Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vacation Day 1: A Laser Light Show in a Toxic Atmosphere

Tal, Saarya, and I were not overly impressed with Alitalia.

I have never flown and spent less time in the airport terminals. We were delayed by traffic on the way to the airport and had only five minutes spare before security and maybe ten minutes after security. I have free business credit card access to the Dan Trackline lounge, which I thought we could all use, but it turns out I would have had to spend 90 NIS each for the kids for those 10 minutes.

Our first flight to Rome was delayed getting out of the gate, though it was unclear why since everyone was onboard and seated. Because of that delay, we missed the take off window and had to wait for another. We lifted off an hour late. No screens on the small plane (Airbus 321), but we did get a meat meal for breakfast (both corned beef and lox, in separate containers), which surprised me; a positive mark for them, but meat? Many of our neighbors didn't eat their breakfasts (I don't know if it was not kosher enough, or just that it was meat for breakfast), so we ate some of theirs as well.

We had a connecting flight in Rome which I thought was scheduled to leave an hour earlier than it actually was. I thought it was supposed to leave at 2:30, but it was scheduled to leave at 3:20. It turned out I was incorrect and it had always been scheduled to leave at that time. Nevertheless, I messaged everyone from Rome that we were going to be an hour late. Which was wrong.

We had to go through security AGAIN in Rome, which made no sense, since we originated outside the country, continued outside the country, both flights were Alitalia, and there was no chance for anyone except for the airport security to hand me an Uzi between getting off the plane and stepping through security again. We had two whole minutes in the airport, and then our flight left ... wait for it ... an hour late (4:30), because a passenger checked in a bag and didn't board the plane, or so they said. So the message I sent ended up being accurate after all.

This flight had no personal screens, but it had about six of those old-fashioned CRT main cabin screens that flip down. Ours didn't until I went over to it and hit it. Then it violently shook until I hit it again (just call me Han Solo). The screen was nearly unwatchable, like watching 1970s VCR recordings on a malfunctioning TV (scrolling bottom to top with static bands across the middle). The screen four in front of us got their own laser light show. Every screen showed the same clips but in entirely different colors.

The safety instructions played: "Welcome aboard Alitalia airlines, where [freeze] ... [unfreeze] your comfort and [freeze] [wobble] safety are our top concerbabburble [freeze] [flash] [blank] Welcome aboard Alitalia, where ..."

The first movie was the new Cinderella (or maybe it was Patton; it was hard to tell). It wasn't bad but it was totally unnecessary for the world to have this movie as it adds nothing new. The second was The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which I didn't watch.

The first meal was ok (but fish, so not for me), the second was basic. Drinks were available in the back the whole flight. So that was positive, too. The staff was friendly. The flight was otherwise uneventful. Except that Saarya's seat strongly reeked of urine the entire flight, which made breathing difficult. We only figured out it was the seat about mid-way through (since the entire area stank) and then covered it with a blanket and sat in the next seat which was empty. The seat baskets that held the magazines were ripped; just how old is an Airbus 330 anyway?

Boston airport customs was insane: half of us departed the plane, and the other half waited 15 minutes for some of the customs area to clear a bit before getting to depart. There were endless rope lines to passport and face scanning machines that worked for me and Tal but not for Saarya, so we had to wait in line again.

I got a car through RelayRides, and the guy was waiting for me. That seemed to go well: he seemed nice, the car seems nice, so as long as I don't scrape the car and try to blame him, and he doesn't try to blame me for the existing scrape, we should be good.

It is a nightmare to travel without a phone: no phone, no SMS, no GPS. I pre-printed all of the instructions from Google maps, and even so I kept thinking we were going the wrong way (though we weren't). We won't get SIM cards until Wed.

All in all, not too bad, so thank God.


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