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Monday, September 22nd, 2003

traveling hard, redux

At the risk of making our trip sound like an extended international disaster, I’m going to tell the story of the ride home before I tell the stories of the nice times that preceded it. I have to do this because my photos are temporarily inaccessible for reasons that will soon become clear.


At some point, you just have to give it up. Things go so wrong, so ridiculously bad and unfair and dumb, there’s no point even thinking about it any more. Look through the problem… visualize walking away on the other side. Wave at that person, who is a little bit older and a little bit wiser and a lot less bitter. (If he waves back with a little smirk like, “boy, are you in for a rough ride!”, shoot him.)

Our first leg on the trip home was a 30 minute flight from Naxos to Athens. The flight was delayed. We weren’t concerned, because we’d planned a short overnight in Athens to ensure that we would make the our connection. What could go wrong?

We had checked one suitcase full of dirty clothes, and another with all of our toiletries, fresh travel clothes for the next morning, assorted souvenirs, the backup CD of all our photos, the power supply for my laptop, the USB cable for the camera, and every pair of underwear I own that wasn’t in the first suitcase.

I used to be the paranoid type; I’d always bring a change of clothes in my carry-on so I’d have something to wear when my bags got lost. But then I flew a lot and my bags never got lost, so I stopped worrying about it, even after my bags really did get lost and I had to wear a pair of torn-up jeans and 10-year-old Chuck Taylors (travel clothes) to a dress-up family reunion, where all my in-laws were wearing ties and jackets. Oh, I was the inscrutable Ausländer that day, I can tell you.

Anyway, we were two of thirty passengers, flying a tiny plane from a tiny airport to a place not very far away. What could go wrong?

Well, for starters, the airline (Olympic Airways, I curse their name) could decide that the plane was overloaded and leave all the baggage behind. We stood around the carousel in Athens for forty minutes before anybody thought to tell us.

When would our bags catch up? They were to be put on a 10pm ferry, to arrive in Athens at 2am. We requested that Olympic hold our luggage at the Athens airport, where we’d pick them up on our way out of town.

This nixed our plans for a fast tour of Athens. By the time we’d waited for our suitcases, then done the baggage-tracing song and dance, and rode the cab downtown for 45 minutes, we had about two hours left to eat and get to bed if we seriously planned to become conscious at our 3am wake-up call. Then, too, we were dressed for the beach, which is where we’d just left. I’d uncharacteristically worn shorts and a T-shirt for the flight, anticipating another Ia-esque baggage drag through Athens. It was sure to be cooler in Athens, but all my warm clothes were still on Naxos.

The woman at the front desk of the hotel said, “You’ll be in room 215.” I asked, by way of confirmation, “That’s a nonsmoking room, right?” She said, “We don’t have any nonsmoking rooms.” I think I started feeling nauseous right there in the lobby, to save time upstairs.

We found a table at the restaurant nearest the hotel and ordered two of our standbys, which we’ve eaten in a dozen restaurants over the past 10 days: greek salad, stuffed tomatoes. The salad was very good. The tomatoes were stuffed with hamburger.

I took the news like a kick in the (empty) stomach. The menu hadn’t specified, and after ordering the dish so many times I had not even considered the possibility. But there they were on the plate, oozing orange grease, violated like so many pepperoni pizzas.

Credit goes to the waiter for graciously taking the them off the bill. We packed up and left, grateful that we’d ordered only a half bottle of wine. Who’d want to linger over wine when all the main courses were, for us, inedible?

I think that’s when I gave up. I counted out the hours: 25. In 25 hours I’d be getting off the plane in San Francisco, tired and underdressed but moving quickly thanks to Olympic Airways’ convenient baggage delivery service.

There was still the chance that Olympic would have our bags for us at the airport in the morning, but I didn’t expect it. I figured if I ever see them again, I’d feel fortunate. Maybe I’ve gone overboard in wondering whether my bags will ever find me, but after the Naxos debacle I have a hard time imagining that Olympic will steward my bags on its flight to NYC, and then (as they’ve promised) pay FedEx to deliver them to California. Any idea what it costs to overnight 115 kilos across the country? A whole lot more than the $100 we paid for the flight from Naxos to Athens, I’m sure.

We found a better cafe two doors down, ordered vegetarian stuffed tomatoes and the other half of our bottle of red wine. The waitress was cheerful and welcoming, unlike the oily mob-looking guys at the meat place, and we recovered our spirits while drinking same.

Needless to say, our bags were not at ATH this morning. The last I heard, just before boarding the plane, was that even though an Olympic agent had been dispatched to the port at 4:00 AM to meet the ferry, he wouldn’t manage to get the bags back to the airport for three more hours.


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posted to channel: Travel
updated: 2004-02-22 14:49:16

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