If you don’t want to hear a rant on terrible airlines, the worst travel day of my life, stitches without anesthetic, long lines, and early mornings, turn around now. Don’t read further. I don’t usually put up rant posts. In fact, this might actually be my first ever. But this particular travel day deserves it. If you’d rather hear about idyllic Amsterdam, our time in Milan, reflections on life, or some other post where I have a cheerful outlook on life, this is not what you should be reading.
WARNING #2: There’s going to be a graphic picture of a gash in my knee at the very end of the post. If you’re prone to queasiness, take care with your scrolling.
It’s rare that I have a travel day so bad that finding good in it is hard. But the trip from Milan to Paris… It was probably the worst travel day I’ve had, ever, bar none. For me, there’s a rating system for bad travel days. The worst ones have all of the attributes listed below:
- Lack of sleep.
- Long hours in transit.
- Crummy bathrooms (sorry, fellow weathered travelers… I’ll never get used to squatties).
- Unexpected and substantial fees.
- Endless queuing.
- Bad food or lack of food.
- Medical emergencies.
- Broken instruments and/or lost gear.
The trip to Paris checked off nearly every single mishap/discomfort on the list.
The alarm went off at 2:30 am. I groaned. I’m not a morning person, at all. On the best of days I’ll stare blankly at the wall for about fifteen minutes, possibly fall asleep again, and eventually get up and wander around like a zombie for the half an hour it takes to get breakfast finished. So at 2:30 in the morning, I probably could have been cast as a zombie for World War Z without even trying. Mrs. Senigaglia was a peach, though. She’d set out some fruit for our breakfast, and Valeria had left us a card and some chocolates as a goodbye gift. I can’t stress enough how wonderful those two were.
I ate my blueberries in a haze, hauled my backpack and fiddle down to the car, got in, and promptly fell asleep again. I wish I could find energy for early morning escapades. I can’t. If anyone knows the secret to snap-of-the-finger instant bounciness and readiness in the morning… PLEASE. Write a book. You’d make millions.
We arrived at the airport, thanked Mrs. Senigaglia again for everything, and set about getting checked in to our flight. We stood in the line labeled, “Check In and Baggage Drop” for a few minutes, finally shuffling up to the desk. The attendant looked us over, all business, asked a few questions about where we were headed, etc. and then informed us that this wasn’t, despite the label, the check-in line, and that we had thirty minutes to check in before we’d have to pay a substantial fee. “No worries,” I said to Will, picking up my bags again and making my way towards the OTHER check-in desk down the hall. “We’re here nearly three hours early. Shouldn’t be a problem.”
I have to say, my confidence faltered somewhat when we discovered that the check-in line wasn’t open yet. We set our bags down. Will quietly waited. I paced. And paced. For over a half hour. This was ridiculous. How were we supposed to check in on time if the check-in desk wasn’t open?
At last, forty minutes later, the attendant FINALLY opened the booth, only to tell us that in order to check us in, we needed a piece of paper from the original baggage drop attendant. Seriously? You’d think she’d give us that in the first place. Back we went, bags and all, to get the first slip of paper. The line had grown, and it took us ten minutes to get to the desk. Paper in hand, we raced back to the check-in line. Another ten minutes passed. “Wonderful!” the attendant said in her Italian accent, checking us in and trying to look like she liked her job. “Proceed to baggage drop, please.” We raced back, doing our best not to run anyone down in the process. The airport was starting to fill.
“Gut kummer…” a favorite saying of Will’s… “The line grows by three times each time we leave.” He was right. It took nearly twenty minutes to reach the desk. I handed the attendant our papers, relieved that the lines were over and done with. She looked them over and handed them back to us. “You need to pay the fee for checking in late.” I explained that the airline had neglected to open the check-in booth until ten minutes past the time limit. She shrugged. “You need to go to the check-in booth and pay there. Come back with the receipt and I can check your bags.” I turned, grimacing in frustration at Will, and shoved through the ever-growing crowds to the check-in AGAIN. The line was taking nearly as long there now as it was at the baggage drop. I started checking my watch nervously. Would we be able to make the flight, the way this was going? I muttered to Will, “This is ridiculous… We showed up over two and a half hours early, for crying out loud.”
Finally. Our turn. We paid the substantial fee of 70 euros each, and then headed back to the baggage drop. After waiting around 25 minutes in line, we reached the desk, hopefully for the final time. The attendant scanned our papers, and finally asked for our passports. With a huge sigh of relief, I handed them over. Finally. And then… “You can’t take that.” She pointed with an accusing finger at Will’s guitar, slung over my shoulder. “What do you mean, I can’t take that?” I exploded. “I’ve taken guitars as carryon onto planes all over the world, no problem.” She shrugged. “You have to buy it a seat, or check it underneath.”
I learned the hard way that “cheap” airlines look great online, but actually suck. I’ll never fly with RyanAir again. It looked far cheaper than taking the train or bus to Paris from Milan. In reality, we ended up spending nearly twice as much.
After dealing with the guitar, we ran for security. That line was the worst yet. It was absolutely massive, trailing in an unorganized mass of frustrated people out the security room and into the main hall. I’m not even sure I’d call it a line. It was more of a mob. We made it through, ages later. I shoved my ticket and passport at the customs guy, watching in despair as our flight went from “Boarding” to “Closed” on the monitor above. The customs officer handed me my passport and ticket back as quickly as possible. “If you run, you might make it,” he encouraged me in his heavily accented English.
And so, we ran.
Ran like there was no tomorrow, ran through the maze of gates and halls, through the airport shopping center, towards our flight. I dodged through the crowds, trying not to shove or step on anyone, following Will as he barged his way through ahead of me. We dashed up the stairs to our terminal, ignoring the crowded escalator. My fiddle bounced off my leg, tripping me up, and I went down hard on the stair. Will looked back, concerned. “I’m ok! Just keep going!” I panted, retrieving my fiddle and picking myself up. We ran on.
Finally we skidded to a halt at our gate. It was official. We were too late. Now what? I let out a sob of frustration. I was tired. It was still only six in the morning. We’d missed our flight. And… I was bleeding. The dull throb in my knee had turned into a searing pain, and something warm and wet was trickling down my shin. I looked down, and groaned. “Will?” He was pacing. “Um… I’m not ok.”
Which might’ve been an understatement. I had a horrible gash in my knee, about an inch across and 3/4ths of a centimeter deep. It was bleeding rather badly. Fantastic. Will raced off to find me some napkins. I sunk to the floor, not sure which was worse: the fact that this would almost certainly need stitches, or that of the hundreds of people in that room, not a single one could be bothered to help. They all just looked at me briefly, saw the cut, made a face, and went back to staring at their electronics. I sighed, took a picture of my knee, and sent it to Dad so he’d know what was going on. Will dashed back, handed me the napkins, and then raced off again to figure out where the first aid was. The whole thing would have been so much more difficult without him.
The first aid was downstairs, hidden behind a grey door in such a way that it was nearly impossible to find. The doctor on duty whisked me into the room and onto a bench, sliding the door closed in Will’s face. Poor guy.
I’ve only had stitches once before, in Coober Pedy. Ironically enough, that was on the other knee, in the same place. The boys tease now that I should tattoo eyes around the two scars. Stitches scare the crap out of me, though. Not because it hurts, because if it’s done right, it doesn’t. It’s just the thought of someone tugging a needle through my skin that really bothers me. I can get shots without too much trouble, but stitches?
I was a wimp. I’ll admit it. Then again, I don’t know many people who can get stitches without anesthetic without crying a little. It’s one thing when they shoot you up so that you can’t feel it. It’s an entirely different game when you get a rag stuffed in your mouth to bite on and that’s your anesthetic.
I came out, limping and sniffling a little, but properly bandaged up and with free tickets for the next flight out. We’d be boarding in thirteen hours.
Can I just say that Will was amazing? He did everything he could to take care of me and sort out the situation, and didn’t complain once. I did. I don’t know what I would’ve done without him that day.
I could go on about the rest of the day. I could barely walk. It was a long thirteen hours. We had two hours of transit left once we arrived in Paris, by bus and taxi. We didn’t arrive until after midnight. There were even bathrooms rivaling those in Vietnam. But I think you’ve got the general picture. Don’t fly with RyanAir. The one thing I will say for them is that they recompensed our tickets and didn’t make us pay for the first aid. Other than that, it had to be the worst service I’ve ever experienced.
Graphic Nastiness Ahead (consider yourself warned):