Friday, October 19, 2007

The Thursday From Hell

O.K., so I sent you all in the wrong direction.

In my last blog entry, I asked for your prayers for "smooth flying". That you did, because it really wasn't a bad flight, as turbulence goes. But to get to that moment, ahhhhh, keep reading.

So Wednesday turned out to be a really great "last day in Rome": New Cardinals announced, a nice lunch with some New Jersey Priests who also happened to be visiting Rome, a package left for me at the hotel front desk that I was sure was not going to happen this trip, a visit with the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist (who work in a few Vatican offices, including the Internet office), and dinner with Joan Lewis, the Rome bureau chief for EWTN. It was a perfect day, until...... [cue the "Jaws" theme]

Thursday morning I wake up at 6am to pack my luggage, and at 7am go down to pay my bill and get a taxi to the airport for my 10am flight. When the Signora at the desk calls for the cab, she tells me, "There are no taxis today. They're on strike today." I asked her what I can do? She gives me the "Italian shrug" and says that I can get to the airport from the Termini train station in the middle of town. So I grab my bags (thank GOD for the man who invented wheels on the bottom of luggage), and haul it the half mile to a bus stop where I know there's an express bus (meaning only 5 or 6 stops along the way) to Termini. Of course, it's raining this morning, and the water on the marble and cobblestones make me thankful I can ice skate. I used up my bus tickets I keep in reserve (who knew I'd be on a bus this morning?), so all the while I'm on the bus I'm expecting to be busted without a ticket. Why? Because that's the way my morning was going so far. Halfway to the bus stop, I see a cab drive past. I wave, he turns and comes to me, rolls down the window, and asks where I want to go. When I tell him the airport, he tells me he can't because there's a strike today [yeah, thanks for that information]. I ask myself, then why is he driving a cab around town? The answer: to SHOW everyone he's on strike.

At 8:05am, I'm in Termini, ticket in hand and waiting for a train to Fiumicino Airport, which is supposed to come at 8:22. The screen announces it's going to be delayed (I thought everyone raved how Italians have the best train system?). It arrives at 8:30 and gets me to the airport at about 9:05am. Remember, 10am flight.

I get to the terminal from the train station and wait on a line just so they can look at the cover of my passport. I get through that line to get to the Continental check in area. Only nobody is there. Closed. I find a man across the way at a Continental desk, and tell him I need to check in. He gives me a shrug (I think he's related to the lady at the hotel desk), and does what I've learned Italians do: they tell you "no", then make a phone call and do what you ask. He gave me a boarding pass, handed me a temporary luggage check in tag (meaning a piece of paper on a rubber band), tells me to attach it to the bag, and send me back to the check in counter to put it on the conveyor belt. I'm totally convinced this is the last time I'll ever see my bag, but I'm wet, sweaty, and desperate to go home, so I play along. It's now about 9:25am.

Now I get to the airport security. My friends, I now know what purgatory will be like, because I waited what seemed like days while a tour group of American Senior Citizens took their own sweet time taking off belts, shoes, and earrings, to put on through the x-ray machine, all the while chatting about how they loved the gelato they had the night before. I get through the security and wait for the shuttle tram that takes you from the main terminal to the terminal where the gates are located. Time check 9:40am.

By the time the shuttle doors open, I'm in a sprint to the gate. I saw the Continental plane with the doors still wide open, so I knew there was still a glimmer of hope. I spun my way past other gates and saw the most beautiful thing I've ever seen: a long, long line of people still waiting to board my flight. Whewwwwwwwww! Plus, when I walked on the walkway to the plane, I saw one of the Continental employees who checked me at the gate and gave me the manual luggage tag. Maybe she brought my bag with her and put it on the plane? I asked her, she pulled out a PDA, checked my name off, and said everything was o.k., to get on the plane. Those of you who read the blog know I hate flying, but you'll never know how happy I was to step on that big ole' Boeing 767.

By the way, as I said above, it was a pretty smooth flight, so thank you for the prayers.

By 1:55pm Newark time (7:55pm Rome time), we landed in the U.S. I went through customs and down to the baggage carousel and waited, and waited, and waited some more. No bag. They told me to make a claim at the Continental lost baggage area. So I shlump my way on the airport tram to another terminal (along with my poor mother, who I'm sure is convinced that I'm homicidal) to the lost baggage desk, figuring this was an exercise in futility. When I handed the lady my claim ticket, she tells me there's a note on the computer that my bag is still in Rome, didn't make the plane ride, and would be sent on the flight tomorrow (Friday). So, as of now, while I'm home from Rome, my bag decided to spend another day and should be, God willing, flying 36000 feet over Nova Scotia as I'm writing this. Once I get my bag (and all the clothing, souvenirs, pictures of me with the Holy Father, travel books, etc., within it), then the trip will be officially "over".

Last night was also the annual fundraiser/dinner for Life Choices, a local pregnancy aid center. Fr. Benedict Groschel was the featured speaker for the evening. So fresh from my journey home (and strengthened by a Starbucks venti iced skim latte), I got the chance to attend the fundraiser and see Fr. Benedict. If you go by east coast time, my day began at midnight on Thursday and ended about 10pm, with catnaps on the plane along the way.

So how was your Thursday?


Unknown said...

How was my Thursday?

Not as penetential as yours... I slept in.

But I am unemployed right now... so I guess it is relative. I would rather have a job and be stuck in an Italian airport in the line of duty than not, living off my savings and hoping I incur no vet bills.

All in all, I would say it is still pretty good to be Father Jay!

Unknown said...

Father Jay,

Sounds like a day in Purgatory.
Sorry you had such troubles and tribulations.

Glad you got home and got home safely. Hope the luggage makes it back, too.

Speaking of strikes in Italy, every time I wanted to see Assisi, the trains were on strike and all the Italians pack food just in case on any given day any train is in the strike zone, they're ready for pranzo or cena.