Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Roman Holiday, Part 11 - Please Standy By...

(Me and my last gelati in Rome. Apple and Pear. Such delicious memories.)

Previously: As I finally got on the metro to head out of Rome, the rain began to fall...

By the time I got to Termini Station, where I had to change from the subway to the rail system, it has started to downpour. It’s the kind of rain that makes umbrellas useless because the rain is bouncing up off the ground with so much force. I waited a few minutes and it calmed down enough so that I could drag my carry-on the 200 yards between the metro and railway entrances and not get completely drenched in the process. I got inside and bought my ticket and waited for them to announce what track the train would leave on. With only a few minutes left before departure, they finally announced the track and of course it is the last possible track, clear on the other side of the giant facility. So everyone had to grab their bags and run to get there on time. I ran as fast as I could and was thankful I was in top shape from my marathon training, so that a sprint with luggage was not super-taxing. I’m glad I ran too, because shortly after I boarded, the train left the station. I’m sure that anyone who didn’t run for the train got screwed. The train was an express to the airport so we moved swiftly along, and the sun came out again on the way.

When I arrived at the airport, I still had two hours before my flight and figured I was good to go. I went to the Alitalia windows to check in and I noticed there was a very long line. After a minute or two, I realize that the line I’m standing in is for another Alitalia flight and that the window for my flight has NO line. Curious. I went over to that counter and there’s the random guy standing nearby and he says, “Oh, I bet you’re flying first class, right?” and I responded with a “No…(asshole)” I mean, seriously, WTF is that kinda comment? What’s it matter to him what section I'm sitting in?

I handed my ticket and passport to the check-in lady and she looked at it and then handed it back to me. “I’m sorry,” she said. “your flight was overbooked and there is no room lieft. I am going to have to put you on stand by.”

I blinked at her. “What?” She repeated herself. I furrowed my brow. “That doesn’t make sense. I have a reserved seat. I selected it and checked it with the airline. “ But she shook her head. “No, all seats are now full.”

“But when did they give it away? It’s still –“

“The flight was overbooked by 36 passengers. Check-in started at 10am and your seat is now full.”

It still didn’t make sense to me. “What’s the point of going online and selecting a seat, if it’s not here for me when I show up?”

The woman was at a loss. “I cannot explain it to you better, because I think like you. It does not make sense. I do not know why they do this. They want the flight to be full and some people cancel, so they overbook the flight.”

“By more than thirty people?” I ask incredulously. “Yes," she responds, "and now there is no seat for you. You are on stand-by.”

I’m getting nowhere so I change tracks. “Is there actually a chance I’ll get on the plane? How many people are ahead of me?” “You are fourth on the list. There are a few seats in first class. We are holding to make sure everyone who is supposed to make a connecting flight will be arriving here on time first.”

I considered this. “So 30 more people could show up after me, and they would all have less of a chance of getting on this plane?” “Correct, sir.” She confirmed, “I know. It’s crazy.”

“What if I don’t get on the flight?” I asked. She gave me a level look. “There are no more direct flights to New York today There’s a flight through Paris and a flight through London later today. You can try to get on either of those at the ticketing counter, or they can put you up in a hotel for the night and send you home on the first direct flight out in the morning.”

“I have to go home TODAY.” I implored her. In theory, the idea of being in Rome longer was nice, but I was already mentally in the zone to travel home. I didn’t want to have it not happen and then have to go through the whole process again the next day.

“I understand. You are not late for the flight.” She said, in a don’t-blame-yourself tone of voice. Then this other couple came up behind me, got the same speech, but reacted with a lot more anger. They stormed off to the ticketing counter without waiting to hear about stand-by. I think the check-in lady appreciated that I had not totally flipped out on her. I think she gets that a lot in her job.

So, as it turned out three people on stand-by got on the flight, including that annoying dude who asked me if I was the one traveling first class. I, being fourth on the list had to go over and sort out an alternate plan with a ticketing agent. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!

My previous adventures: My Flight There, Emperor Palpatine's Hill, Good Times at the Colosseo & Vatican, SPB & The 39 Steps, The Pantheon, Gays and Dining Out. Owen & Nilor Take Via Borghese, The More Than 39 steps of Vittoriano, The Battle For Aventine Hill, Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! and Finding The Mouth Of Truth

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