Patience, Cri, Patience

 Stay patient and trust your journey.
~ Unknown

Let me be perfectly honest: patience is not a virtue of mine. Yes, there are times I seem calm and tolerant. My husband tells me I am the most patient person he knows. On the outside, I may seem that way, but most of those times my insides are begging to get on with it (whatever it is at that particular time, of course). The older I get, the more I try to stay away from people and situations who test my patience.

Natto…. Photo by makafood on

Unfortunately, for me, traveling is a true test of my patience. While I have learned to slow down and let things happen as they may, there are things that still really bother me….like rude people. At any rate, I won’t go on about the people who kick seats in front of themselves; hit others in the head with their carry-ons as they walk down the aisle; forget to take a shower before they travel; or insist on eating or bringing Surströmming (fermented Baltic Sea herring), Tempeh/Natto (fermented soybeans), Hakari (rotten, fermented shark meat), or even garlicky lunch meats on board. Suffice to say that there are times I would give anything to be Samantha (Bewitched) so I could crinkle my nose and suddenly appear 7000 miles across the ocean.

The Friendly Skies On Ground

Some years ago after experiencing a huge problem, I swore I would never fly United Airlines again, and for more than 10 years, I held on to that promise. Last year, I had to fly them a few times for business, and I found that the flights I took were pleasant. For my flight to Italy this year, I found that United had the best prices and did not fly through either JFK or Heathrow, my two least-favorite airports in the world.

The Polaris Lounge restrooms

I was lucky to upgrade to Business Class on my overseas flight, so during my four-plus-hour layover in Chicago, I was able to go to the Polaris Lounge for lunch and quiet. The lounge was large but well-laid out. Restrooms, located down one hall, were individual rooms. Green or red lights on the doors indicated whether each was open or occupied. Apparently there were also shower rooms, but I didn’t check those out.

I ate a salad and read a book for a couple of hours. As I headed to the gate, I grabbed two of the chocolate chip cookies and wrapped them up. I figured that at some time over the next few days, I might want something to snack on, and chocolate chip cookies are always a good choice. It was a good decision on my part, but more on that later.

Fly the Friendly Skies

I was at the gate about 20 minutes before boarding. For a long time, I just stood to the side and observed. People were already crowding the boarding lanes and trying to sneak in front of others. I completely understand being excited about getting on with the trip, but really, the plane is not going to take off until everyone has boarded. And, unless you are flying Southwest Airlines, you have an assigned seat, and whether you get on first or last, your seat is your seat. You don’t have to run interference and tackle everyone to get on that plane first.

United at O’Hare is now using facial recognition software to check people into flights, so all we had to do was step up to the iPad-looking thing, smile at it, and wait for the green checkmark. It supposed to take less time to do that, but since most people did not listen and crowded in behind the person at the screen, it took a bit of time. “Stand back,” the airline agent sighed to the woman in front of me who was on her husband’s heels as he stepped up to the camera. The lady moved back a step or two, but I had to wonder if she was afraid the guy would evaporate or run away if she weren’t right next to him.

My mother always said she hated champagne because she insisted “it tastes like vinegar.” I think she perhaps had some on a United flight once because the champagne they gave served in a tumbler had the aroma and flavor of a vintage 1999 distilled white vinegar.

I had somewhat moderate hopes that the meal I’d ordered would be good. It was flat-iron steak topped with a mustard sauce with Fresno chiles, Yukon potatoes, and charred rapini. The flight attendants hurled trays containing everything from the appetizer and salad to entree and bread on our little tables and left without so much as a, “Don’t choke on it.”

I’m sure you can imagine what I thought when I saw that brown piece of meat in the bowl. It definitely did not resemble any piece of flat-iron steak I’ve ever had, nor did it taste like it. Actually, the only thing I could really taste was the spiciness of the chiles as they overpowered everything. The pretzel roll was cold and gummy, and the appetizer (upper right) left me a little disheartened. The best part of the meal was the ice cream sundae (not shown), but even the vanilla ice cream was lackluster in taste.


Most of the rest of the flight (almost 10 hours worth) is a blur, thankfully. I slept a little, but the air was a bit rough over the Atlantic, and the pilot kept advising us to get back to our seats and keep our seatbelts fastened. Add in the noise the person behind me was making (I think he was building a hiding place in his footwell), I couldn’t sleep very well. By the time the sun came up and we were about to land, I was pretty much a walking zombie.

Get Thee to Pettorano

Thankfully, my friend Rick Giammarco had to bring someone to Fiumicino, so he was able to take me back with him, and I didn’t have to fight the trains and train stations to get to Pettorano. (By the way, Rick is a great driver and guide. More on that soon.)

Rick dropped me off at BB Ponte Rio, a beautiful and comfortable place right near my grandfather’s birthplace in town. The first thing I did after checking in was walk around Pettorano, take photos, and just breathe it all in. I was a little too far from the BB when exhaustion rolled over me, and I headed back as quickly as I could. It was about 2:00 pm.

It took all of 15 minutes for me to clean up and crawl into bed. I remember calling Mike, and I remember thinking I should have plugged my phone in. I did that, put my head down, and the next thing I knew, it was 3:00 am. I stayed up for an hour during which I spoke to Mike and took care of a few other things before I put my head down to rest a little more around 4:00 am.

When I woke up again, I saw daylight through the window. I glanced at my phone.

It was 9:33 am.

Tomorrow: I’m taking on Pettorano.

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