Three Strikes, I’m Outta There

If God had really intended men to fly, he’d make it easier to get to the airport.” ~George Winters

I didn’t create the strikes.  And the strikes do not dampen my love for Italy in any way.  They’re just…Italian.  After hearing about school strikes from our director, and knowing people who were affected by train strikes in May, I was privileged (?) to experience firsthand the effects of another area of strikes in Italy: airport strikes.  Of course Italy wanted to leave me with a parting gift that would forever stamp itself in my mind as the most eventful airplane trip I’ve ever been on.  And that’s saying something.  I can’t remember any other trip that ended up being more bizarre than this one.

We got to the airport very early.  So early, in fact, that they wouldn’t let us check in our baggage for anther 40 minutes.  Hence five college students staked out a piece of wall to lean against, surrounded by walls of luggage.  Wonder of wonders, Lufthansa didn’t charge me for my 2nd bag.  The lady just didn’t say anything, and I didn’t ask, and presto, they both make it through.  Saved me an extra 50 euro, too.

They finally let us check our bags, and we made our way through security to the gate.  Apparently I am suspicious looking, because at every security checkpoint I was pulled over and swiped.  I’m still not sure why.  Through security, we found our gate for our flight to Munich, from which we would part ways and fly to our respective US locations.  After an hour of sitting, our gate randomly changed, so we followed the maze of hallways to our next gate.

Boarding time approached, and then it was upon is with no announcement for boarding.  Suddenly the Lufthansa lady came on over the system to inform us that “We are unable to board the aircraft because some of the workers are on strike?”  What?  Seriously?  Yes, seriously.  I had to laugh.  It was typical Italy.  It turns out that the people who drive the luggage trains and the buses to get us out to the plane we striking for something.  We therefore had no way to get to the plane, and even if we did, our luggage wouldn’t be on it.  They hoped that the problem would be solvable and wanted to wait to cancel the flight, hopefully within an hour.  If that were the case, I could still make my connecting flight.

The hour came and went.  No announcement for boarding.  Going and talking to people yielded no new information.  At one point we heard that the bus was “Positively maybe coming.”  I’m still not sure what that means.  Another half hour passes, than another.  Two hours late.  The group around the desk was growing again, wanting news.  Most of the people had surprisingly good attitudes about it, although there were the complainers.  But it wasn’t even Lufthansa’s fault.  Most airlines in our terminal were affected.

A call came.  We all stood with bated breath.  The representative hung up the phone, and we all leaned forward with hopeful looked on our faces.  Without explaining first, she turns on the PA system and tells us that we will be boarding.  Two hours later, but we were going to Munich.

We landed in Munich, and my connecting flight was already e andato a Munich.  Half an hour late.  My friend who was on the same flight asme and I ran to the information desk, where we were told that they would re-route us.  After waiting in line, we approached a man who knew what he was doing.  We had the option of taking the same flight the next day, or a slightly earlier flight into JFK.  We took the latter.  Then came, “Would you like 2 singles or a double room for your hotel?”  We looked at each other.  “Um, we can take a double,” I told him.  Hotel?  Free?  Voucher?  Yes please.  “Do you want to make a phone call?”  Um, duh.  I need to tell someone I’m not getting to the states today.  Only problem was I couldn’t remember the number of my grandfather who was supposed to be picking me up.  I therefore had to call Taiwan to have them call New Jersey.  Convoluted?  Yes.  Did it work?  Beautifully.

Vouchers in hand, we trooped down to the shuttle bus.  We found out later the shuttle bus would have cost us 8 euro if we hadn’t had a voucher.  Yay for free stuff.  The shuttle bus took us to the Sheraton.  It was the nicest hotel I’d stayed in since staying at the Empress in Thailand, and it felt good after living in a monastery for a few months.  I love San Paolo, but the hotel was nice.  With our free dinner voucher, we set off for the buffet to consume all that we could of non-pasta dishes.  I fell asleep 15 minutes into the movie we were watching on one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in.

The next morning was pretty much the first one in 4 months I didn’t each cornflakes for breakfast.  Instead we helped ourselves to the continental breakfast of muffins, eggs, bacon, sausage, croissants…you get the picture.  The breakfast itself was typically 10 euro.  We got it for free.  Good deal.  I should be delayed more often.  I also apparently look German.  Most of the time people would speak to me in German and repeat themselves before gathering from my blank look that I had no idea what they were saying.  German will be my next language to learn.

Back to the airport, the rest of our trip was fairly uneventful.  We were, again, very early, but our bags had been taken care of for us.  I even got a German stamp in my passport for leaving the country.  Lufthansa right now has a fairly high rating in my book as far as airlines go.  Between personal TVs with a broad selection of movie (Gnomeo and Juliet, Rango, the Adjustment Bureau were among my selections) and decent food and snacks, I would fly them again.  Eight hours later, I was back in New Jersey.

And so ended my semester abroad gallivanting around Europe.  It was a memorable ending for a memorable semester.  I hope to keep this blog going, although I’m not really sure what I’ll right about, so stay tuned!

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