Tag Archives: Flying

Hail Mary

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

I was waiting at the Catania, Sicily airport for my flight to Malta.

I have the oldest iPhone and I am slowly becoming unable to do things with it. I tried to download Rick Steves’ free audio tours before I left but my operating system was too ancient.  Videos take so long to load that I usually just give up.  And when I travel, I can only access the wireless in about every other airport.  It may not be my phone; I don’t know.  But I’ve just come to not expect a wireless connection and if I get one, I’m happy.

So when I saw “Marco’s wireless” and other hot spots pop up, I was tempted to try freeloading.  I once got into a wireless network in London named “Anna” by using the password Anna1.  Everyone around me was on his or her phone, maybe because they were European and were just using 3G.  I was tempted to try Marco1 but decided it would be embarrassing if Marco caught me.  I didn’t want to do anything to risk getting to Malta.

One thing that is everywhere is that damn Samsung whistle tone, and I’m not the only one who finds it irritating.  People!  It’s not cool to force everyone around you to hear those 5 annoying notes (or any other cell sound, for that matter).  It doesn’t make you cool that you get a lot of notifications.  Everyone gets a lot of notifications.  But we have our phones set on silent or vibrate out of courtesy to others.

Thanks for listening to my rant.

On the flight to Malta, I had the aisle seat and a woman in her 20s sat by the window with no one in the middle.  Hurrah! My fellow passenger had purple hair, piercings, tattoos, and was wearing black from neck to sole. She was quite pudgy, and the tats on the back of her hands were almost swallowed in fat dimples.  She avoided eye contact so I read the Guardian, moaning inwardly about the still-shocking election news.

When the pilot announced we were preparing to land, my companion pulled out a crucifix.  Based on her appearance I thought it must have something to do with a heavy metal band she played in but, she began silently counting off the Hail Marys.  That’s Italian!

She looked over at me as if to say, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” I did what I often do with fellow travelers who are terrified of flying, started a conversation about something—anything—unrelated to flying.  “Are you going to Malta for holiday?” I asked.  No, she was visiting her boyfriend who had gotten a job there.  We made small talk until the plane landed, uneventfully.  That was when the all the passengers except me broke out in loud applause and those I could see were made the sign of the cross.  My acquaintance slipped the crucifix back in her pocket and we wished each other a nice visit.

I’ve seen passengers applaud routine landings in Latin America but it was a first for me in Europe.

I bought a round-trip ticket for transportation from the airport to my hotel on Malta Transfer for €16.  The motherly woman at the desk instructed me to go upstairs, outside, to the left, and around the airport to find the van.  By the time I got outside I couldn’t remember if she’d said left or right so I wandered back and forth until I saw an unmarked van.  The driver told me to go to another ticket office.  There, they exchanged my ticket for another ticket, stamped it, and told me to go wait in a corner. A group of us slowly assembled, then a man in a uniform came along and told us to follow him.  He intrepidly led us about 30 feet to another van marked “MALTA TRANSFER.”

In 20 minutes I was dropped in a square.  “You go down a few steps, there—around the corner—and you will find your hotel,” said my driver.

Here are the few steps:


It Could Have Been Worse

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

I’ve already written some about Malta—all the planning it took to get there, the fact that the thing that sparked my interest in going there, the Hal Soflieni Hypogeum, turned out to be closed for renovation; waking up to the US election results, and visiting the immigration office to (half-jokingly) see if I could claim political asylum.

But before I leave Rome, check out this photo that’s now my login screen.


Up til now, the screens have all been nature scenes.  I’ve been writing about Rome; does Microsoft somehow know that, and tailor its screen art to me?  Why?  The image isn’t for sale.  I know the mega tech companies are harvesting my data all the time, but it’s creepy when it’s this blatant. When I begin to write about Malta, we’ll see if they throw up a photo from there.  Maybe it’s just a coincidence.

I’ve also written about the adventure of booking a flight on Ryanair.  I had never flown Ryanair that I remembered.  I don’t have any problem with their business model—sell the cheapest flights; make profit on the extras.  I was curious how the actual flight experience would be.

The first thing I noted was that the seats were roomier and cushier than on US airlines. What the ? I had expected them to be even more cramped, if that was possible.  Maybe these flights were the exception, or maybe we were on ancient planes.

The main difference between a Ryanair flight and other flights I’ve been on is the advertising.  There were ads on the seatback, in my face, and on the overhead bins—promoting—what else?  Ryanair vacations.

Food and drink was for sale only, and then there was the cart with perfumes and watches and other luxury goods.

Who books a €50 cheapo flight on Ryanair, then buys a €200 1-ounce bottle of Dior Poison on board?  No one, on any flight I’ve ever been on.  But people must do it.  This stuff is shilled by all airlines, but on other airlines it’s done once, half-heartedly, as though the flight attendants are embarrassed to do it.  On Ryanair they walked up and down the aisles repeatedly throughout the flight and are very assertive.  Maybe they’re on commission?

My flight from Rome to Catania was an hour late taking off. There was no explanation.  After we took off the pilot said casually, “Sorry about that delay; it’ll put us into Catania about an hour and a half past schedule.”

My connection was tight.  I flagged down a flight attendant and made what I thought was a reasonable request.  I was mid-plane.  Could they let me off first when we landed, so I could run to catch my next Ryanair flight?  She looked puzzled, as though no one had ever asked anything like this before.  She examined my boarding passes, then shook her head.  “No, we can’t make a special exception for you.” As if I was trying to scam her.

“All Ryanair flights are separate, so you’ll have to claim your bag in Catania, check in again, and go through security again.”

“You’re going to miss your next flight no matter what.” She gave me an unsympathetic smile and abruptly walked away.

My heart started pounding and my thoughts racing withthe What Ifs?  What if there wasn’t another flight to Malta that day?  What if there was, but Ryanair didn’t take responsibility for me missing the first one and made me pay again?  What if they charged me a million dollars?  What if I never got to Malta?  What if I never got to Spain to meet Lynn?

In the end, my second flight was also over an hour late so I had no trouble catching it.

It could have been worse.  I could have been in this prison bus waiting to board that flight you never want to be on.  It’s painted all black.  Really?  Was that necessary?  Seems a little melodramatic and trite at the same time.