When my friends came to visit me earlier this month, they had a heck of a time getting here for just a 9-day trip.
When they arrived at San Francisco airport Thursday afternoon, they found their flight to Philadelphia had been cancelled along with many others. Originally supposed to land in Milan, their best shot at arriving in Milan was changed from Friday morning to Saturday night. We had already reserved a hotel in Venice and planned to spend the weekend there.
So they decided to take matters into their own hands.
Calling several other airline companies, they found another convloluted, patchwork option: Drive to Sacramento. Fly to New York on Jet Blue (not their original airline). In New York, rent a car and drive to Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, they would get a flight to Venice arriving Saturday morning, which would put them in a much better situation, though they would miss all of Milan. Of course, an inevitable paper trail of refunds and phone calls would await them.
“That sounds like a lot of changes.” What I didn’t say was, chances to go wrong. It sounded like a bit of a long shot but preferrable to losing 2 whole days of their 9-day trip.
But it was their first trip to Italy and they didn’t want to spend it in the airport.
“Ok, well, Monica (their sister) is coming to get us. We’ll head to my mom’s in Tracy and then to Sacramento a few hours later.” My plans had not changed – I would make my way to Venice Saturday morning the same.
A few hours later, I got an email from her Blackberry…
Just made it to Tracy, and checked my email, out of habit. Got a notice from Jet Blue: Flight to NYC cancelled. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu….we are going back to SFO now.
Feeling totally helpless, I could only just wait for the next part of the story to unfold.
We got a flight to Charlotte. We should be able to get on a flight to Philadelphia and then on one to Venice.
With every update email from her Blackberry, I hoped for good news. They made the flight to Charlotte. They got a flight to Philadelphia, on standby. And finally, they boarded the flight to Venice. I prepared myself and took the train from Milan to Venice, and the bus from Venice to the airport. I stood waiting with other expectant hosts while the Baggage Claim doors flapped open and closed, each time spitting out travellers, some searching the crowd for a familiar face, others scanning the placard-holding hosts for safe passage to their destination, and still others looking like they weren’t sure where the plane had left them.
And still my friends did not appear.
Even a voyage as “perfect” as theirs could not be without further mishaps. One bag had gone missing. They spent their first two hours in Italy waiting in line to fill out a missing baggage claim and wondering what this trip could throw at them next.
Finally, finally, they pushed through those heavy doors, saw my pen-scribbled “YOUR NAME HERE” welcome card, and let some of the tension they had been carrying with them for the last 48 hours drain out. We picked up some toiletries at the airport store and made our way to the hotel.
I was glad the rain, so present the week before, had now given way to a blindingly sunny day. They would be able to see Venice in all its glory. After freshening up at our hotel, which by 1pm already had the room ready, we were ready to make our way out into the city.
We made our way to campo Francesco Morosini, near the Accademia bridge. I knew the best thing for us to do now was to sit down, relax, and try to enjoy the beautiful evening and weather.
That story has to put the perspective on this simple glass of Prosecco, sitting on a simple table next to some simple potato chips, of a wonderful friendship surrounded by a beautiful square in Venice.
I hope this weekend you are surrounded by friendship and beauty. I know I will be.
PS: For those interested, the bag never arrived. It was “found” almost 3 weeks later, and made its way back home, still heavy with gifts and belongings. Another trip will have to be scheduled for this bag.