An Italian Miracle; or, How We Missed a Flight but Didn't

We made the mistake of failing to book the lap-child ticket when we ordered plane tickets from Jeddah to Palermo. That meant that at every stop (four of them), we had to repeatedly explain our dilemma until we were at length directed to the correct desk where we could book and pay for the baby’s ticket. We nearly missed our flight from Rome to Palermo because of this. Even the check-in attendants were hand-fanning themselves and sympathy-running by the time Joey came sprinting down the hallway to the gate. We avoided all eye contact with the waiting passengers as we made our way to our seats in the back of the plane.

Chilly temps in Sicily called for winter attire.
Astoundingly, the timing was even tighter on the return trip. By the time we arrived to get our boarding passes in Milan, the gate had already closed (an hour early!). We were told we’d have to get another flight in a few days, and it would mean several more connections and maybe even a bus ride. Which sounded absolutely miserable with a baby.

On a whim, we went to the ticket counter and asked another attendant if there was any hope for us. She said probably not, but we could try going to the gate to see if they’d let us on the airplane. (We didn’t explain that we hadn’t had time to buy the lap-child ticket for Tess. Too much information is sometimes just too much information.) It was worth a shot, even if it was really, really, really unlikely.

But first we’d have to get through security. People behind us were tapping their toes impatiently as we explained to the security guard that, yes, we had no boarding passes, but could we please go to the plane anyway? It seemed completely futile. After he explained again that he couldn’t let us through without a boarding pass, he took another look at the baby and then called to his manager.

The manager was surprisingly amiable. After hearing our story, he led us through security and told us to wait while he asked the aircrew if we could still get on the plane. Joey and I churned stomach acid while we waited. After what seemed like the longest time, the manager returned, and to my absolute surprise, announced that we were cleared to go.

And by “go,” he meant “run.” Jouncing up and down, travel-tired, and hungry, Tess sometimes giggled and sometimes cried in protest as we ran through hallway after hallway. I prayed that when we finally reached the gate, we’d find agents who, like that security manager, would be short on questions and long on mercy.

And wouldn’t you know it? That’s just what we found. Although they noted in confusion that there didn’t seem to be a ticket for the baby, they were able to conjure one for us after examining her passport. And we still had twenty minutes to spare before boarding the plane. It just goes to show you: sometimes asking impossible favors can get you impossible favors. 

P.S. In case you were wondering, yes, our luggage was lost in that snafu.

Picture It -- Sicily, 2013 (or "I Am a Bad Paparazzi")

There's an old British guy staying at the same bed and breakfast as us in Syracuse, Sicily. He reminds me of a ferret somehow. Long neck. Vaguely rodent-like grin. But less hair than a ferret. Lots less hair. And ferrets are slenderer than this chap. Lots slenderer. He greets us as he emerges from the bathroom. This is a strange and somewhat awkward place to be greeted. After he greets us, he continues to speak, a prim and proper British monologue that, I realize several minutes in, could very possibly never end. I briefly consider punching the baby that Shannon is holding, because then maybe British Ferret Gentleman would stop talking because, well, that American just punched a baby, maybe I should stop talking to him.

Later that night, me and Shannon see him window shopping from down a narrow street. We turn and go the other way, because it was act of God that he stopped talking last time, and we don't want to trouble God with silencing the same British Ferret Gentleman twice in the same day. The next morning I feel a little bad for stiffing British Ferret Gentleman after he refers to the Asian guy at the breakfast table as "that Japanese chap," because my mom taught me we should be nice to people who say "chap." No, actually she didn't teach me that, it was Roger Moore. But then later when I hear British Ferret Gentleman endlessly monologuing to the bed and breakfast owner, who by the way doesn't really speak English, I feel better about being a jerk the night before. And that's really what life is all about -- finding justifications for being a jerk.

When our airplane lands in Palermo, Sicily, the guy at the Avis rental car counter gives us a Peugeot, which makes me feel happy. When I was in second grade, my friend Curtis got a Peugeot bicycle. We made fun of him because no one could pronounce the name of his bike. Pee-you-gee-ot? Peh-uh-geh-oot? My bike, on the other hand, just said “ST Racing” on the crossbars. Easy peezy to pronouce. Even Stacy, the girl down the street with cooties, could pronounce it. Also, you knew from the name that you could race it. You knew it would go fast, like a race car. Whereas you weren’t sure what to do with Curtis’s bike. Maybe sit on it and smoke a cigarette like a French dude.

One evening we roll into a little village on the crest of a hill in the shadow of Mount Etna. We ease through the busy town square where flocks of old guys in tweed berets and old sport coats are smoking like freshmen and arguing about meatballs, or maybe taxidermy. I don't know really. I can't understand Italian. I really want to stop, get out of the car, and mix with the locals. You know -- I want to not understand them at closer range. I want to yell "Paparazzi!" -- because that's Italian -- and just start taking pictures of everyone. But I don't, because Tess is fussing in the back seat. Sigh. Paparazzi must not have kids.

Nobody Wants to Be Bad; or, All Lost Luggage Goes to Paris

Grace started KG in VA and will finish it in KSA.
On the way home from school today Grace seemed a little sad, and I asked her why. She said that she had moved her peg in class. (Her kindergarten classmates move their peg when they are uncooperative or break the rules.) That doesn’t happen very often for Grace, and her face told that story. “I didn’t mean to do it—I was just at Minna’s table and I didn’t know I was supposed to be at the purple table. Then the teacher got mad, and she didn’t know that it was just an accident,” Grace groaned. “I don’t want to be bad, but sometimes I just am!”  

I assured Grace that I feel that way sometimes too. It’s just part of life. Last week, for instance, I didn’t mean to fail to get a receipt when I handed over the baby’s car seat at the airplane. Nor did I mean to forget to label the car seat with any identifying info at all.

I’m a seasoned traveler—I really should know better. But at that moment, without intending to be a bad traveler, that’s exactly what I was. And life unforgivingly moved my peg backward: that car seat is now sitting anonymously in some warehouse in Rome or New York or maybe Paris (that’s where the lost-luggage black hole is, so I’m told). I have no doubt but that I’ll never see it again.

So chin up, my little kindergartener, you’re bound to be bad over and over again in life. As long as you learn from your mistakes, every bad move will make you a little better as you go.