27 September 2005

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Registan

It was a tight connection in Rome, but I plowed through the crowds; an American bowling ball to the European pins. With minutes to spare, I triumphantly presented my ticket to the gate clerk.

“May I have an aisle seat? I’d like to stretch out.” Truth be told, I just wanted access to their bar cart.

“This is no good.” He replied, pushing it back into my hands. “We no longer have an agreement with the issuing carrier.”

“You did when I left the States yesterday.”

“Ah, but not today. If you would like to buy a new one-way ticket for only $750, I can get you on the plane.”

“But I already have a ticket!” I protested. “And a well thought out and neatly copied itinerary. See?” I waved my “Evil Scientist’s Union” notebook under his prodigious nose.

He didn’t seem impressed. “This is sooo not my problem.” His body language screamed.

Sniff. “Well then, your US carrier will call here soon with their solution. In the mean time I must leave. These ladies will take the call.” He waved airily in a vague backward direction and fled. When I turned to talk to another stranded passenger, the two women used my inattention to escape.

“After all,” They must have thought. “With a few meters head start, the fat man will be unlikely to catch us.”

So, I had to return to the original carrier. They were actually very helpful. They booked me on a flight the next day and arranged for a hotel room in the city.

“Would you like access to your check through baggage to get a change of clothing?” Asked the customer service representative. Yes. My stench was stunning flies that passed too close. Yes, I would indeed like a change of clothing.

Alas, my baggage was no longer in Rome. The second airline, it seemed, was willing to make a compromise and sent my baggage, if not me, on to its final destination. I hoped that it proved to be the same as mine; but in the interim, it meant that my clothing option was limited to the sweat soaked garments that were currently stuck to me like cling-film. Loverly.

I made my way to the hotel, washed my skivvies and socks in the sink, then hung them out to dry on the balcony clothes line. Now it was time for sustenance. It was a beautiful day and the only cloud in the sky was a distant black spot. I decided to walk.

Now, Rome is a civilized city and watering holes line the Via Aurelia so that one may walk into the heart of town and never suffer from the slightest thirst. In fact, in three hours, I had made a grand total of three thirst-free blocks. It was at this time that I noticed that it had become ominously dark. I muzzily wondered if a thunderstorm was upon us, when: “ka-RACK!”I heard the sound of a hundred Italian taxi drivers meeting at an intersection. Huge drops splattered the sidewalk, and the wind whipped trash around in strange, frenetic paths.

I dashed back to the Hotel, but it was too late. My shorts, vexed to nightmare by the howling storm, had caught the wind and were flapping their way towards the Holy See like a great, malevolent, albino bat.

Would the Italian Air force shoot them down? Would the Pope experience a Macbethian “By the pricking of my thumbs” moment? Would I be able to stand an eight hour flight to Central Asia wearing naught under wet woolen trousers?

The only question that really bothered me was the last; I have sensitive skin and the potential Italian replacement skivvies were little more than crotch floss with a pair of tiny triangular grabby bits.

I admitted defeat and purchased adult diapers from a pharmacy. They proved comfortable as could be, absorbent (eight hour flight, window seat; you do the math)and had the added benefit of halting a strip search before the cavity portion could get started.

But that’s a story for another day.

Spo'koinoi 'nochi, y’all. I’m having a grand time, and I’ll be back this weekend.

And that's the way I likes it.