Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Worst Trip: Part One

This is Part One of a three-part story...
I am often asked about my favorite places to travel, the bargains I can score, and the delights of traveling internationally.  But I am also often asked about the not-so-fun parts of travel.  People are sometimes surprised that I've had bad travel experiences, but when you travel as much as I do, things happen.  And this is the tale of one really bad trip...

I love to travel! Truly. I love the anticipation and the planning: what to do, where to go. I love the romance of jetting off across the world meeting new people and having new adventures. There is nothing I would rather do.

But even for the most intrepid traveler, things sometimes go wrong. Terribly wrong. June, 2006: that was my trip from Hell….

At first it seemed like the gods were on my side. I’d left late for the airport, but we made good time and arrived early. But when I checked in they wouldn’t give me a boarding pass, and it became very clear that despite my “confirmed” seat I was to be bumped from the flight. Indeed, I waved to the other passengers as the plane pulled out from the gate and spent the night in a sleezy hotel near the airport.

The next morning I was given a seat assignment and a boarding pass. But I would have given my left arm for another seat assignment. The woman sitting next to me was not sitting close enough to her teenaged daughters -- who sat one row behind us -- and she acted like it was my fault. She was trying to get those of us around her to switch seats, but the really tall guy in the aisle wasn’t about to take her middle seat so that she could sit with her girls. Her daughters were delighted.

So, instead she kept turning around in her seat to talk with them. They ignored her consistently and talked back in that oh-so-sonorous bratty, obnoxious teen-aged know-it-all voice. They were definitely a case for Dr. Phil! Protective, over-bearing mother and her daughters who hate her – on today’s Dr. Phil. We had it all right there.

Mrs. Overbearing spent the time she wasn’t harping on her children in the bathroom. Now, I have to go to the bathroom a lot. I drank a gallon of water on the flight – my strategy against dehydration. But Mrs. Overbearing was up and down and up and down constantly. She never had to go when I got up. No. That would be far too easy. I would get all settled back into my seat, tucked under my blanket and stationery for all of two minutes when she would need to get up. I began to wonder if my comfort made her uncomfortable or something. It was quite bizarre.

At long last – 9.5 hours later – we landed in Frankfurt. I had less than an hour to change gates -- which is a pain in Frankfurt. The new terminal and the old terminal are separated by what must be 38 miles of corridors and craziness. Plus, you must go through security again when you change terminals. I’d done this before, so I knew what to expect. I pushed my way off the plane and sprinted through the smoky, humid airport, past soccer players and fans and the World Cup madness which had overtaken Germany.

When I got to my gate, sweaty and panting, a Lufthansa agent came over the speaker to announce that we were delayed 30 minutes. The entire crowd at the gate – mostly American tourists – groaned.

Arriving in Rome, after a bumpy landing, I was so ready to just get into a shower. But it was not to be.

My luggage was missing.

Continued in Part Two and Part Three.

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