It was a nightmare in oh so many ways. First, after nearly three months of no rain in Liguria, the world’s longest-lasting series of electric storms arrived in the middle of the night on Sunday, Sept. 13. How could this possibly be a problem, I asked myself, as I tossed and turned and fretted over my 11:15 departure on RyanAir the next morning to meet my sister at Prestwick in Scotland. Here’s how: the storms just never stopped.
The Captain dropped me at the Pisa Airport in a driving rain, waiting to be sure my flight still looked alright. It did, in spite of the weather, so I cheerfully waved him off for his own adventure exploring some of the golf courses of Bavaria. I got myself checked in and my suitcase sent on its merry way to wherever suitcases go to wait, and I went through security to the 3rd circle of hell where passengers wait for RyanAir flights:
Meanwhile the thunder was booming and the lightening was flashing, and there were few planes coming or going. There were about five flights worth of people waiting to leave, mostly headed for eastern Europe. One very nice man decided to share his country’s music with the rest of us, thanks to the large speaker capacity on his laptop. It wasn’t bad the first time through; by the third time many of us had grown weary of the now overly-familiar tunes. I was glad, I’m very embarrassed to say, when his flight was canceled and he, his clinging girlfriend and his music left the waiting room. I soon got my reward for such an uncharitable thought: my own flight canceled. It was about 12:30 p.m.
The Captain and I had agreed that if there was a problem with my flight he would return, but he’d left me off at 9:30 and was now well on his way. Besides, for some strange reason I had no cell-phone reception, in spite of the fact that people all around me were feverishly chatting on their phones. First things first: reclaim luggage. That proved easier than expected – because there were so many canceled flights they moved the our luggage to an almost-empty adjacent terminal. Next step – rebook. I took one look at the masses of people crowding around the ticket counter and just knew I couldn’t do it. First off, the next RyanAir trip to Prestwick was not the next day, but the day after that, which would mean half my week eaten up in waiting. Secondly, that flight would already have been booked, so there might not be room for me on it anyway. And thirdly, I would have been about 505 in line (had there been a line) to speak to an agent… and for what?
Meanwhile the Captain was driving north, my sister was sitting in Prestwick Airport waiting for me, and my cell phone didn’t work. I find situations like this stressful.
I ran to the newsstand in the terminal and bought – lucky me! – the last phone card they had in stock, waited in line for a phone, and finally reached the Captain. After offering to return, an offer I stoutly refused, he took some phone numbers from me and said he would try to get a message to my patient sister. A policeman told me that the TIM (my provider) cell tower had been struck by lightening and was down for a while – that’s why there was no phone.
A lucky series of train connections got me back to Rapallo by 7 in the evening, 11 hours after I’d left – but I was still no closer to Scotland. And what of the sister, I hear you ask. Finally on the train I was able to get a cell connection and I called the rental agency in Prestwick from whom we’d arranged a car to ask if they’d seen my sister – they thought they had, and said they’d go look for her. (!) That was my first brush with the incredibly helpful and friendly hospitality that seems to be part of Scots DNA. Not only did they find her, they called me from their phone so I could speak to her; we agreed she would return to her hotel and we’d talk that evening.
So she’s safely tucked away in Scotland, and I’m fuming and feeling at sea in Rapallo. I was tired, and the clock just wouldn’t stop ticking. So I called our friend JRJ, who knows more than anyone I know about everything, and asked her what she would do if she wanted to get to Scotland the next day. “Easy,” she said, “I’d take the train to Milano and take the EasyJet flight to Edinborough.” She had several other suggestions as well, but her first proved to be the Key. I feared EasyJet would charge a fortune for a last minute reservation, but no, it was E100, only about E20 more than my RyanAir flight, booked two months before.
I got up at 4 a.m. (travel anxiety), drove my scooter to the station where I left it in an almost empty parking lot, caught the 6 a.m. train to Milano, got on a bus that left immediately for the airport, and arrived in plenty of time. In fact, there was no line for check-in (EasyJet uses the old Milano terminal, which is much smaller and also much less crowded than the big new terminal), and I had enough time to shop for an enormous chocolate bar for my sister.
She was waiting for me, the rental car people had arranged for me to pick up our car in Edinborough instead of Prestwick, and the trip went beautifully from there on (including the driving-on-the-left part: we both survived!).
There is an ugly little post-script to the story. The Captain met my sister and me at the Rapallo train station when we returned from our week in Scotland. I was to drive my scooter home, but… it wasn’t there. It’s an old, beat-up Gilera, no one is going to steal my scooter… then my eye fell on the sign I’ve looked at a thousand times and never digested:
(It says No Parking from 6 – 9:30 a.m. on the third Friday of each month because the street cleaners are coming…)
Wouldn’t you know that the third Friday of the month happened to be the one I was away! My scoots was towed, and it took over E100 to get it back and pay the fine. Sigh.