How to survive international travel
1. Don’t. Just stay home.
2. If you’re going somewhere, go for a looooong time. These weekend jaunts just aren’t worth the headache anymore, unfortunately.
3. Keep a sense of humor. You’ll need it.
4. Dress in layers – you will go from no air conditioning to full blast A/C depending on how long you spend in a certain room and what country you’re in. In Milan, for instance, there is A/C on full-blast in an area where there are only 3 people. But no A/C where there are hundreds and hundreds waiting to get through security.
5. Be nice. Really nice. To everyone – your seat mate, the person in front of you in line, the person at the ticket counter, the guy going through your smelly socks in your bag. The nicer you are, the more stuff you get and the better your chances of survival.
That is how I’ve managed to survive the rest of my 24-hour odyssey from Bucharest to San Diego.
After getting through security with an hour to spare before my flight, I was disheartened when I saw that it would then be delayed until 11:20. Then noon. We finally took off at 1pm and I knew I wouldn’t make the connection in Chicago. 9 hours later (most of which I again slept through) I landed. Right at the exact moment my flight for San Diego was taking off.
I got through a 30 minute customs line, had a laugh at my own expense with the passport control agent over my lack of deodorant and toothpaste, and ran through baggage claim (fortunately I hadn’t checked anything) and stopped dead in a line for American Airlines. Because my ticket was booked separately from the Alitalia legs, I couldn’t just run to the front of the line and have a new ticket issued. So I waited in the line for a while until I saw an Alitalia woman who had been at the plane when we got off walk by.
I stopped her and asked if there was any way she could help me since Alitalia really screwed me and I wasn’t going to make the next flight at 5pm. At this point it was 4:20. She took pity on me and walked me to another ticket desk and did the best she could. She was particularly helpful when she learned I was going to San Diego only for the weekend, and for my 10 year high school reunion. She rebooked me on the 8:25 flight, which would’ve gotten me in at 11pm. I’d miss the first night’s festivities but at least not everything. Then she leaned forward and said, “But if I were you I’d haul ass to the gate and try to make the 5:02.”
Which is exactly what I did. At 4:30 I was upstairs waiting for the train to the next terminal. At 4:32 I was in the security line without a boarding pass (silly me) and was redirected to the desk. At 4:34 that nice lady redirected me to first class check in so I could try to make the 5:02. At 4:40 I was 2nd in line to check in and the next available agent went on a break. I heaved an obvious sigh of despair and the guy in front of me took pity when I mentioned my flight was in 15 minutes. He said his was in 3 hours and let me go ahead of him. Thanks dude!
At 4:45 I had 2 boarding passes in my hand and I was taking off half my clothes (jacket, watch, belt, shoes) and going through security for the fourth time. They decided they needed to check one of my bags very thoroughly – the one with the smelly socks again! These poor security people, I feel sorry for them, having to go through dirty socks and underwear. Be nice to security people, too. They don’t want to have to check out your dirty undies, I promise. And they can make your life a living hell if they want to. Latex gloves, anyone?
At 4:50 I was having a Home Alone moment as I ran to my gate, which of course had to be at the very end of the hall. I ran for 8 or 10 straight minutes under the flags that hang in the hallway at O’Hare and finally reached the gate, very sweaty. After some confusion about my ticket, I was allowed on board. My seat was taken so I was offered the front row, which was completely empty. Score! At 5pm, I was in my seat, sweating bullets, completely out of breath, and able to tell my friend Ryan that I’d be arriving at 7:15 in San Diego. That’s 3 hours from now.
Hopefully the rest of the trip will go smoothly and I’ll be at my party at 8pm as planned!