewarts. Italian passengers were flipping through English magazines, just scanning pictures but not reading the type. All the announcements were followed by an Italian version. Then there was the gallantry factor. It is not as if no one offered to help me with my bag on the plane, because they did, but generally I say, “I’m fine thanks.” and they go about their business. This is not the case in Italy, or apparently on a British plane headed to Italy and full of Italians. Here the thought of a Nonna hoisting her bag into the overhead compartment seems almost offensive. “Please, let me help you.” One fellow said as he already had taken hold of the luggage. Their sensibilities are somehow offended that a woman should even have to consider hauling her bags around like a mule. They must assist, it is the only proper thing.
Nothing can make me regret a pair of jeans and a pair of Keens faster than setting foot in the Milan airport. The fashion capital of Italy- gals really dress up. This is not like the changes from an Alaskan airport to Seattle or to Chicago, it is a completely different thing to land in the fashion capital of Italy.
Looking good does not only pertain to the ladies, but to all facets of the population. As I edged my way to the Customs counter a uniformed Milanese agent went walking by. It was the Italian walk. Not a saunter, not a swagger, but something that expresses everything about being a young Italian male. Tall, thin, erect posture, perfect shoes and a stride that is more like a dance than a strut – eyes forward. A walk to be seen, not a walk to take a look. When my turn arrived and I was face to face with the customs agent I could hardly pay attention to whatever he was saying as I was mesmerized by the assortment of brass buttons, epaulets, badges and pins. There were matching scabbards on each lapel that were so large and ostentatious I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Lots of professions wear uniforms, all of them are showy, but this one was clearly sending a message. I think the weight of the brass alone could change his BMI.
If I wasn’t fully immersed in Italian culture after customs, the trip to the bathroom finished the job. I noted as I approached the ladies room that the international symbol of stick figures of men and women were replaced by much more flattering pictographs, three dimensional, more Rubenesque, and from a more flattering point of view. I smiled as I walked passed them and…..it’s marble. White marble floors, large and spotless with white glass stalls, opaque of course, with pristine, angular and beautiful, polished stainless steel hardware. 🙂