Monday, June 15, 2009

Rome, day 1 June 13

To say it was a long day, getting here, is a ridiculous understatement. I think the worst part of the whole trip was the drive from Charlottesville to Philadelphia. Why Philadelphia? Don’t ask. It seemed like a good idea back in February when I bought our tickets. We’d hardly left the house when I had to go to the bathroom. We finally stopped for bathroom breaks and gas in the prim little town of Remington, VA, somewhere between C’ville and Washington. The gas station was the type that makes you borrow a key for the bathroom, and the key is attached to a sawed-off broomstick handle. There were live cockroaches swimming in the toilet so I decided I wouldn’t go after all. And then there turned out to be no other bathroom opportunity until we’d gone through check-in and security at the airport. But wait—I haven’t even gotten us to Philly yet. The day had turned out to be an adventure and we hadn’t even left Virginia yet.

There was the Washington traffic to get through and I missed an exit and got flustered and then Jon had to drive and he kept gunning the engine to pass people, when all of a sudden the car started acting up. I think the transmission got confused from all Jon’s wild accelerations because he couldn’t get it to go over 55mph and the engine was revving. This was terrifying, as you can imagine, and we were still only in DC, but the car miraculously righted itself after ten minutes of its strange behavior and we got the rest of the way to Philadelphia without incident, other than the horrible traffic.

In Philly, the security guys were *assholes.* None of my kids have flown since they were babies, and Grace and Seamus were panicking, what with their ziplock bags of toiletries, and their passports and boarding passes, and trying to take their shoes off, all the while the security guys are bellowing MOVE IT! Poor Grace paused before going through the metal detector –because she thought maybe she was supposed to wait until they told her to go--and the guy screamed at her, “What, do you want to just stand there for twenty minutes?” Hello. She is a CHILD. Jon and I are two parents, taking FOUR children through security, and the yelling and meanness are inexcusable.

The flight to London was uneventful. I had been afraid to fly and had planned to read Sense & Sensibility as my comfort literature during the flight. I was so looking forward to it! After we took off, I pulled it out of my bag and read the first line: “Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage…” Sir Walter Elliot? Kellynch Hall? With horror, I realized I’d accidentally packed Persuasion, and not Sense and Sensibility. This was very vexing, but I amused myself with the meager comforts that British Airways offers its “World Traveler” customers and all was well. Anyway, the people at Heathrow manage to run the security screening without acting the part of slave drivers.

We got to Rome with no trouble, although by the time we landed we’d all been up for twenty-four hours straight because none of us slept well on the plane. My fear that the landlady would not speak English was realized, but by a miracle, our driver knew her and called her for us.

So we are settled in our apartment. It is the apartment we expected, although there does not appear to be a washing machine, as promised. I keep thinking we’re just not seeing it because it is a special tiny European washing machine, about the size of a breadbox and hidden in a cupboard.

The day couldn’t end without one last crisis. We hadn’t been in the apartment an hour before Mr. McP locked himself in the bathroom. It had a surprisingly strong dead bolt-type lock with one of those ancient looking keys. Jon and I called to him through the key hole and tried to direct him in using the key properly, but we could see it wasn’t catching. Our landlady, Rosella, lives next door and she told us that if there was a problem, we should just go out into the street and stand under her window and yell, “Rosella! AIUTO!” (Italian for "help.")  I didn’t like the idea of announcing our crisis to the entire street, but luckily thought to have Mr. McP throw the key out the window while I stood in the street to catch it. Jon was able to unlock the door from the outside and we have now confiscated all keys so it never happens again.

Now we are utterly exhausted. Too tired to eat, or do much of anything, although we slogged the tiny streets of Trastevere forever, looking for an ATM. Then we bought take-out pizza and now I am going to bed, even though it is 6:47pm. I have been up for thirty-two hours.


  1. What an adventure. I'm appalled by the security in Philly. We have NEVER had that problem at Dulles, never.

    I hope you get some sleep! Our first in night in London last year, we all slept 13-14 hours.

  2. But think of all the $$ you saved by going to Philly! :) Glad you guys made there safe and sound. Have fun!!

    The Secular Life Guide

  3. What a jerk to yell at a kid like that. I would send in a formal complaint to the TSA. After you have a fabulous time in Rome, of course.