Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To Udine (or: Validate your Tickets and Hotels) (or: Expensive Mistakes)

I tried to collect thoughts before in the Rome airport, but those darn thoughts were not collecting. I will try to do so now.

Pittsburgh to Atlanta
The sun "rose" as a result of our taking off, which was pretty wicked - it was clearly dusk when we lifted off and then the sun was glaring in my eyes, and after a second I realized it was because we were going up. This is really cool if you can pull it off.

If you're flying to your home city, a seven hour layover is really preferable to a shorter layover because you can meet your family, actually leave the airport in an unhurried manner, and maybe have a meal. I went to church and then lunch with my family, and visited with the pastor (Dad's former assistant pastor and a family friend) and my AP Government teacher. Both Ms. Chambers and I can't go to the inauguration - me because I have a conference in Savannah that day, her because her oldest daughter (who I was in youth group with, eeps) is due to have a baby girl eight days later. She mentioned that her husband had gone to a wedding but she had stayed home because of the pregnancy. I resisted the temptation to mention Sarah Palin.

Atlanta to Rome
In Pittsburgh I got window exit seats on both of the Delta flights, which was good. There was a really big guy in the aisle seat next to me on the flight from Hartsfield-Jackson to Rome - he could put on a seatbelt without the seatbelt extender, but it was clearly uncomfortable for him to do so (you can't use a seatbelt extender and sit in an exit row - which is airlinespeak for "no fat people blocking the exits"). At first I was like "oh, crap, big guy," and it probably would have been uncomfortable if it hadn't been an exit row, but it was actually fine. I clearly amused one flight attendant because I was asleep two times they went by for food and it took me about thirty seconds to get my bearings and speak coherently about what I wanted or didn't want to eat/drink both times.

Had to go through security inside the airport (never understood why that worked like that). Had water in my red metal water bottle. Was told to go downstairs to pour it out and then "go through security, not line." Didn't really understand how that would work without getting yelled at at minimum, so I threw away the water bottle. Quickly realized I should have just chugged the contents, since, you know, I can drink a half quart of water if I need to.

Rome cannot decide what to call their airport, which leads to the impression they have like three airports.

Rome to Venice
This was the flight that somewhat goofy Alitalia decided to cancel and so Delta re-arranged for a later flight. Slept the whole time - woke up to pop my ears and as we were landing - the view landing in Venice on a clear day is pretty awesome, though.

Venice to Udine
The cancelled/rebooked flight meant that I lost the ticket I'd bought from Venice Mestre Station to Udine, however, after I bought the first ticket the conference organizers mentioned that taking local rail was the easiest way to do things anyway. Commuter rail has been a significant part of my life in two places - New Jersey and Bangalore. In New Jersey, you would never think to get a ticket in advance - NJ Transit is a walk up, buy your ticket, be on your way kind of deal. In Bangalore, even traveling similar distances you would never imagine not buying your ticket in advance, because the trains were usually full and because you didn't want to deal with the ticket window person who spoke a different language, and because you needed to always work under the assumption that Indians were generally benevolent but always trying to rip you off in order to simultaneously retain control of your credit cards and your sanity.

Italy is much more a New Jersey type deal - they had machines which talked English to me and sold me second class tickets to Udine on the next available Trenitalia train. Thank heavens that worked, because, Trenitalia and my credit cards had a brief falling out two weeks ago when I first tried to reserve tickets, but they appear to have made amends since.

So, I lost the equivalent of a $40 Amtrack ticket from Philadelphia to NYC and got a $10 NJ Transit ticket instead. Unfortuantely, I then got hit with a 50 euro fine because I didn't validate my ticket. Rick Steves tells me that there was a yellow box near the platform where I was supposed to do this - I guess I will have to look for where said yellow box is in Udine. Also, apparently if I had sought out the conductor immediately I could have potentially avoided the fine. So, this is a damned expensive trip to Udine.

I was planning to stay in the CISM dorms, but when I got to the place where the map said CISM was, it was dark and locked, so I was in Udine with, apparently, no hotel. Assuming the conference organizers actually reserved me a room at CISM as they claim they did, I'll probably still have to pay for the room I had reserved tonight, but I'm in a different place. And the internet doesn't work, of course, though there is supposed to be both wired and wireless the latter doesn't work my mac and the former just doesn't work at all so I won't be able to post this tonight - so that's great.

I'm pretty frustrated. Tomorrow better go better.

(Update from the future: tomorrow did go better! And we got the Best Student Paper award. I wasn't able to post this before because I didn't have internet access, but that's a rant for a different place.)

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