The Mad Dash to Flight 315 Rome to Toronto

Aug 12, 2014 by

          In the midst of asking a friend about a minor boy prob (how to politely reject a guy who’s hinting at a relationship after only four dates?) back in mid-July, I realized that I hadn’t yet told her I was going to Italy. I paused my own story to announce the news with a peppy sway from side to side.

          “That’s amazing!” she exclaimed with the biggest I’m-so-happy-for-you smile. “When?”

          “I leave July 31st, so I get there August 1st, and I’m back on the 8th. To pay for it, I’m stopping any OSAP payments I’ve scheduled this summer that exceed my minimum. My friends are going. I couldn’t not meet them there, and –”

          “You’re not coming back,” she interrupted in a hazy voice.

          “What?” I grinned, though sure I had heard correctly.

          “You’re not coming back,” she repeated in an almost mystical tone. “I can see it in your eyes. You’re going to meet yourself a nice Italian boy, and you’re not coming back.”

 

***

 

          I’m back. I should be begging for focaccia crumbs on the cobblestones of Rome right now, but I’m back. Truth: I nearly stayed in Italy. Not for love, sillies! A week isn’t enough time to make that happen. Who do you think I am, Ted Mosby? I almost missed my flight home, and recall that I didn’t have the money to go to Italy in the first place. Had I missed my return, I’d be taking my chances as Rome’s newest addition to the gypsy fam. Thankfully, my adventures almost always have happy endings (because I choose to see my life that way #micdrop). To keep my fellow travellers off the streets, below are seven lessons to be learned from my near miss.

 
1. Test your alarm the night before.

          Just do it. I don’t care if it’s the same alarm you’ve been using since the invention of the iPhone; test it before you hit the pillow. You will thank me when you wake up on time to catch your transfer to the airport. I didn’t.

 
2. Take the time to pack light.

          I unnecessarily brought two pieces of luggage to Italy. I can fit a week’s worth of outfits into my carry-on alone; but, because I waited until just before work on the day of my departure to pack, there was no time to meticulously roll clothes into the groves of one bag, so I haphazardly threw everything into two. You bet I regretted that while running through Termini with two suitcases, yelling “scusa, scusa, scusa!” at every cane-holding nonno and nonna, as I rushed to find a way to Fiumicino.

 
3. Do not buy your airport transfers in advance.

          Let me tell you what being proactive by purchasing my airport transfers before leaving for Italy got me: fucked over. I booked my transfer from Termini to Fiumicino early, under the impression that I could get on the next coach with the same ticket if I missed my scheduled one, as stated in the website’s terms and conditions. This was not the case. When I got to Termini late, instead of receiving my boarding pass for the next coach, I was given a customer service email address with the promise of a reply within 15 business days. My flight was departing in little more than two hours! The bitch at the counter shrugged her shoulders. When I asked to simply buy a new ticket, she refused. (Who the fuck refuses euros?) Long story short: I ran to the opposite end of Termini and hopped on another bus that got me to the airport for the same price without the hassle. FYI: There are transfers that regularly run between Termini and Fiumicino at the average cost of 4 euros that do not require you to worry about printing tickets in advance, lining up for boarding passes upon arrival, abiding by strict timetables, or negotiating with assholes. (Hmm, maybe the real lesson here is to never book transfers with Terravision.)

 
4. Have an emergency local currency fund.

          No matter how strapped for time I was, I was not going to cab to the airport. People, please, I don’t believe in wasting money by having someone personally chauffer me somewhere I can catch a bus to. Even if I did, taking a taxi was not an option. I doubted I had enough euros left to get me to the airport by cab. However, if I hadn’t gotten on a coach to the airport, a cab would have been my only saving grace. Do yourselves a favour by ensuring you set aside enough money in local currency for unexpected circumstances.

 
5. Read the goddamn airport signs!

          When I finally arrived at Fiumicino, my flight was already boarding. Fortunately, I had been to Fiumicino enough times before to know that departures are to the right and up the stairs of Terminal 3. I ran through the airport and lugged my two suitcases up the escalator in shorts that were riding up my ass, a tank top, and a messy bun worthy only of the gym. I felt like I was running a marathon. (This must be why I spend weekday mornings on the elliptical.) Once upstairs, I ran the entire length of the terminal to check the larger of my baggage, and then ran the entire length back to the security check. With my carry-on cleared, I stood beneath a sign that said my gate was five minutes away. I breathed a sigh of relief – only to see the passport control lines directly below it.

          They were the lines of nightmares. Panic began to set in. I wasn’t sure what time it was, because I was avoiding my phone and all clocks to spare myself additional stress. Obviously, I opted for the shortest line, which was by no means short. At last, I got to the front and handed the official my passport, at which point I was promptly sent to the back of another line – the longest line. I had waited in the EU passport line by mistake, failing to read the signs at the front of the queues. Unfortunately situated at the end of the stagnant line for all other passports, I didn’t budge for what could have been only two minutes but felt like ten, an eternity when you’re on the verge of missing an expensive flight. (Why was I more worried about when I’d next see my best friend than where I’d sleep if I got stranded in Rome? #priorities)

 
6. Hold on to your fucking boarding pass.

          Once I got through passport control, I immediately broke into another run. Within minutes, I was at my gate, where people were still boarding. #THANKGOD! About to approach the line, I glimpsed down at my passport, which usually contains my boarding pass. I say usually because this time it didn’t. I had dropped it along the way. (At this point in my story, you may be wondering if my life is fucking real. I assure you that I wonder the same thing.) Now frantic but laughing (because I would drop my boarding pass), I asked someone to watch my bag while I ran back toward passport control. My boarding pass was evidently obliterated by the city that clearly didn’t want me to leave, because it was nowhere to be found.

 
7. Dance off exhaustion upon landing.

          In the end, shortly after an airport vending machine ate my money, Air Transat was able to reprint my boarding pass at the gate. (I probably should have inquired about this option before running around the terminal in attempt to find my boarding pass, but that sounds like a lot less fun.) For what I’m pretty sure was the first time ever, I was thrilled to board my flight home. I cut it so close that I didn’t even have time to Facebook or tweet my adventure before takeoff.

          Nine hours later, I arrived in Toronto. I was running on very little sleep and feeling the repercussions of the cardio workout I endured from Termini to Fiumicino Gate H12. Nonetheless, it was Friday, and I was due downtown by midnight. With hours to go before then, you’d think I’d nap; but naw, I went for cannoli! Just past 12 am, I arrived in Liberty Village for the fourth anniversary of a friend’s club. To sum up everyone there: “What – the – fuck? Weren’t you in Italy today? Go to bed!” Friends, I don’t even know how I was standing, but I danced from the moment I walked in until the lights came on at 3:26 am, the equivalent of 9:26 am Rome time. Jetlag? That’s for amateurs!

 

***

 

          It was Sunday night by the time I made it back to my own bed.

          “I thought you were never coming home,” my little sister said.

          “Babe, I’m lucky I got on the flight.”

 
Happiness Tip: Embrace everything that goes wrong. Life is funnier that way.

 
Previous: Destination: Adventure Next: Almost Taken: My Solo Night Out in Roma
 

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