Nov. 19 (Monday, going home)

by Jonah

Nov. 19 (Monday, going home)

I allowed us an hour to get to the airport and return the car, even though the hotel was fairly close. It’s a good thing I did, because we couldn’t figure out how to cross the Autstrata without getting on it. We got off at the next exit and drove down tiny streets in a little town following signs to the airport through the maze and somehow got there. The disturbing part was the roundabout with no other information other than “Malpensa Terminal 1” down one street and “Malpensa Terminal 2” down another. We took Terminal 1, but then missed another exit and wound up in “Malpensa Cargo City.” Then we followed the signs for the car rental return, but all the Thrifty spots in the garage were full. The lady in Hertz told me where to find the Thrifty desk inside the terminal, so I ran inside while Berck waited with the car idling. “Just double park it,” said the Thrifty lady, in typical Italian fashion. We left the car in Hertz Gold spot 167 (right next to the door) and dropped the key off at the desk telling the lady where it was. After more paperwork (I think you can buy a house with less paper than you can rent a car in Europe from a US company), we headed to the ticket counter.

With no kiosks available, we talked to the sole US Airways agent, who sent us down a hallway. At the end of a hallway was a guy with a list. If your name was on the list, you could pass. Fortunately, our name was on the list. We proceeded to another ticket counter, and an ICTS agent who interviewed us, and stuck ICTS stickers on our passports. It’s orange, but otherwise identical to the ICTS sticker that was placed on Berck’s passport in London Gatwick back in 2000. I wonder if there’s a limit to the number of ICTS stickers you can collect.

Italian airport security was more polite and more efficient than the TSA. The potential ramifications of being less efficient than the Italians should make the TSA tremble.

The flight back was on a 767 which is somewhat smaller than the A330 we took to Rome. The flight wasn’t unpleasant at all, but then, over a hundred empty seats tend to do that to a flight. In addition, the seat pitch on the 767 was dramatically longer than that on the A330. Tip: Avoid US Airways A330’s if you’re flying in coach. The food on the return flight was also substantially improved since the flight was catered in Italy. Ravioli (microwaved, so the texture was awful, but still reasonably tasty), a little roll, some good cheese, a fruit cup, some mouse and a mini Toblerone.

We didn’t sleep much at all, trying to stay awake in hopes getting back on schedule as easily as possible. It was also the middle of the day and sunny. The flight seemed a lot longer when there was no sleeping to be done. 8 hours is a long time. I watched the first movie, Transformers, but it was hard to hear in the plane, and this plane only had the projectors every bulkhead, and I could hardly see it at all. Then Berck and I watched a movie on the laptop. My headphones were just the Delta ones I had, so I could hardly hear it while Berck was being blasted out by his nice headphones. The plane showed another movie at the same time. Then the laptop was out of power, and the plane stopped showing movies. I had absolutely nothing to do, so I read the guidebooks about the parts of Italian history I didn’t know about then started the novel I’d brought for a time like this. Berck studied and napped.

Then they served us lunch and we began descending toward Philly. At the airport, we found the gate for our United flight which amazingly had kiosks in front of it that Berck could print out our “boarding passes” in about 60 seconds’ time. We had three hours to kill, so we went to the pub next door that served an amazingly large selection of beer and some pretty awful cheese fries. We were going to watch another movie, but Berck had left our brand new $30 splitter that we’d bought just for this purpose on the plane. We were starting to get really tired.

Near the time we needed to start boarding, we went over to our gate. I don’t know if it’s just a Philly thing or just a United thing, but there were 8 seats in the boarding area marked handicapped and only one person sitting in any of them. All of the other seats were occupied, so we took two of them and listened as airport workers fighting over wheelchairs. The plane still hadn’t even arrived yet, so we all waited around quite a while. It finally arrived, deboarded, and then allowed us to board. We found our seats on the very full flight on the EXIT ROW! Then we sat on the plane and waited some more. We waited for nearly an hour. Berck was convinced there was a mechanical problem and we’d be stuck in Philly for Thanksgiving. Finally, the captain came on and said, “Good evening, folks. Sorry for the delay. We’ve had to fill out some paperwork that the FAA requires us to complete before taking off. It seems the previous crew wrote up a coffee maker, but they didn’t say which one. We’re not allowed to leave until maintenance comes on, checks the coffee maker, and puts an inop sticker on it and fills out the necessary paperwork. The delay has been us trying to figure out which coffee pot didn’t work. We should be departing soon.”

On the flight to Denver they showed No Reservations, then an episode of The Office, then some more TV, but I was passing out of consciousness. It seemed like an eternity to take the shuttle bus back to our parking lot, and then we tried to converse all the way home to Colorado Springs to keep each other awake. I collapsed into bed while Berck checked his computers. I woke up way before my alarm went off to head to work in the morning.

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