Saturday, August 26, 2006

...Can I Get That Anal Swab in Mint Scent?

My wife and I have been planning a trip to Europe for quite some time now. We bought the tickets, decided to go to London and Rome, got hotel rooms, and so forth. Everything was going great and we were ready to go, and then the day before we left the British foiled another airline bombing plot. Wonderful! Now we can't take liquids on, and if the British didn't do something before we traveled to Rome, then we'd not have any carryons or any clothing. We ran into a host of problems along the way, from changing liquids rules (i.e. Benadryl is fine in SLC, but not in ATL) to the hidden no-chap-stick-corrolary that is active in the following areas: Britain and Italy. I think that between everybody in my travel party, we threw out enough chap stick to build a cabin out of.
On the travel end, we actually ended up in quite the good situation. Due to my status with Delta, we flew over on a jet that was sold as "all coach", but we got seats that were bigger than usual - 40 inches of seat pitch instead of the usual 31. We also got our own TVs to watch so we didn't have to sit through Robin Williams' latest crapfest, RV. The Ryanair flight we had from Stansted was interesting - it made Southwest look sane. The lines at the counter were an hour long, they were handwriting boarding passes (apparently the computer revolution hasn't reached European low cost carriers yet), and the baggage Nazi made sure that your luggage didn't weigh too much. We got to Rome, but instead of going to their big international airport (Fiumicino), we were at a small one on the other side of town (Ciampino). Here's a free piece of advice for any would-be terrorists who want to fly into Italy. Fly into Ciampino after 10 pm. In addition to waiting forever for your baggage, there weren't any customs agents. You could just walk into Italy with nary a question asked. They were actually stricter about getting back into the airport than leaving it.
Flying out, we went through Fiumicino, and what an experience that was. We found some Kinder Buenos at a store in the main terminal, then took a shuttle out to our gate. My wife wanted some more, so I thought it would be a simple matter to go back and get some. That wasn't the case. Apparently the Italians don't trust those who have already been screened and passed through metal detectors to have actually been screened and passed through metal detectors. I went from the gate back to the main terminal and had to go back through a metal detector. Mind you, it deposited me right back where I had been 20 minutes ago. It didn't drop me on the curb or out by the gates or anything. It was right back in the terminal. While I was in line, an Italian guy made a huge fuss about someone butting in line, which in the end didn't do anything other than slow the line down. He ended up being further back because he got out of line to go talk to the following people: the people who cut in line, the guy manning the security checkpoint, the airport police, the actual police. Seriously, doesn't this guy know when to give up? He should, he was Italian, and as every Italian knows, there's no such thing as an Italian queue.
(Sidenote: I was in "line" at the Borghese Gallery in Rome and this British guy with a French girlfriend got all hot under the collar because I sidled up beside him when a hole opened. When I say line, most people think of something organized like at Disneyland. This was more along the lines of this, and I kid you not. In the end, he didn't get tickets and I did. Here's the approximate conversation (keep in mind that I had picked up all the British talking things at this point):
Him: Excuse me, I was in queue ahead of you.
Me: I don't see a queue here.
Him: Well, it's an Italian queue.
Me: Like I said, there's no queue here.
Him: An Italian queue is where there is no queue until the person in front of you complains about it, and then you get behind them.
Me: You're full of crap.)
Anyway, I ended up back at my gate after an hour detour back to the terminal. When I arrived, I had some delightful news: I was getting an elusive Op-Up. This is the upgrade that the travel gods bestow on you for no reason at all. Instead of traveling in coach, I was able to get everyone upgraded to Business Elite. That's a nearly fully reclining seat, 5 course meal, 5 feet of leg room, and more. Oh, how sweet it was. It beat the pants of Korean's Business Class and it beat out Northwest/KLM's World Business Class as well. In the end it was as good as it could have been, what with the crackdown on my water bottles.

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