After a fairly uneventful traveling experience, I am in Rome, safe and sound. The flight from LAX to JFK went well, almost. We landed over an hour before we were scheduled to, thanks to a great tail wind, but wouldn't you know that once we were at JFK, we had to sit on the tarmac for an hour and a half before we could get to our gate. We ended up being 20 minutes late arriving. Lame.
I found Benny (one of our clowns) at JFK, snoozing. He had taken an earlier flight from LA, and was trying to catch some missed Z's from the night before. The flight from JFK to Rome was less than half full. Benny ended up having a set right behind me (window seats, natch), and though he had a woman sitting next to him, I had both seats to myself. We settled in for the long flight over the ocean. The movie they were showing was FOOL'S GOLD, so I fortunately had no reason to try to stay awake. I ate my dinner, had my cocktail, took my Dramamine, and slept for a good 5 hours. When I looked behind me, Benny had abandoned his seat partner for a row of three empty seats in the middle of the plane. He was all stretched out.
We landed ten minutes late, and I left Benny at the passport check. The rest of our group was coming in on a later flight, and he was going to wait for them. I had already booked my ground transportation, so I continued through security. My bags were the 5th and 7th bags out of the carousel (I suppose that's the perk for my late arrival to JFK), so I was able to get out of the airport to meet my driver.
My driver was a little old woman who spoke no English. I speak only enough Italian to make an effort at being understood. We chatted a bit about President Bush (who is apparently in Rome today), and she pointed out various historical buildings as she shuttled me to the hotel. Here are the traffic lessons & reminders, as I learned from watching this woman drive:
* Stop signs are optional.
* If another driver is moving significantly slower than traffic, you can honk at them.
* If another driver is moving significantly faster than traffic, you raise your hand to them and mutter about how crazy they are.
* Cars that accelerate win over cars that don't accelerate.
When we got to the hotel, I was surprised that I had to pay her. I made the arrangements for the shuttle through the hotel, and had assumed that the shuttle charge would show up on my hotel bill. Fortunately, I had changed $100 (into 55 Euros) before I left. The shuttle was exactly 55 Euros. And of course, this being Italy, there was no receipt for a cash transaction.
Now, I'm in the hotel for the day & night. I'm going to post this, clean up, get some more cash, and then have a wander around town. Eli & Jaymi should get here in the next two hours. More soon!