Packed and excited, we arrived at the airport on Friday afternoon with plenty of time to check in and brush up on some important conversational Italian phrases. “La mia auto qui?” “Come si dice…?” “Dov’e il bagno?” The North American Reggio Study Tour to Reggio Emilia, Italy promised to be an enlightening experience for the three of us. We boarded the 747 for the first leg to Frankfurt.
We sat on the tarmac while the maintenance crew worked on a brake release. 20 minutes. 40 minutes. An hour. Just as the passengers were becoming restless, notifications from the airlines began to show up on iPhones. We knew before the flight crew alerted us, that we were going to need to change planes. The new 747 was at a different gate. So, we gathered our belongings and all 500 of us deplaned. Arriving at the new gate, the scramble to find an electric socket into which we could plug our depleted digital devices began. The gate showed that our new departure time was about an hour away; and 3 hours later than our original. But no matter, we could still make our connection from Frankfurt to Milan. No sweat.
Less than a full iPhone charge later the word you never want to hear came though the boarding gate mic. “Cancelled.” The cabin crew could not attend to this new, later flight, because it would cause them to work overtime. We were told to go home, but to be back at 11 AM for our new flight — complete with a new, fresh flight crew. Luckily my colleagues and I were local, so we left our bags, made some frantic phone calls to family and to those scheduled to meet our flight in Italy, and got rides home. A fitful sleep later we returned to SFO and cued for 90-minutes only to be reassigned completely different seats. We did meet wonderful people who found themselves in the same predicament, and who were able to keep a sense of humor and priority. As for my colleagues and me? We began a unique and rewarding bonding experience that, I feel quite certain, will last a life time.
The rescheduled flight got off – a day late – but on time. And, after a fast and furious ride down the A1 from Milano-Malpensa with a driver who spoke no English (and we no Italian), we did arrive safely at the Hotel Posta in Piazza DelMonte. We missed all of our first day (Sunday) events; the town of Reggio Emilia orientation tour, and the North American colleague ‘meet and greet.’ We treated ourselves to authentic Italian food and drink.
So…what got off to an inauspicious beginning, began to develop into a delightful, energizing, if exhausting learning experience.