[ Rome, Italy ]
Because there just had to be one more adventure, didn’t there?
CASABLANCA AIRPORT, MOROCCO – 15:55
After a long wait, numerous security checkpoints, various hassles you’d prefer to forget, and a few tense moments praying the double-sized guy in triple-sized denial isn’t the passenger soon to be seated next to you, you finally begin to relax. Maybe your flight will leave on time, after all; at the very least—you’re done with the usual pre-flight anxieties and “security” humiliations. The flight attendants go about their preparations, everyone settles in.
DITTO – 16:10
You look at your phone to verify the time: ten minutes past departure time, the door is still open, no sign of taxiing out. The murmuring crescendos slowly, rising above the white noise of the ventilation system to signal your fellow passengers’ restlessness. The cabin is too warm. Why aren’t we moving? Clearly it’s not the weather—crisp & clear & temperate enough to make a Los Angeleno drool with envy. The airport is too small for it to be a traffic issue, and there is no sign of a mechanical team outside the aircraft. What else could it be? With typical First World impatience, you begin to fidget.
DITTO – 16:12
There is a sudden burst of activity near the cockpit as the flight crew ushers a red-faced, sweating, panicked-looking gentleman into the cabin. “Gentleman” is you being kind. In fact, the man appears disheveled—dirty jeans, ragged hiking boots, grimy baseball cap and a thermal undershirt. He’s out of breath. You suspect he stinks. He looks like he stinks; malodorous. He’s making eye contact with random folks, mumbling “I’m sorry” abashedly in French, English, and Italian as he rushes down the aisle. At least he seems appropriately apologetic. (As befits a malodorous, grimy, flight delayer.) He is quickly seated, and—at long last—the cabin door is closed. The expected commands are issued by the pilots, followed by various beeps and dings, then the plane starts to move. You wonder what sort of general fuck-up this guy must be. How hard can it be to get to the plane on time? In a mini-Me-sized airport like Mohammed V International? How inconsiderate!
By now, though, you have realized that in this particular story That Guy is me. The Transglobalist. That Guy who delayed Alitalia Flight 875; That Guy who put an Airbus A-320 on hold. Go ahead, we’re friends: you can call me Mr. Popular.
MARRAKECH AIRPORT – 10:00 (earlier that morning)
The thing is, I do know better. I do show up a full two-and-a-half hours early—even for a simple, twenty minute domestic hop to the home of Rick’s Cafe. I do sign in at the Royal Air Maroc counter ninety minutes before take-off, do pay for my excess baggage, do convert my remaining local cash into Turkish Lira, do proceed immediately to the departure area. Where I do wait. And wait. And wait. Fifteen minutes after my scheduled departure, the PA system regrets to inform me that my flight has been cancelled, that I must annul my passport departure stamp and reclaim my baggage for—alas!—no flights to Casablanca today. Apparently the plane is underbooked. (There are seven passengers on the 737’s manifest for the two scheduled flights that morning, so maybe they’ve got a point.)
About the time we’re forced to reclaim our baggage I start freaking out. A spokesman shows up to ask about our connections in Casablanca, and says three of us might be able to make it on time, though he isn’t optimistic; they’ll put all of us on a bus. The problem? It’s already one o’clock, my flight to Rome leaves at four o’clock, and it’s nearly a three hour drive. Zero margin for error.
We board the mini-bus. Everything takes forever. We stop to pay tolls. For a traffic jam. For a fake frickin’ camel caravan, burdened with tourists of the worst variety. For gas. After filling up, the driver pulls off to the side of the lot, climbs out, lights a cigarette. Understanding we’re pressed for time, we ask if this might not be the wrong time for a ciggy. A passenger is missing, he sez, meaning me—apparently moving two rows back confused him. Seriously? Ever try counting? All told, it isn’t looking good. If we’re late, the likely changes will cost money I don’t have, and I fall asleep rehearsing this TODO list. When I awaken, one of the guys up front asks for my passport—he’s on the phone with Alitalia. Looks like they’ll get my paperwork done in advance and rush me through security and passport control if (big if) we get there in time. The sign outside the window reads “Casablanca, 158km.” Fingers crossed.
At 15:40, we’re sitting in line to exit the tollway. At 15:45 we take the airport exit. Ten minutes later, we’re in front of Terminal 2 unloading our baggage. Alitalia is in Terminal 1, of course. My subsequent sprint through the airport’s interior was—it must be said—impressive, particularly since I had no idea where I was going. I was, like, totally channeling that vintage Hertz Renta-car ad campaign—the one starring pre-white bronco-era O. J. Simpson. Two guys from Alitalia spot me in the distance and head me off. They’re carrying my boarding pass, a departure card for passport control, and a pre-completed form for my excess baggage. One guy has a trolley. I load my checked bags onto the cart, hand them the cash to pay for it, and try to say “thank you,” but I’m so out of breath I can’t speak. Guy Number Two gets on his radio and says something in Arabic, then motions me to follow him.
It’s five minutes past four o’clock. Departure time has come and gone.
Whatever I may have to say about the inadequacies of Royal Air Maroc, the Alitalia folks were spectacular. I followed Guy Number Two through two security checks, passport control, and the final gate check in five minutes flat. In seven minutes I arrived at the aircraft door, where the flight crew met me, hustling me—sweating, embarrassed, and thankful—down the aisle and into my seat.
And there you are, impatient, giving me that evil eye, wondering….