is history, and Christopher Breen wraps up his European-based blogging with one final entry.
—“But I have a confirmed ticket.”
And Paulo-of-the-white-Eurotrash-glasses who you’ve waited for in line for more than an hour sighs for the dozenth time and repeats, so slowly that even a stupid American can understand, “You have a confirmed ticket but not assigned seat. Flight is oversold. You have no seat.”
“But what does confirmed mean if it doesn’t allow me on the plane?”
“I am checking through your luggage to Cincinnati. If you don’t get on the plane then you have to pick it up here in Rome. They tell you at the gate. Good luck.
And later, from Blameless Marco, after I’ve been officially bumped from my confirmed flight:
“I give you ticket to Paris and then New York.”
“Can you give me seat assignments too?”
“No need to worry, you are confirmed on these flights.”
“But I was confirmed on this flight and, now instead of Cincinnati, I’m apparently going to Paris.”
“You are confirmed. You must talk to Air France in Terminal B about your seats. I’m sorry, but it’s not our fault.”
“And my luggage?”
“Go to talk to Alitalia transfer agent in Terminal B.
And as the contradictions and hours pile up you think about Paulo-of-the-white-Eurotrash-glasses. And you think about Blameless Marco. And as you pass 24-hours-of-no-sleep in the same stinking clothes you donned a day earlier because your luggage is in Bombay for all you know, you think about fault, blame, and, finally, retribution.
And you think back. Back to the warm feeling you had on the
—not just from the joy of visiting foreign ports (or even the constant heat and humidity) but from breaking down the instructor/student, writer/reader barrier and uniting as geeks pulled together in a common passion. And how it’s now gone, lost in the fog of Terminal B and the white glare of Paulo’s uncaring glasses.
And then your consider the impenetrable logic of overselling flights, knowing that hanging-by-a-thread-Delta will eventually have to issue vouchers or cash in the value of 600 euro/$1,000 to the nearly dozen passengers bumped off your Rome-to-Cincinnati Alitalia flight. To the incompetence apparent in an airport where last-minute gate changes are the norm rather than the exception. To yet another hour wasted after the gate change, then sitting on the tarmac, running the numbers and knowing a flight that takes 1 hour and 40 minutes that leaves at 16:30 is going to arrive 10 minutes too late for the Paris-to-JFK flight at 18:00.
And how Alitalia’s “ride a scooter home if you don’t like it” attitude is finally shown to be an unfortunate aberration of the EU when you’re met in Paris by an Air France agent who tells you the plane is waiting for you and a few other passengers, please jump in this bus and we’ll take you to the gate. And those other passengers agree with you that the Rome airport is the black hole of travel and say what you will about the French, by god, they get it done.
And as you finally nestle into your upgraded Good Seat on the Air France 777, you try to put it all behind you but can’t because you recall the recent phone call to your five-year-old daughter who cried when—after being the best little girl in the whole world for two weeks while Dada was away—you told her you won’t be there after all when she wakes up the next morning. And you think, “I’m never, ever,
going to fly with Delta again, and maybe I’ll tell the world my story in the hope others won’t either.” And as you stretch out in that Good Seat, you realize that this seat is only Good because the experience behind that curtain is so wretched in comparison and how did we come to accept this.
And even through you’ve barely slept, your mind races to the cheap bed in Delta’s “air passage prisoners” hotel just outside the JFK hub where they store you at the end of the day in anticipation of finding fresh ways to mess with you when the new day dawns and you think that right about now Paulo-of-the-white-Eurotrash-glasses and Blameless Marco are sitting in a piazza, just as you were the night before, enjoying a glass of red wine and thinking back on their uneventful days.
And you pray that when they’re not forced to use the lousy mainframe computers Delta/Alitalia employs to torture their customers, they’re Mac users. And that one day, one or the other will encounter a computer problem so confounding and crippling that he’ll find his way to your mailbox and plead for help.
And help you will.
“It’s not my fault,” you’ll write.