Flying to Italy

I just got back from two weeks vacationing (and a little working) in Italy. This was my first trip out of the country, so I’m back fresh with “gee, that’s different” ideas.

My overall impression of Italy is that it is a lot like California. When you land, it looks a lot like California. Most people understand fragments of English, but the official language is obviously something else. When we landed at the airport, the terrain had a “golden brown” color with scattered trees, much like San Diego and Los Angeles. Italy has many clean and beautiful parts, but also lots of graffiti and run down parts. Traffic is congested, parking difficult, and driving is completely different than what most Americans are used to. The legal system goes to extremes to protect certain things. Historical ruins are highly protected. Seatbelts are compulsory. Persons over age 70 are supposedly not allowed to drive, yet we saw many do it anyway.

Traveling, domestic and international, has turned into a “hurry up and wait” game. We waited in line at the Delta check-in counter for over an hour. Waited again at security. Waited again for the train to take us to our concourse. Waited again for customs, currency exchange, flight take off, the flight itself, passport control, baggage claim, etc. Our flight was nine-and-a-half hours, but the total journey took 22 hours. The waiting game reminds me of Six Flags or Disney World where you wait in a line longer than any DMV, but you put up with it because there is some cool exhibit or ride at the end of it.

I made sure I didn’t get much sleep the night before, that way I would be tired and sleep better on the flight. Being cooped up in an airplane for 10 hours doesn’t make me really happy, and the more of that time I could make disappear, the better. I slept probably 4 hours, watched a two-hour movie and either talked with other passengers or listened to podcasts the rest of the flight. I bought a $50 pair of noise cancelling headsets that cut down on the din of the engines (we were seated in the back). When I slept, I also used a pair of 38 dB ballistic earplugs. Combined with the headsets, the noise was about the same as my air conditioning at home.

After landing in Rome, I saw my first strange sign (I collect pictures of interesting signs). The sign was in the jetway ramp connecting the airplane to the building. “Hurry up, don’t be late for your flight,” was the only thing I could think of that it might mean. It would be another two days before I would realize that they were the equivalent of our “EXIT” signs in the United States. It makes you wonder, “if I didn’t understand the pictogram, how will people who don’t speak English understand our signs in the United States.” As the weeks go on, I would develop a deep appreciation for multi-lingual people, signs, and vending machines.

We laugh a little about foreigners here in the United States, but once I got on the streets of Rome, I definitely had a glossed over look of my own. Fortunately for me, Italians are a little more tolerant than Americans are.

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