Are you familiar with the story of Sisyphus? Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra in Greek mythology, notorious for his deceit and for killing tourists. He was later punished by having to roll a large boulder up a mountain, but when it would get to the top, it would roll back down, and he had to do it all over again. He might still be doing this, if Zeus hasn’t yet had a change of heart.
I begin with Sisyphus because I was recently (kind of) witness to a traveler getting killed. On what was supposed to be the last day of my Great Northern Italy Adventure™ with my best friends, Dec. 30, 2012, I said my farewells and boarded a train from Trieste towards Marco Polo International Airport in Venice. The three of them, Paolo, Allie, and Joseph, made a big display of saying goodbye, and I felt a strong homesick-like feeling, missing them before they had even left my sight. Paolo even ran alongside the train as it started to leave the station, continuing until it was too fast to keep up, and I had to fight back some tears.
I had gotten very little sleep that past week, wandering through 5 different cities in northern Italy with my friends, and I settled in and was snoozing in short order. I awoke and noticed people settling into their seats; we must have just left a station. I then noticed that I was riding backwards, yet I could have sworn that I was facing forward when I first boarded. We went slowly in that direction for another 3 minutes until we were at a station, Latisana. I heard annoyed hisses from the few people on board, so after awhile I decided to ask what’s happening.
I stood up and leaned over the seat in front of me, where a girl was riding. She spoke English so I asked her what was happening. She didn’t know, but there was some sort of delay, and the train had backed up to the last station to wait, where she had just gotten on at. An announcement was made, and she interpreted to me that it would be about 30 minutes. I remember getting slightly anxious, because I’m always cutting it close for important travel-related deadlines, but I could have taken the following train, so I reasoned that I had some spare time.
After 30 minutes, another announcement: though they apologize for the delay, it would be another 30 to 45 minutes before the train got moving. I really started to get nervous at this point. I had an 8:55pm flight with Easyjet from Venice to Berlin, and the following day from Berlin back home to New York City with Delta. If it was really accurate, and the 45 minutes was the absolute maximum extra time the train would sit still, I reckoned that I could squeeze my way onto that night’s flight to TXL.
Abeona & Adiona
Abeona, in Roman mythology, is the Goddess of Outward Journeys. Not only does she protect travelers, but also watches over the steps of young children. Adiona is her partner, sometimes referred to as the Goddess of Safe Return. Together they watch over travelers, Abeona on the departure, and Adiona on the return.
The girl in front of me quickly became my Adiona. Her name was Diletta, from Latisana and studying in Edinburgh. Diletta and I had already struck up a conversation during that second 30-minute segment, and we went out together for smoke breaks. That 45 minute maximum I gave myself went way over, and so I asked her if I could use her phone to call my best friends, Paolo and Alessandra, who were the ones I had taken the trip to see. By that point I was certain I missed my flight, and started calculating how much it might cost to change my flight. I called them, and they called back every 10 minutes or so, as they were feverishly working behind the scenes to find an alternative way to the airport for me.
The ticket-stamping guy on the train came to us, and Diletta asked him what was happening. He didn’t bullshit. Someone had jumped onto the tracks in an apparent suicide attempt, and the train had hit them (A link to the article found in Venezia Today can be found here, and a followup one here.) Another girl came over, and we became a little group for the remainder of the time. Meanwhile, Allie and Paolo continued to call, and in one last-ditch attempt, suggested I try taking a taxi there, at a cost of about €130! However, the ticket guy and the two girls didn’t seem to agree that I could even make it, especially if the gate will close at least half an hour before the flight. My three new friends spitballed ideas around, and I was reminded as to how warm a people the Italians are.
An hour, turned into two hours, and by then Paolo and Allie were looking at alternate travel plans by train or a later flight that would get me to Berlin by my 6:00am flight time the next morning. The ticket guy even, without me asking him, started searching train schedules to Berlin. They all came to the same conclusion at the same time – I would also miss my flight home from Berlin. Soon it was 2 hours and 40 minutes, and then I received a call from Paolo telling me to get off the train, that they would come and pick me up. Ironically, the situation ended while I was on that particular phone call, and the train took off, almost 3 hours behind schedule. They told me they would pick me up at the next station, Portogruaro. I thanked Diletta and the other two for all they did, and Diletta and I exchanged information so that we could try to keep in touch.
Janus, in Roman mythology, is the god of new beginnings and transitions, which is where we get the word January from. He is has a face on both sides of his head, one to look forward into the future, and one to look behind into the past.
Once getting off, I waited another hour for them to arrive. After dropping me off in Trieste for my journey back to New York, Joseph, Paolo, and Allie had been on the way to continue the trip to Padova, where they would stay with our friend, Sara, and celebrate New Year’s together. I felt horrible for altering their plans, because once they picked me up, we all went back to Udine for another night, since it was too late to get to Sara. I would go back, take care of rescheduling my flights, and then we’d take it from there. It was wonderful to see them, and when the three of them drove into the lot an hour after I got off the train and got out, all they said was, “Don’t say it.” I knew exactly what they meant, and they knew me well; they knew I would apologize for everything a million times. I apologized anyway.
When we got back to Allie’s home in Udine, they told me they wanted me to handle my situation first, and that they would help me. I got to the kitchen table and saw three laptops, one for each of them, out. I got on Allie’s and saw about 57 tabs on her internet browser open. Normally, I would scold her for taking up so much of the system’s resources, but instead I was filled with emotion, overcome and overwhelmed by affection at what I noticed – All gazillion of those tabs open were for me, every tab was either an airline page, or train schedule, even bus and driving times. That was only on Allie’s computer, and I know that Paolo and Joseph had each tried equally as hard to help me. I have the best friends in the world.
Soon, I got it squared away. The Easyjet flight from Venice to Berlin was forfeited, because it was a deeply-discounted ticket on a budget airline; that was $200 down the drain. Since I was rescheduling my Delta flight from Berlin to New York and would already have to pay a change fee, I asked them to change my departure city to Venice. They were able to accommodate me, at an additional cost to me of $576 ($250 for the change fee, and the rest for the difference in price). But, I would have two more nights to stay in Italy, as that flight wouldn’t leave until the morning of the 1st!
The next day, we went to Padova, and then I got to partake in what was the best night of the trip, New Year’s Eve. We met Sara and a bunch of Allie’s friends, and it became a magical night leading into the new year.
This post is dedicated first to Diletta Favro, my initial Adiona and savior during that ordeal. Diletta, you were so helpful to me, so kind, and I will never forget it. Grazie mille.
Then to my friends, Joseph Chakola, Paolo Cocco, and Alessandra Feru, the best friends a guy could ever dream of having. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, but I must have done something right to be fortunate enough to even have these three in my life.