Rome, Day I: Flying! And Other Stuff!

Micah Osler, copy editor

Loyal readers: for the next several days, I’ll be in Rome, doing stuff and probably eating, too. This is where I’ll write about stuff I did and also, probably, stuff I ate. There will most likely also be anecdotes about my inability to learn even basic Italian and the loudness of mopeds.

Observation: Air Canada is basically Delta with three major differences.

1. No snacks.

2. Tiny servings of pop

3. To make up for the last two, a baffling cavalcade of French.

Now, I’m not calling the cavalcade of French baffling just because I don’t speak French, although that definitely contributed to it. What was baffling was that every time there was an announcement over the PA, the flight attendants would read it off in English, then in French, and the French version would always be way longer or way shorter than the English one. Maybe it was just because of the weirdness of language, but I suspect that maybe there was a hidden message in there about the Québécois Independence Movement or idiot Americans or cheese or something.

Anyway, the flight I took on Air Canada to Rome was interesting. After the first leg from Minneapolis on a tiny plane inexplicably named “Jazz”, I had a layover in Toronto, and I realized that, despite having it force-fed to me by America’s science educators for the past eleven years, I still have no idea how the metric system works. I’m okay with kilometers in short distances, but I still found myself giggling at someone talking about a 40-degree heat wave.

Also, I was unduly excited by the word “colour”.

The second leg of the flight – the overnight leg – was among the strangest experiences of my life so far, and that’s coming from someone who’s seen both “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Speed Racer” from start to finish. We walked into the plane, and First Class looked like something from a really dumb sci-fi movie – diagonal pods with mood lighting along the bottom, plentiful reading material, an adjustable iPad-esque movie screen, and probably some sort of cryogenic freezer in which to hibernate during the long space journey. I was pretty jealous.

My jealousy only increased when we passed through the Sacred Veil into the horrifying cabal of the main cabin. It seemed like something from a medieval triptych of Hell, the primary difference being that, as far as I could tell, nobody was actively on fire. The seats, uncomfortably close together, were filled with crying children and their screaming parents, gossipy family members yelling across the plane to each other in annoying voices, people blocking the hallways while trying to stuff their enormous carry-ons into the overhead bin, the cursed souls of the damned screaming to no avail*, hordes of grinning skeletons lustily swaying to a deep-voiced chant in an ancient and no doubt evil language*, and the morbidly obese. The whole plane smelled vaguely like bad perfume and feet, which is an odor no man should ever have to smell.

Despite this phantasmagorical first impression, the flight was actually okay. The children actually stopped wailing surprisingly quickly, the family in the seats next to me turned out to be bookish and Canadian (my type of people), and the morbidly obese fell asleep. More importantly, I followed their lead and conked out an hour into the flight.

Sleeping on an overnight flight is weird. Day and night go by really fast, and the time of day essentially doesn’t mean anything. I went to sleep when it was dark out and woke up when it was light, but it certainly wasn’t the full night’s sleep that I’m used to. I think that flight reset my internal clock to Greenland time or something.

We got into the airport at about 10 a.m. Roman time, which was 3 a.m. Minneapolis time, and, upon finding our ride into the city, began our final journey to Rome.

As we got on the road, my total ignorance of the metric system re-emerged. Every sign was in kilometers per hour, and while they ran the gamut from 30 to 120, the actual speed they represented was, to me, totally unclear. Nonetheless, it was obvious that we were going way too fast.

For lack of a more precise measurement, I’ll use one that the late great Douglas Adams invented – R. R is a variable that represents the reasonable speed something should be going at any given time.

We were going about 8R.

Eventually (and much quicker than we should have), we arrived at our rented apartment. My dad was standing on a street corner, waiting for us. He waved his arms frantically, and we reciprocated.

It was a long journey, but we were finally there.