Just when I thought I Had it All Together

View across the orange groves to Mt. Etna from the bus on the unexpected ride from Catania to Palermo.

June was the first month I have missed posting on my Martini Friday website since I began sharing my personal thoughts, ideas and history six years ago. I began this blog originally to help my literacy student become more comfortable reading and writing in English, her non-native language. I’ll admit that sometimes in those early days I had to force my self to come up with something to write about on occasion, when I was either too busy or simply feeling uninspired. I don’t think either of those factors really get to the heart of my recent absence on this forum. My last post on May 14th, I wrote about being excited to be leaving the next day for a long anticipated trip to Sicily, one I had signed up for in December, two months before I slipped on some black ice and fell and broke my elbow. I even wrote about tying up loose ends to get ready for my trip the following day. Only trouble is, while I was tapping out that blog, I should have been on a bus to Boston Logan Airport to catch my overnight flight to Sicily. I had gotten my dates mixed up and only found out that next day when I was blissfully on the bus to Boston and the tour leader called to ask me why I hadn’t shown up on the flight with the others in Palermo.

I’d be lying if I denied a certain panic came over me as I realized my error. I have traveled all over the world and never made this kind of error. It was even worse because this was my first solo overseas trip and I was anxious to show my husband that I was ready and confident to go it alone. In fact I knew I would have to as he is not interested in traveling outside the US and Canada for the foreseeable future. The reservations for the Boston to Palermo flight on Alitalia had been made six months earlier for me by a travel agent recommended by the tour organizer. It actually was a three way ticket, with the return flight to the US leaving from the eastern side of the island in Catania so I was happy to have a professional make those arrangements.

As the bus was on the I-95 headed south with no more stops before the airport in Boston, I got out my cell phone and called Alitalia. The customer service agent who answered the phone looked up the reservation and without sympathy explained that becase I was a “no show” for the flight the previous night there was nothing I could do but purchase a new ticket …at a cost of $3,000! Any sense of control was quickly eroding. I dedcided that the only thing I could do now was go to the ticket counter as soon as I got to the airport and plead my case. I had to wait an hour and a half before it was staffed, but I stayed there to insure I was first in line. I politely explained my dilemma to the supervisor as soon as she arrived. I was relieved when she said she would reissue the tickets with the new dates for a nominal amount. She punched a few buttons on the computer and presented me with tickets for that night’s flight. I hurried away with the precious documents before she could change her mind about the cost.

The flight was smooth and the connection in Rome went off without a hitch. I was feeling pretty proud of myself until I got to the designated pick-up point. What I didn’t know, and eventually realized, is that I was at the wrong airport. The reissued tickes were round trip from Boston to Catania, not the three-way tickets I exchanged. I just assumed that those tickets were for the same itnerary. By the time I landed in Catania and realized that I was 130 miles from my tour group, my only option was to buy a bus ticket to Palermo. The bus dropped me off at the last stop for the evening, a deserted transit center in central Palermo. The few other passengers quickly went on their way. I had no cell service and had no idea how far away the hotel was. Fortunately a security guard was able to speak enough english to understand that I needed to get a cab. He quicked hailed one for me and 10 minutes (and 10 euros) later I finally arrived to meet my group. It spite of the rocky start, I was able to get a good night’s sleep and head out with the others to explore the island of Sicily. In the end it was a wonderful adventure, but I trust that I will be better prepared and more diligent about the details for my next overseas adventure.

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