Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no less enthusiasm.
When last I left you, I had a glass of champagne in my right hand and my cell phone in my left. Both were shaking so much that the flight attendant asked me if I were okay. “Long story,” I told her, “but I’m on the plane. Hopefully I can calm down before we land in London.” She smiled, but I’m sure she thought I was nuts.
For the second time I called Mike to let him know I was okay and to have him calm me a bit. “I knew you’d make it,” he said. I rolled my eyes because I know he was as worried as I was. . . He let that slip a bit in one of our conversations. I took a video of my little cubby, texted it to him, and settled in as we elevated to the clouds.
I’m not going to bore you with the entire 10+-hour journey, but suffice to say that once the flight attendants brought us warm nuts and a cocktail (Bailey’s on the rocks), I had finally stopped shaking. Not long after, they brought us dinner and dessert, and then turned down the lights. I watched “Vice” (which was as good as everyone said) before I took out the iPod and tried to sleep.
It’s always amazing to me that just a few hours after dinner—or so it seems—the flight attendants start breakfast service. We hurtle through the sky in some large silver tube, and we lose an entire night going one way or an entire day coming the other. And did you ever wonder how a pilot can take that huge machine to a somewhat gentle landing? At any rate, we landed, and Heathrow assistance, waiting outside the door, directed me to a common waiting area while they got the others needing assistance off of the plane.
Before I continue with this story, allow me to point out that I hate London Heathrow. I usually try to avoid going through it, but most flights into Bologna have a connection there. It is the world’s seventh busiest airport (with 78 million+ passengers filing through annually), and one, honking big chaotic mess. If you have connections through Heathrow, you will most likely arrive at one terminal and leave from another. You cannot walk from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5; you must to outside of the terminal and take a connecting bus (I think they’re working on their trains right now). Moreover, since you’ve changed terminals, you must go through security again. The lines are long, the rules are even more strict than US rules, and it can take hours. It once took me THREE HOURS to get from my arrival gate and through security in the next terminal, and that was with both hands working.
I had a little over two hours between arrival and departure in Heathrow, so I once again requested assistance which, at Heathrow is a multi-step process. The 10 of us needing help to our next gate or passport control got off the plane and waited almost 40 minutes for a “buggy” to transport us about 50 feet down the hallway to a central “booking” desk where about 10 other people waited. Someone took our boarding passes and started making phone calls. After 15 minutes and a worried query by me about making the connection, someone took five of us and had us walk to another bus which dropped us off at a second help desk where, you guessed it, they took our boarding passes again. “Sit, Madam, please,” a young woman told me as she pointed to chairs along a window.
I sat next to another American woman who was heading to South Africa. “I can’t walk any more,” she told me. “My flight is in four hours, and they’re taking their time.”
“You probably could have walked to South Africa by now,” I told her, and we both laughed. “I’ve never seen assistance take so long.” She asked how long I had until I left. “Just about an hour,” I replied as I got up and walked to the desk to see if they thought they could actually get me to my gate on time. When the young woman told me I must be patient, I snapped. “You know my gate, and you know I have about an hour to get through security and arrive at the gate.”
That woke up the man on the phone, and he called an assistant over to the desk. He then told me and another American woman with her broken arm in a sling to go with the assistant. The other American said, “I just need someone to lift my bag up for security.” The man on the phone and woman assisting us assured her that the assistant would do so. The American repeated, I kid you not, three times, “I just need someone to lift my bag up for security.” Two times the woman assistant assured her that she would do so. The third time, I said, “They’ve told you three times that she will do it for you. My God. I need to catch my flight.”
We finally left and took the elevator up to security. Thankfully, because we had assistance, we were able to go through the closest line. Laptop out. IPad out. Liquids out. The assistant lifted my bags and the other woman’s to the belt. “Do I need to take the brace off of my hand?” I asked. The security agent assured me I did not, so I walked through the sensor.
You know, don’t you, that I set it off. The same female agent who told me to leave the brace on came over and patted me down. She rubbed the magic lint/explosive detector over my brace and arms, asked me to put my right foot on a stool and wiped the magic lint over that shoe and repeated it with the left. They decided I was not a threat, so they let me go with the assistant who, after dropping off the other woman at a lounge, got me to the gate 10 minutes before boarding.
We arrived in Bologna in the middle of a rain shower, and planes do not connect to the terminals there. In other words, we had to climb down a flight of portable stairs—covered, thank God, get on a bus, and drive to the terminal. That meant, of course, that my “assistance” was non-existent.
“Holy $#!+,” I said when I got to the top of the steps. “How am I going to get this luggage down there?” I did it the only way I could. I pulled it with my left hand down each and every single metal step. If anyone in the five-mile vicinity was asleep when I arrived, they were not very long after.
I finally stepped onto Italian soil (well, macadam) as a 100 percent Italian citizen. And, you know what? Nothing, and I do mean nothing, else mattered.