The Longest Day

Finding the airport was a snap, although I won’t pretend I didn’t have to watch the signs carefully. We drove right to the rental car drop-off and turned in the Fiat with no hitches. We easily found our ticket counter, remembering its location from when we had dropped off Gino the week before. As a busy-looking attendant whirled by, she instructed us, “Don’t get into line yet.”

Maybe that was our initial mistake. We should have just gotten into line. Although things were busy, it seemed orderly enough. It wasn’t until more and more people arrived and nothing was really moving that we sensed there may be a problem.

Then we learned that Lufthansa’s world-wide computer system had completely crashed during a routine middle-of-the-night update.

Since they had no functioning computers, the attendants had to write out all boarding passes by hand — not to mention figure out all the other information without a computer. It was a logistical nightmare, for the airline and travelers alike.

We were told we could take an earlier flight — fine with us! But first, we were to go down to another window in a different area and get a new ticket issued. We raced off as fast as we could, arriving with several others trying to do the same thing.

But at that window we were told that we had been given wrong information and that we needed to go back to the first area. We did. They had us ping-ponging back and forth several times more.  Everything was a mess.

Time ticked by. We waited and waited, not wanting to leave for food, for coffee, or for the restroom in fear of missing some important instruction.

Finally after standing in line for four hours, we were told all the flights from Milano to the U.S. were gone for the day.  We could fly to Frankfurt now, but all the flights from Frankfurt to the U.S. also had already left.

So we had two choices: fly to Munich, spend the night, and take a morning flight to San Francisco. Or, fly to Munich, then to Los Angeles, and finally to San Francisco, arriving much much later than our original flight had been scheduled.

We decided to go for it and just get home, even if it would be very late. Who knows what tomorrow would bring? By now, all flights had been pushed way forward.

When we landed in Munich, we learned that our connecting flight to L.A. was being held for us and another couple. They shuttled the four of us onto a jitney which drove us to the back of a glass-walled office. An official escorted us through a back door and up to a tiny customs desk. We were getting our own private security screening!

The shuttle then sped across the airport and deposited us into a departure area where we were issued boarding passes. There was some problem with Mom’s newly issued ticket, which caused an additional delay. Finally we were in the air.

After a long transatlantic flight, we arrived at LAX. By now it was 8:00 p.m.  and San Francisco was still hours away. Luckily, no one was supposed to pick us up — our car was waiting for us at the car park.

At LAX, we learned our connecting flight to SFO had already left, but that we could get another one. But we first had to claim our bags and slog them through customs.

Finally through that gauntlet, we raced to a special desk (set up specially for us hapless Lufthansa/United travelers), received new boarding passes, and were told to go — “As quickly as you can!” — out the door and down the street to Terminal 7. We were at Terminal 3.

Bone tired and oh-so-cranky by now, we walked as quickly as possible to the oh-so-distant Terminal 7, pulling our bags behind us. We dashed up an escalator and down another, searching for our departure gate. Finding it just as the last passengers were dribbling away, we flung our boarding passes at the attendant and flew down the boarding tube.

We touched down in San Francisco — what a wonderful sight after a bad day. We collected our car, trying not to dwell on the two-hour drive we knew we still had to make before reaching home.

At 3:00 a.m., we pulled into the driveway. Gino was fast asleep, but woke up when the dogs greeted us excitedly. Saving our story for the next day, we fell into bed, so very glad to be home.

But as my head sank into my soft, familiar pillow, a delicious thought flitted through my head:

“Time to start planning a new trip!” I smiled to myself and went to sleep.


Dear Readers,

Thank you for coming along with us to Ireland and Italia. I hope you enjoyed the trip. Don’t forget to check out my other pages within this same blog: Cars (where I indulge my obsession with teensy Italian vehicles), Mangia! (It will make you HUNGRY!), Gino and His Tin Men (they followed him all over Italy), and Afterthoughts (where I have posted random photos from the trip — they still make me smile and hope they do the same for you).

Ciao from Melinda -- See you at the WEDDING!




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