After spending a lovely day with friends in Chicago, marred only by a dinner served by a waitress who clearly had vertigo, I made my way to O’Hare [shoutout to FK for the luxury transport] and prepared myself for the emotional trauma that would surely come from a) traveling via an airline on which I had no elite status, and b) departing for an international flight from ORD for the first time. Somehow, I would persevere.
My experience in the airport was highlighted by the fact that two separate TSA workers asked me where I got the t-shirt I was wearing, as it is probably a bit too inside of a joke for most people to enjoy. The ID-checking guy said he wouldn’t let me through until I told him I where I could get one (online, is all I could come up with), and the body scanner girl laughed out loud. Good people, Chicago TSA.
The boarding process, as expected, was a disaster; I almost got in an altercation with some mean-looking designer-wearing lady who stomped to the front of the line and blocked the entrance to the jetway. I informed her that she needed to move to let the person in a wheelchair board before her, and she snapped “I’m not blocking anything!” then scanned her boarding pass and walked towards the plane turning back to chirp at me a bit more. Naturally, she wasn’t in Business and wasn’t supposed to be boarding anyway. I did get a small sense of satisfaction, though, when deplaning in Rome – as the attendants were blocking the passengers in Economy from getting off before Business, she stood at the very front of the line, no doubt having knocked over an octogenarian with a walker to get there. As I walked past her on my way out the plane, I gave her the biggest smile and fake excited “Hi!!” I could muster at the time. She was not amused.
I won’t go in to the details of the luxury or quibbles I had with the Business Class service on Alitalia – but if that sort of thing interests you, here’s a slideshow :
After breezing through the fastest immigration check in European Union history – the agent, absorbed in his text messaging, didn’t even bother to look at my name when he saw it was a United States passport – I grabbed my bag and headed to the taxi stand.
Once I got past that divinely comforting moment where you realize the taxi driver understands the impossibly difficult and likely incorrect address information you have given him, I took a deep breath and relaxed, finally taking in the idea of being in Rome.
The relaxing didn’t last long. I don’t know if it was out of boredom, financial motivation, or some kind of psychosis, but this driver didn’t just thumb his nose at posted speed limits, he pulled down his designer jeans and crapped all over them. Surface street, freeway, it didn’t matter – homeboy was determined to weave between the other cars like Barry Sanders after drinking a gallon of Red Bull.
Consequently, even though Google Maps (and my landlord) thought it would take 37 minutes to get from FCO to my apartment, I was there in 25 minutes. This surprised Simone, my landlord for the next ten days, who wasn’t there yet when I arrived. “You got here fast,” he said when he arrived, with an amused expression on his youthful, stubble-adorned face.
After giving me a quick tour of the apartment and answering the standard questions about grocer locations, wifi logons, and the like, we walked together to the front door to exchange parting salutations. Before he walked out, though, he pivoted back to me and said “Oh, I almost forgot – make sure to lock the windows at night.”
“Ok,” I agreed, seemed reasonable enough.
“Yeah, because the gypsies…they climb the walls”
Simone laughs. “Yes, sometimes the gypsies will climb the walls outside the building and come in through the window – they take your phone, computer, that kind of thing. They actually got in to the 5th floor of this building a while back”
Now, all I can see in my mind’s eye is a quaint cobblestone street, above which gypsies cling to and scurry up the walls like so many lemurs in a zoo enclosure. “But what if someone’s home?” I ask, confused as to how the logistics of this operation would play out.
“Eh! Who knows?” Simone shrugs. “They’re crazy, you know”
Anyway, I am now settled here in the flat after strolling the city this evening; unpacked, with a stomach full of pizza and Nastro Azzuro. I will now go to sleep. After locking my windows.