The Standby Story
PREFACE: What you will read below, you will hardly believe. But I assure you every bit of it is 100% true and 0% fiction. And as most crazy travel stories, it transcends into a cultural experience that I will never forget.
There are two flights out of the Venice airport to the United States operated by Delta airlines this time of year (that would be high season in the middle of summer). One to Atlanta at 11:00 and one to new York City and 13:20. For the past three days, I failed to get on six flights back home. Yep, that's right - six of them. This is the story of the progressing unbelievable experience flying standby.
It all began while I was working on a sailboat in Croatia for the summer. Saturday I had found out that the other stewardesses who were 5 years younger than me and on their first season in the industry were making double than me (purely for being Croatian), I quit on the spot. Not a fan of inequality - I mean who is?
I packed up my things, disembarked the boat and purchased an impromptu easyJet flight out that night to Venice, Italy. This was the nearest airport to me where Delta airlines flew directly to the US from without a partner airline - since I was flying on a buddy pass. I landed around 23:00 and decided to crash in the airport, since the flight out was tomorrow at 11:00. Only offering lumpy benches too uncomfortable to sleep on, I chose the linoleum floor to lay my weary head.
After sleeping on the floor my first night there, and not gettin on the first two flights, I decided to take the water taxi into Venice. When purchasing my roundtrip ticket (27 euro), the woman at the counter had handed me my pass, but my card payment didn't go through. I guessed that since I hadn't inform my bank I'd be in Italy before leaving the country over two months ago, I needed to call them and sort the issue out. Once I walked away to do so, I realized I already had the ticket in my possession and that the next boat was leaving in three minutes. I devilishly decided to hop in line and sneak on with my pass that I hadn't paid for. DON'T JUDGE! Ten minutes into the boat ride, one of the drivers comes up to me and tells me in Italian I didn't pay and I had to go with him. IMMEDIATELY regretting my decision and knowing I was caught, I was prepared for some Italian bullshit, like a cop waiting for me wherever they'd toss me off the boat. I assume his colleague called him from the office and described what I looked like. The man informed he would turn a blind eye, take my return ticket, and let me off the boat where I wanted. Fair enough. In a panic, I agreed, left the boat, and luckily grabbed a hostel (which happened to be the nicest one I have stayed at in my life linked here).
I tried to remain cheerful and enjoy what I thought would be my only night in Italy on this layover. I strolled through the streets, lamented at the canals and picked out the cutest trattatoria to score some real gnocchi. I asked if the restaurant would do to go, and they agreed. But only when I received my food, they told me they don't have to go forks. I said why would you serve someone to go without a fork? And with their shrugged shoulder response, I remembered, THIS IS ITALY. How did someone as impatient as I manage to live here for 5 months while studying abroad?
The next day I didn't get on both flights, so I decided to stay in the Marriott hotel nearest to the airport, where my Dad gets a discount. I felt too traumatized by the hassle of getting into Venice on that taxi boat again. Plus Netflix's new Orange Is The New Black season dropped and I honestly felt like treating myself to an afternoon binge watching in a private room. Let's not forget I haven't had a private space to sleep alone in after sailing for over the past month at this point. But the next day is by far the most interesting...
After failing on flight five and six, I had a mini melt down at the Delta counter. The staff knows me by name at this point from the past three days and is genuinely sympathetic. Repeating to themselves, "poveretta!" Mid tears, three of them offer me to stay at their house for the night. The youngest and harmless seeing of the men, Tudor, said the most typical thing I could have imagined in this scenario, "You can stay with me, do not worry - I live with my Mamma. Do not be afraid. We can go home, feed you a proper meal and you can take a shower". Mid tears and starving for something other than airport croissants, I agreed (knowing I trusted my intuition and was able to protect myself if push came to shove). We exited through the staff security, hopped in his yellow, micro sized fiat and head to a neighboring town called Spinea, approximately 30 minutes from the airport.
We made pasta for dinner together, I practiced my Italian and we watched a Kiwi show about the crazy things Airport Security guards find. His white, spotted dog Macchia sits beside me now, panting in the heat. I am currently writing this from Tudor's couch... Where his Mother (originally from Moldova) has been practicing Russian with me while making up the bed. It is 35 degrees celsius. I miss air conditioning. I miss my bed. It's been a long week. And if I seem to be complaining, I am sorry. For I am indeed grateful for this Italian hospitality and the power of pasta uniting new friends.
Tomorrow shows about 20 available seats to JFK airport (NYC). I won't make it to Orlando by nightfall, but at least staying in the city will be a pleasant change from airport floors and imposing on Italian airline representative's mothers.
*In best Spongebob voice* "12 hours later..." Still waiting - cuz Italy.