There are days I surprise myself. Good days. And then other days, equally surprised, nowhere good. Today is the latter.
Today I can’t help thinking I’m not as strong as I’d like to be. Today I feel incredibly weak.
I knew the journey home would be challenging. But when the EU decided it wasn’t going to allow in Americans, I figured it was probably time to return. Well, okay, truth be told, first I considered staying. Returning to Sicily or enrolling in an intensive language-learning school. But then someone pointed out that staying meant I could be here until there was a vaccine or a new president. Neither is a guarantee, and both are a long way off. Ok, I get it. Time to go.
Four flights over three days. Yes, it would be challenging. But I had a plan. I stayed by the airport last night. I slept well. I arrived 2.5 hours before my flight. I had my hotels booked for my two layovers. But damn. I should know better. My life rarely goes according to plan.
The traffic at Rome’s FCO was WAY more than I expected. Long lines. People of all ages. The elderly. Children. Families. I kept thinking: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? And why are they traveling during a worldwide pandemic???
The cluster of young Catholic priests did not calm me.
An old woman cut in front of me. Without even looking. Just stepped up and moved in. She tried cutting in front of the guy in front of me but he wouldn’t let her. Ok, so here at least, I laughed. I’m not that heartless. Go ahead.
Yes, people were all wearing masks. Good. But obeying distance? No. Absolutely not. Distance doesn’t exist in an airport. Forget the painted lines. Forget the woman walking with a bullhorn advising people to stay one meter apart. It’s just never going to happen in an airport.
Then, general boarding. Not from the back to the front, which is how Alitalia did it from Palermo to Rome. Just everyone in one big long line squeezed together. And seats filled. All seats, all rows. I completely lucked out – my middle seat remained open. I leaned against the window and shut my eyes.
After retrieving my bag (get this: no storing in the overhead bin! Covid-related, not that I understand, but that was the rule on Luftansa, so my roller bag had to be checked), and waiting 30 minutes for the hotel shuttle, I called the hotel. I was told the shuttle wasn’t running due to Covid. But… wait, how can that be? They sent me a document of all their Covid changes and the shuttle was supposed to be running. I even exchanged emails with the property saying I would be taking the shuttle and the manager did not correct me.
So this is where I lost it. When they told me to take a taxi. I broke down. I cried. Not sniffles. Full-on crying. Right there. At the shuttle stop. Momentarily despondent. When the tears subsided and I regulated my breathing, I wondered if I had the strength to get my ass to the Hyatt. Premium price and then I had to pay for a taxi? And just like that, the tears started falling all over again. Damn. I hope my hands were clean cuz they were ALL over my face!
Across from me was a Sheraton. Fine. I’ll suck it up and just go there. So I walked. Remember, in an airport everything looks like it’s close by when in reality it’s a few blocks up and down and across. Guess what? The Sheraton was closed. Seriously.
Farther on was a Hilton. I walked. I got a room. Premium price. Higher than the Hyatt. But no taxi. Plus a bathtub. (Water meditation, as a friend reminded me.) Good towels. A tea kettle. God bless the Germans. A warm bath and chamomile tea – just what I needed.
Fifty minute chat with Expedia to get my refund from the Hyatt. Another 40 minutes cancelling my Toronto reservation in favor of the hotel that is AT the airport. Again, another premium price. Fine. Right now I’m paying for convenience. Let’s just try to ease the pain as much as possible.
I know I shouldn’t be complaining. This really is nothing in the scheme of things. I’m fortunate. In so many ways, I’m incredibly fortunate. Always, in ALL WAYS fortunate!! Which is why I’m embarrassed. Why I feel weak. I mean, come on, Peppler, get a grip. As my Italian friends would say, Relax!
A friend reached out to say she’d be at the Houston airport tomorrow (one day off from me, so unfortunately we won’t meet). She’s flying from Ecuador back home to Chicago for a month. Really? I said. Really?? But the reality is, if she doesn’t visit now, who knows when she’ll be able.
And that’s when I knew who these people were. All these people in the airport. Maybe not all, but enough. People just like me.
In the end, we’re just all trying to find our way home.