Flying these days is an experience. Whenever we travel, there are always questions: Will the plane be on time? Will I make my connection? Will our bags follow us?
Our own flight plan was simple. On Tuesday we would fly US Air to Philadelphia, connect to an overseas flight for Rome, and board our cruise ship. The Noordam was to depart at 4:30 PM on Wednesday. We would arrive at 8:30 that morning. Duck soup. Easy peasy.
Tranquil in the thought that all was right with the world, we arrived at the airport, checked in, settled down to read and wait for our flight. We had reached a state of peaceful relaxation when an announcement was made that our flight was delayed. We consulted our time table. Would we have time to connect to our overseas flight? I went to the flight desk to enquire and was informed that we were being rerouted to another carrier and that American would fly us to Heathrow, England.
“What?” I remember saying. “What? What?”
“Don’t worry, honey,” said the kindly attendant. “It’s not so bad. You’ll get there at 8:00 AM, your flight will leave at 9:30, and you’ll be in Rome by 12:30.” And our bags? I pleaded. What about our bags? Not to worry, I was told. The bags would arrive with us. “Just go to American Airlines, now, and confirm your flight.”
We hurried off to American— situated at the other end of the airport—where we found Judy manning the counter. When we had recounted our tale of woe, she agreed that this might be a good plan except…
The sign above her spelled out the dreaded word, DELAYED. We would never make our connection! We must have looked shell shocked because she patted my arm. “Look, why don’t I book you on the 11:00 AM flight from Heathrow? That way, you’ll be in Rome by 2:20, and you’ll have plenty of time to connect with your ship.”
But our bags? We both wailed in concert. Judy very kindly offered to go down to the baggage hold and personally recheck our bags for us while we phoned our travel agent. We did so, and she promised to inform the shipping line that our flights had changed and to please pick us up at 2:20 PM in Rome.
So, off we went into the wild blue, a blue that we could not see since both of us were glassy eyed by this time. We arrived in due course at Heathrow, sighed great sighs of relief, and went off to gate 21A from which our flight was to leave.
But … Somehow, the gods of travel had it in for us. Either the flight crew could not find the plane, or the plane was somehow confused about where it should go, or… whatever the reason, a cheery attendant informed us that our flight was now scheduled to depart from gate 6A. We trudged back across the concourse to our gate and were there told that our plane was delayed and that the gate had changed yet again—this time to Gate 12.
By now I felt as if I were the chorus of a Greek Tragedy. “Our bags!” I mourned. “What will happen to our bags?”
Perhaps reminded of her own grand parents, the attendant went off to check and see that the bags were properly marked and properly uploaded. And then we waited.
If the story ended here, it would be enough. Alas.
When the plane at last arrived and transported us to Rome (with our bags miraculously intact), there was no one from the Noordan waiting to meet us! The clock was ticking, the ship was leaving! Mike went off to search and found someone from a rival shipping company who kindly called the Noordam and demanded to know what in the world (not precisely his words) was going on?
Finally, two disgruntled young women arrived, complained that they had not been informed of any delays, and quickly ordered a private limo. The elderly driver broke all traffic records (meanwhile avoiding traffic and muttering, Porca miseria! machine imbecile!) to get us to Chivita Vecchia and the ship… just as the gangplank was being raised!
We were rushed on board, the doors clanged shut behind us, and the ship sailed.
“Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.” Thurber