I have been in Italy for an entire week, but it is only today that I have found the energy to post my first blog. My personal recommendation for travel would always be to NOT get really sick and then fly, but sometimes it cannot be helped. I manged to contract whatever was plaguing the local elementary schools just prior to departure. Compound that with 10 days of intense preparation for the bakery helper extraordinaire, Bonnie, in my absence in order to keep you Wasillians in scones and cinnamon rolls and you have a tired, worn down, stressed out Nonna who needed to go to bed for three days but was actually headed for the airport. Team Worrell/Larson mustered their resources to get me pharmaceutically propped up, delivered to the airport and launched. Sam the Magician, showed up at my house to help me do the final chores that I was simply too exhausted to complete – like getting all the plants in the same room and watered, getting the dishes out of the sink and I don’t remember what else, but it was critical to departure.
I crashed so hard on the first leg of the trip I don’t remember anything beyond buckling my seatbelt and then waking up feeling absolutely puny. Now, here is something that I have never done before but had a most impressive effect. I pushed the light for the stewardess, asked for help to get down my suitcase, and simply looked exactly as I felt. The result – she called for a wheelchair for me to leave the airplane. I couldn’t believe I looked that bad, but apparently I did. The real surprise came after that, as she set up assistance all the way to Milan! I was just sick and miserable, not dying, and I didn’t ask for any help except to get my bag down, cause I was sure I just couldn’t manage it. I must confess, it did not seem like overkill to me, it was just right. I would no more have been able to hike the Serengeti that is the Seattle airport to my connecting flight than have pushed a PeopleMover bus up the Butte.
A charming addition to wheelchair assistance is being moved to a better seat, first on the plane, and no waiting in line for Passport approval. Pretty slick.
Once in Milan and reunited with my baggage, which you are not allowed to take on board if you cannot handle it yourself, and was checked for free, I was wheeled out to the correct bus to get me to the Milan Central Train Station by the lovely Signorina. I had enough Italian to compliment her on how strong she was pushing my “grande coulo” around (big behind) She was tickled by my Neapolitan dialect and completely too familiar expression. But, it was a great icebreaker and we chatted while we waited for the Italians who were obviously out roasting the beans for their espresso before they finished unloading the second half of the luggage. A pleasant 20 minutes.
One final note on cultural differences in wheelchair assistance between the US and Italy – the size of the wheelchair. The first unit that awaited me in Seattle was a little like a snowmachine trailer that had backed up to retrieve me. It was WIDE and there was room for me, my purse, my carry on and probably a miniature horse. The wheelchair in Milan was a delicate, narrow affair; upholstered, not plasticated, and possibly no armrests, I don’t recall. it was only a few inches wider that the big-wheeled, cargo van was folded up. It made me feel less like a Wide Load traveling down the highway than the Seattle affair. Always a nice touch.