Bear with me for a moment… As I sit here typing this instead of cleaning up the mess in the other room and downstairs, it is approximately 4:30pm in Lodi, Italy. A week ago, I had my daughter’s bedroom floor covered with my packing mess. Its still there.
This morning I couldn’t help saying, “a week ago, I thought I’d be on my way to my friend’s home in the countryside outside Milan to have dinner and spend the night tonight, and instead I get to clean my house. That’s a lousy trade.” My daughter informed me that if I spend my time thinking about what I thought I’d be doing every day instead of what I am doing, its just going to bum me out. She’s right, and, to a certain extent, I can’t help it. I spent six months gearing up and planning for this adventure.
I’ve actually never traveled with an entire trip mapped out. The only piece that remained was a short jaunt from a small town in Liguria back to Milan to catch a plane home. Most often, I’ve taken off with a hotel reservation or a place to stay on night number one, and left the rest up to whatever the spirit moved me to do. Not this time… and now I’m sitting here. I’ve already missed a day in Paris, the train to Lyon, a stay with my Irish cousin, and a train ride to Milan. Tonight (a couple of hours from now) it was to be hanging out with a French friend I haven’t seen in nine years, and tomorrow she was going to drop me off at my hotel in Genoa for the photography workshop around which the whole adventure was planned.
As I said this morning, “I just can’t believe I’m here, driving to Capitol Hill instead of in Italy. I’m incredulous”. Of course my daughter didn’t understand the difference between being in shock about it and complaining, and thought I was complaining about driving her to school.
Actually, because I didn’t expect to be here this week, I have been surprised and appreciative every day of moments that I would have missed had I been gone. Phone calls, soccer goals, prom date “asking” adventures, a morning shooting at the farm, a walk with a friend, baby animals, and sunshine. (More on the farm and the baby animals later…) Time has seemed somewhat irrelevant because I was never going to be here. In some ways, its been as if someone handed me a new calendar for this period time and added a week to it. I get a phone call asking if I can do something, and have to think for a minute about what might conflict, then realize that the only possible conflicts are things I’ve ginned up in the past few hours.
Every morning begins with a cup of coffee and a phone call to the Alaska Airlines partner desk where some new reservation agent futilely tries every city in Canada, the USA and Mexico from which British Airlines has a flight to Europe. Nothing. Not one seat all week. They would give me any coach seat. I still can’t believe it. Its so incredibly beyond my control that all I can do is sit here and feel stunned. There are no “if only’s”. I didn’t do anything that I wish I hadn’t done that might have caused it. I believe in personal power, but I don’t think I can affect a volcano in Iceland. Who would ever imagine that an eruption of ash would throw a wrench into six months of anticipation and planning. I will probably call a couple more times today, just because…
Basically, I’m about ready to throw in the towel. The ridges on the outside of my left ear are sore from having a phone pressed to them for long periods of time. I’ve memorized the Alaska Airlines partner desk’s automated greeting in both English and Spanish. I know that when it asks you for your mileage plan number you don’t actually have to punch it in. If you do nothing it will still put you in the queue. A couple of moments later the same voice will tell you that you have approximately 12 minutes before your call will be answered.
One of the lovely surprises has been those agents this week. Every single one that I’ve talked to, and that would be at least two per day since Sunday, has been helpful, friendly and sympathetic. One wanted so badly to help me that she actually booked me on two different flights in the course of a morning that didn’t work. That was a big bummer because for about five minutes I was super excited and sent an email to my friend telling her I had just got a ticket and was coming. Then they called me back and said “Oops!”.
So, I guess I’d better go clean up my packing mess in the other room. Maybe if I put it all away, a seat will magically appear on this afternoon’s flight to London…