Wednesday, September 25
“Noël and I did some reorganizing of the items in our bags and settled in for our last night in Italy, with the window open and hearing the surf.”–that’s how I ended yesterday’s account. About 2:30 AM, everyone but me, it seems, was disturbed by the sound of a loud argument under our windows. That’s what I hear, anyway; it didn’t wake me up. I learned about it at breakfast.
Today’s departures lacked the drama of our travel here. We rose and shared our last breakfast in Ostia, and then hailed a cab to the airport at Fiumicino. The customs arrangements are new to me, but John, Elaine, and Noël were familiar with them. On our way here we carried all our luggage, but we decided to check one bag for the trip back, since we had a bit more to carry now.
Once on the plane, however, we were able to relax. Of course our flight crew offered complimentary wine with our fairly substantial lunch. Only later, after we switched our watches back to EDT, did we note that this had also been our breakfast time on this 30-hour day. From now on, we’ll check Rome time when we need a second reference for alcohol.
At Philadelphia, I experienced the joy of customs for the first time. On arrival, US citizens went to one area and visitors went to another. Lines were about 12 people deep, in part because half of the customs lines were closed. (Sequestration, perhaps?) We handed in our customs form and reclaimed our checked bag, then re-entered the system by passing TSA security and re-checking the checked bag.
Fortunately, we were in plenty of time, so we didn’t have to be alarmed at the shuttle’s crawl from Terminal A to Terminal F for our final plane to Cleveland. It was in Terminal F that I ran into the second-worst bathroom I had seen in fifteen days. As Noël and I waited for boarding to start, we heard pre-flight announcements from a few gates away in a voice that would have been perfect for a middle-school cafeteria monitor. When our gate opened and our attendant tried to do the same, we realized that none of the departure gates had microphones and loudspeakers.
We were glad to get to our seats for the flight back to Cleveland’s airport. When we heard that the flying time for this trip was 55 minutes, we thought that we might actually arrive early; but then we waited on the ground for about 20 minutes before actually taking off.
No matter: we arrived on time in Cleveland–a little sad for having left our family members and our new Italian friends, but glad to be back home and a bit more appreciative of our lives here, where most things are familiar and communication is effortless. I still had five Euro in my pocket for the next trip.