It was the Hub’s fault…
Which comes as a huge surprise to exactly no one. (When we got married, Great-Uncle Herbie pulled him aside to warn him, “From now on, it’s ALL your fault.”)
HUB: “It will be fun. A year in Italy! You’ll get to really see Florence.”
ME: “But what about that whole dying thing? Pandemic?”
HUB: “I’m sure it will be all over by then.”
They say adversity brings people together. Those people were not in our two-person-and-the-dog bubble. Phrases like, “Remind me again—how much life insurance do you have?” and “It has to look like an accident…” started to creep into our conversation. One of us thought the pandemic would be over soon so no need to get too worked up about it. One of us saw every partially-masked person as a potential mass-murderer.
As everyone I knew in the UK and the US got vaccinated, I had the Regione Toscana Sistema di prenotazione webpage (for vaccination reservations in Tuscany) open on my monitor 24/7. For months now, ultra ottantenni over age 80, had been invited to get vaccinated. The Hub, who as a teacher had his jab months ago, was unrelentingly optimistic that my slot would pop up any day. As weeks and then months went by, I wasn’t so sure. Family and friends talked about no-waiting for vaccinations in the US. My doctor called to schedule a jab in the UK. Florence lightened lockdown restrictions and things started to reopen. The dog and I stayed inside the house.
Then I heard about an amazing new arrangement for nonstop flights between Italy and the US—where everyone onboard had to take a covid test just before boarding. I told the kids I’d pop over to New York for a quick Johnson&Johnson single jab and be back in Italy before you could say, “Amo Firenze in primavera.” (And really, who wouldn’t love Florence in the spring?)
The flight booking was complicated. I had to get to Milan airport in time for early morning check-in, but there were no overnight trains. No problem—it wouldn’t be the first time I spent a night in an airport. I finished the booking and sat down to tackle the important details: how to pack the bare minimum and still leave room to bring back all the stuff I can only get in America. (I can’t be the only one who takes international flights to get the right kind of deodorant, maple syrup, and chocolate chips. Pretty sure.)
I was just reluctantly concluding that I probably couldn’t bring back king-size sheet sets from Target, when I noticed a message from the airline informing me there was a problem with my ticket. As in, there wasn’t one. Seems something had gone wrong with my credit card, and they were not going to issue a ticket unless I paid them. Again.
I panic-dialled the credit card company.
Nice Credit Card Lady: “You never spend so many thousands on one ticket.”
ME: “Um… did I do that now?”
NCC Lady: “Oh yes. We’ve already paid it, but we thought it was odd. So we blocked your card.”
I even-more-panic-dialled the airline.
Airline Robo-Answering: “All of our agents are way too busy to deal with actual humans right now. You can reach us through Messenger, WhatsApp, or for laughs try our call center in Albania. Yes, you heard right. Albania. Or you could stay on the line and we will get back to you in three hours. Or never. Hard to tell…”
I tried WhatsApp. Three hours later they asked what my problem was. Three hours after that they asked again.
I tried Messenger. Ditto for the three hour intervals. It was probably the same person who was typing their WhatsApp replies. Possibly a person who lacked opposable thumbs.
I tried Customer Service in Albania. A man answered and didn’t shut up because the voices in his head had already told him everything I could possibly ever need and he was going to fill me in. After trying unsuccessfully to get a word in edgewise about the actual situation: how their airline had quadrupled the posted fare—which, in a rare moment of sanity, I’d actually taken a screenshot of—I screamed at him to stop talking for ten seconds and listen to me. He hung up.
I called back and got Mr. Mansplainer again. I tried to talk over him. He hung up again.
I called again and this time I talked to Vilma. She was lovely, and very sympathetic. She did the rate conversion and agreed that my fare had somehow morphed into many times its original amount. Even though she had absolutely no suggestions other than to give them yet more money, I could tell she really felt bad for me. I was sad to say goodbye to her.
I was on hold with the airline (again) when I happened to glance at the Regione Toscana webpage. No… wait. What? I quickly texted the Hub. “Does this say what I think it says? Did Italy finally get vaccinations for me?”
“Book it!” He texted back. “Now!”
That was two days ago. I still have the airline texting demands for money. My credit card says the money is still out in the financial ether somewhere. But…
Happy Festa della Mamma!
Italy just gave me the best Mother’s day present ever.