It was 8 AM when we landed on Italian soil, an hour late – something about a flashing yellow light on the dashboard, no matter. My usual first act is to get a SIM card for my computer so I have WIFI. No Vodafone in sight. OK, I’ll find one at the train station. Foggy with sleep deprivation I choose my path. Taxi – 95 Euro, Train 13 Euro, Bus 8 Euro. I stow my bag in the belly of bus and wait for the driver to finish his lament to another driver about (fill in the blank), his cigarette, his bus-ly duties and then climb aboard. A pleasant hour later we arrive at the monumental, beautiful Central Station in Milan. It is an experience in itself.
Walking through the portal brought back the memory of my very first trip to Italy. I arrived that day at the huge, empty, slightly menacing station about midnight. As I headed to the last ticket window I heard movement behind me. I turned to see the two young men who had been sitting on the floor against the wall were now approaching me. I turned and shot them my best “Fuck off, Bucko” look, a remnant of New York City life, and the pair of them literally started walking backwards from whence they came. It’s a different place now and it is morning. Still no Vodafone, so no WIFI, save whatever anemic connection I would find at the hotel. Yes, the hotel, I can’t remember exactly how to get there, although I have stayed there before. My mind’s eye can see the exact location on the map, but where am I in relation to the map? Which door to exit? Which way is north anyway. I need coffee.
Somewhere in the Miami airport my suitcase began to drag a bit. I thought it must be a piece of schmutz I picked up and backed the bag up a little to release it. That seemed to work, but the problem arose again shortly. Before I boarded in NYC I discovered that one of my wheels was losing it outer tread. I rescued the pieces and put them in my pocket contemplating which negozio (store) in Italy would be specializing in Super Glue and whatever would they call it.
I have no pride around the fact that my luggage was supremely fashionable in 1999, and that now it is not. I don’t care that I must now tote a CPAP machine hooked to my luggage with no way to pretend it is my computer and I am an important business person, because it says ResMED right on the bag. But, I crossed the shame line with the incessant clickety clack of a broken wheel. Impossible to ignore by anyone in a ten foot radius, unrelenting, and increasing in intensity if you try to just move faster. Resigned to this embarrassment I simply kept walking until I found the Bar I mentioned in my first post. That coffee, the Lindt chocolate, and the KIMBO crew lifted me adequately to assess the situation properly. I was hungry AND tired.
I lost the rest of the outer wheel on the cobblestone streets on the way to the hotel, which was a blessing. Now it rolls along quietly, albeit slightly lopsided.
Milan was a one night stay but I spotted a Vodafone during my museum search and made it a priority for the next morning as I had to be at the airport to fly to Bari at 2 PM. I took my ticket, number 50 and then looked up at the board to find they were serving number 31A. I settled in a for a big city sort of wait but it went quickly. Handed over my passport, ID and credit card and in a few moments was ready to go, he even installed the chip for me. I never noticed that he did NOT hand me back my passport until I was on a wild ride to the Airport because in my sleep deprived state I somehow confused 14:21 with 4 o’clock, which it is not. 14:21 is 2:21 PM.
The driver turned around and went back to the Piazza Duomo, waited for me as I sailed past the door watcher who said “You must have a ticket!”, tossed over my shoulder the words “Passaporto & Aeroporto” and marched directly to the counter where the young man who served me produced the document in a flash and an apology, as if he were solely responsible for the snafu. Of course, I missed that flight, but only by minutes, and I had purchased for $10 insurance in case I missed the flight. Why did I do that, have no idea, but was happy I did.
I was flying Cheap-O Air so baggage is an issue. If you think that they are fussy in the US about excess baggage or baggage size – you have to try out a European cheap airline. I already found out last year that you MUST check in online – even though they never say that on the website. One carry on means ONE carry on- not your carry on and a camera or a shopping bag full of stuff or your CPAP. I had already paid for my baggage online and got my boarding pass printed so I was all set. With the miraculous insurance I thought I had things licked.
Went to the boarding agent to the check in, he confirmed i was too late to board. Go to the help counter. I went to the counter. Waited my turn. Told the agent I missed my flight. She said we’ll put you on the next flight, $100.00 please. I said I had Insurance. She looked. Yes, you do. OK, call the insurance company and have them rebook the ticket. They must do it. I didn’t know I had the number because I didn’t recognize the email that arrived as my insurance, since I bought it in English and it arrived looking like spam. She dug up a number, wan’t sure it was correct, but gave it to me to call. It was a +44. No idea what country that was.
I called. David answered – he was English – he spoke English. He never heard of me. I read my insurance number to him. My confirmation code. Nope, I am not in the system.
He gives me a different number to call. I call. David answers. He says that is strange. He cannot help me, but he suggests I go back to the counter and let him talk to the agent. I get back in line. I wait my turn. I get the other agent this time. She cannot talk to the insurance company, she is not allowed. I tell David, he asks me to ask her for a particular number. She provides the number. David still can’t find me in the system.
He looks up the number for another insurance company and gives it to me. He hopes that works. My departure time is coming up, I hope they will have a seat left for me.
I search my phone again for the email everyone says I should have gotten with the correct number to call. I check out that weird spam that came in at the same time as my flight confirmation. THAT’S IT. I call the actual number they gave me if I had a problem to report. I dial the number, it is + 39 Italian number so I know that it is not going to be as simple as David. David answers.
David is as incredulous as an Englishman can be. He takes my number and says he will make some calls and call me back. I hang out and wait. David calls back. He has called some contact at Cheap-O air and finds me in the system, books my flight and off I go. I check my bag and head for some coffee.
Ahhhh, Illy. The best, the smoothest. Love Illy. Finish my coffee while I wait for Cheap-O to post the boarding gate, which will be 20 minutes before the departure. I shake out a few cechi, they are dried salted garbanzo beans that I always buy at the Piazza Duomo. Handy to have, easy to carry, high protein, no fat, great if you are going to miss a meal, which I have just done. They are crunchy little buggers and every once in a while you get one that missed Inspector 27’s sharp eye and it is hard as a rock. I bit into one of those and then fished out the culprit and dropped it into my empty cup. A few seconds later my tongue found a strange empty place in my tooth. I dug out the hard cechi and found it was a chunk of tooth. I stashed it in my purse and knew that my plans had just changed.