Friday was both the longest day of my life, and I can confidently say, the worst day of my life.

The Beginning:

It began with me going to sleep at 3 in the morning hoping to catch a quick three hour nap before having to meet at the school for the shuttle bus to the airport at 7 and then catching the plane at 9:50. I woke up at 5 and decided to go back to sleep. Bad idea. I didn’t open my eyes again until 7:05.

At this point I immediately begin freaking out. I know I won’t make the shuttle bus, they have to leave so people can catch their flights too. It didn’t even cross my mind to call the people who run the progam there. I was already late to the airport and needed to just get out of that apartment.

Which comes to my next problem. I only have 10 Euro to pay for a taxi, this will most definitely NOT get me to the airport. So in my slowly-going-crazy mind I decided to get to an ATM (one that I can only reach by taking a bus since I have very very heavy luggage that I won’t beable to get uphill). So I get out of my apartment by 7:15.

Of note: I had a roommate that was also supposed to meet with everyone at the school at 7. As far as I know, she did not even try to wake me up. Just left for the bus with me there still sound asleep. While she began to be civil with me towards the end of the month, she was still never actually what I would call “nice”, and now I have no reason to even try to think of her as a good person. Most of you who read this know I almost always try to find something good about someone, something to like from the very first moment I meet them, with her it was either unpleasant, just plain rude, or civil in the most basic sense. At this point there is nothing that could redeem her to me. Which is okay because I will never have to come in to contact with her for the rest of my life. For those of you who know about it, to give you an idea, I dislike her as much as I do the experience I had with The Coffee Pot.

Moving on, once I get out of the elevator one floor down, I hear the phone ringing in the apartment- the apartment that I left my keys to inside since I was never going to enter it again. I knew it was the ISA program people calling to see where I was. I don’t know why they only decided to call me at 7:15 when I would have been considered late at 7:00, but they did. So I bound up the stairs, bang on the door, my roommates don’t wake up, and this is the point where the first panic attack of my life hits me.I started breathing very heavily and quickly. But I still maintain the ‘I have to get to the airport’ state of mind.

The Bus:
So I get to the bus stop where I wait for about 5 minutes with everyone passing by in cars giving me weird looks because I’m just this really sad looking girl who is just plain crying with two huge pieces of luggage. So a guy comes to the bus stop, and looks at me, but being me I can’t meet his eye and am trying to be the strong person, then I realize I’m being stupid and he can probably help me so I let him ask me what’s wrong. It turns out, of course, that he only speaks Italian, but he gets a young man to listen to my story and calm me down and give me directions. He tells me it might be better and cheaper to just take the bus/train to get to the airport. I just have to go around the corner and then take the bus to the train station and get on the train that takes me to the airport, which does make sense to me. At this point I begin to stop crying and breathing heavily and I make it to the bus stop. The bus is full, but I get me and my luggage on board and a few stops later, I realize I missed the nearest train station stop. Awesome. I decide just to stay on a few more stops since the bus was going in the direction of the Pyramid and I know there is a train stop there or at least definitely another bus to a train or even the ATM for a taxi. So even though I’m still in the throws of the panic attack with my stomach starting to turn, I can still do reductive reasoning.

The Metro Station:
So it’s called the Metro station, but really it acts as a bus station, an underground Metro station, and an above ground train station-maybe the metro and the train are the same?.  In any case I’m lucky enough that my bus stops right in front of it and I am able to get in, figure out where to go by asking people, who are very accomodating, and finally get in the direction of the airport train. Which of course ends up being the second furthest stop and oddly, the only one which does not have an elevator to get up to the ground level (all the walkways across train tracks are underground). So, did I already say how ridiculously heavy my luggage both were? Cause they were damn heavy. I think I may have missed the train just getting up there, but luckily one came every 15 minutes or so, so I had more time to just sit and wait and begin to start comforting myself a little. It was about 8:15 at this point, and while I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make the flight, at least I would make it to the airport in one piece. So I nudge my way on the train, can only manage to get a standing stop by the doors, which is okay because at this point I don’t want to move my luggage any further than I need to. The train ends up taking up the longest portion of my time because it is about 10 or more stops to the airport which is the last stop.

The FCO Airport:
So I make it into the check in area from the train stop pretty easily, only to realize this HUGE check in area, like three Sky Harbor check-in areas turned sideways and put next to eachother, does not have any American lines, you have to take a shuttle bus to the American check-in area.

I get to the american terminal and guess what? Continental Airlines has stopped checking in, there is no one at the check-in desk. I have to go to their information desk apparently. The woman at the info desk says I just have to be bumped since I won’t make it to the boarding area on time. The next flight is at 2 pm and doesn’t start checking in until 11. It is now 9:20. So I have to wait around in that miserable terminal about the size and feel of a high school gym for an hour and a half until I can check my huge bag, and even then still have time to waste until the flight takes off hours later. Great. I am just glad to be at the airport, so I resign to hanging around while my flight just takes off without me. I go to the phones to call my parents and let them know what’s up. As I’m beginning to slide my card into the phone, the lady grabs my hand, and says “Go. Run.” This other guy grabs one of my luggage and I take the other and we run to check my bag. I have to sign a release that I know my bag will probably not make it with me but at this point I don’t care. I cut through the whole security line, explaining the whole way that my flight was really soon and not even taking no for an answer. I made it to the gate, which was another shuttle bus away I think, with time to spare. While I should have spent it finishing off postcards and mailing them, or maybe, I don’t know, eating. I didn’t. I told my story to this other girl who was in my Archeology class who was really nice. She had her own bad morning and had missed the shuttle too, only taken a taxi so it wasn’t so bad, although I think she had the swine flu or something, she was pretty sick, the poor thing. So we exchanged stories and that really helped to calm me down. The flight was late, and we didn’t start boarding until 9:50. I’m kinda glad I was pushed around because I ended up being in the front of the plane and being able to just feel the comfort of knowing that I was in my seat and on my way home just that much sooner. The woman sitting next to me didn’t want to bother me to get up, she said I looked so relieved. The flight was fine, I had to force myself to eat the ‘chicken’ and ‘vegetables’ that were placed in front of me because I hadn’t eaten anything and had just spent the past three hours running around.

The Newark Airport:
I was lucky enough to get my checked luggage. I thought it would have been one of the first ones to come out, so I was sitting there very distressed for a while until after three loads of luggage came out, there was my big ugly red suitcase. Customs was nothing but a long line, and then I had to re-check the big bag and go through security again. No problems. Got to the gate with an hour to spare and did some shopping. I found a new to me tuberose scent by Voluspa called Tuberosa Agave. It smells just like my grandmas plants at night and I am excited about it. It’s more Tuberose than the Jasmine Tuberose from Henri Bendel that I love, however I think I still like my Henri Bendel better.

About ten minutes before boarding over the intercom there was a warning that some departure gates may be closing due to bad weather. The plane boarded just a few minutes late, and then once we got on the pilot said that they were still in the process of refueling so it would be five minutes and then we’d be on our way into the air. Wrong. That five minutes ended up costing us 2 hours and 45 minutes. All of which we spent on the plane. After that the flight was okay, a little bumpy but at this point I was both happy to be on a plane that was taking me to Phoenix and antsy just because I’d been sitting all day long. I didn’t notice anything awful about the flight other than the wait, the food, and the cramped space.

The End:
Once we landed I called Mike. He had just gotten stranded on the side of the highway ramp with an empty gasoline tank. Sweet! Also he was freaking out and yelling at me for no reason other than the fact that he was upset about being late. I tried to calm him down a little bit and told him everything was going to be alright and said to just take his time getting to the airport, his dad could bring him gasoline and then he could come and pick me up.

I took my time going to get my bag, and it ended up being there when I got there. I sat around in the Arizona night heat for almost an hour, but my body was so broken and exhausted that I didn’t even care.

I got a hold of Mike who worried me mid-conversation because his breaks went out while he was talking to me. Then he didn’t call back and I had to call him 20 minutes later to find out he was okay and he and his dad were coming to pick me up and his car was being towed. Of course they get there another half hour later because the airport is confusing right now, no fault of theirs.

Anyways, we got to his apartment okay and in one piece and I fell asleep at midnight after 40 hours of June 26 2009.

That was my last contact with Rome and honestly, I can say that the Romans are incredibly good people. I could not believe the help and concern that they gave and had for me.I will miss the city and it’s culture and it’s amazing history and beauty, but for now, at this moment with my boyfriend snoring behind me, I am happy to be back.

Rome was the experience of a lifetime.

p.s. Even though I am done with Rome, I will still probably be making picture updates with comments through the next week. There are many Polaroids that I still have to scan and I also have to get pictures off my broken digital camera-hopefully these are on the memory stick and it won’t be too hard to get them.