Palermo: Day 9
On this day, all hell broke loose.
When our alarm pierced through the darkness at 4.30 AM, we dragged ourselves out of bed and hurried to get ready. We had a 5.20 AM bus ride to the airport and 7.30 AM flight destined for Sicily, Italy. By 5 AM, with our oversized backpacks strapped to our shoulders and other bags clutched in our hands, we were out of the hostel and eager to find our bus stop.
But we made a big mistake. We’d greatly miscalculated the distance to the bus stop from our hostel. It was a 30-minute walk, and the bus was arriving in 20 minutes. And we had another problem on our heels: we were lost again.
It wasn’t a good time to get lost in a foreign little town at 5 AM with several bags in tow and an international flight to catch. The streets were so quiet and empty with the exception of drunk teenagers returning from a party, and a couple of homeless guys hovering in the dark. Fear tugged at me and I kept glancing over my shoulder to ensure that we weren’t being followed.
We walked for an hour and yes, we missed our bus. But we couldn’t afford to miss our flight to Italy — we knew easyJet wasn’t going to issue new tickets to two backpackers who were lost trying to find their way to the airport.
“Let’s just get a cab,” Gloria said. “It’s going to be expensive, but we don’t really have a choice”.
I gazed at the dark, quiet stretch of road in front of us and tried to swallow the panic rising in my chest. There didn’t seem to be any cabs around. And we didn’t have internet or cell signals to contact a local cab company. Everyone else was sound asleep in their beds — there didn’t seem to be a single helpful soul in sight.
So we did the only thing we could. We prayed. And I’m not even kidding — five seconds after saying, “Amen,” Gloria squinted into the distance and pointed, “Carissa! Is that a cab?”
It was! We flagged it down, jumped in and told the driver we had a 7.30 AM flight. He was a nice Italian man who’d lived in Nice for a decade or so, and he was friendly and pleasant, but boy… he was slow.
Gloria and I kept glancing nervously at each other and every few minutes or so, one of us would politely pipe up, “Uh, could you go a little faster? We have to be at the airport by 7 to get our boarding passes. It’s… 6.52 now.” And we still had about 15 minutes of travel time to go.
His English wasn’t very good, so he shook his head, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
We tried explaining ourselves, but he still wasn’t getting the hint. He just said, “I take you to airport, yes? Don’t worry, we go airport.”
I was getting a little worried. We’d exhausted our vocabulary and he still didn’t understand our rush. I had no choice but to try a more direct approach. Actions. After all, don’t they always say that actions speak louder than words?
“Could you please go faster?” I tried again, exasperated. “Car. Vroom vroom. We have to fly off in 30 minutes –” I awkwardly flapped my arms in the backseat. “–plane to catch… flying off –” I tapped my watch. “– no time.”
“Don’t worry, I bring you there on time,” he smiled into the rearview mirror.
I expected him to gun the accelerator, but he kept at that same, sluggish speed. Other cars had passed us on the fast lane. We were still gallivanting on the slow lane, and that familiar panic was welling up again.
“Oh gosh,” Gloria buried her head in her hands. “We’re going to miss our flight.”
No, please no. God, please help us get there on time.
Well, the great news was that we got there on time. It was an expensive 20-minute ride that felt like 2 hours, but the bottom line was that God came through once again and we got there safe and sound, and right on time!
Unfortunately, just as we were about to board the plane, Gloria’s cabin-sized bag was deemed too big as a carry-on.
“It’s either you try to repack it right now, or you’ll just have to pay €50 to check it in,” one of the flight attendants told her.
€50? Heck no. So we had to try and repack everything in her bag to lessen the load in under 2 minutes while the two female attendants stood over us disapprovingly.
“You’ll have to hurry,” one of them said. “The plane needs to board soon.”
By the time we got into the plane, we were the last two passengers to be seated. But we were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief.
“We made it,” I grinned across the aisle at her. She nodded back with a wider grin. I could tell she was equally relieved.
I leaned back in my seat and thought about how one wrong move could’ve caused us to miss our flight. What would have happened if that cab hadn’t shown up on time? Or if we hadn’t made it to the airport in time for our flight? Or if we hadn’t been able to repack Gloria’s bag on time and the attendants refused to let us on. But God was good. Everything worked out well in the end.
The plane began its takeoff, and I watched the city of Nice melt out of view until we were soaring into the brilliant sunrise.
We just survived a crazy morning. That was all the drama for the day, right? Wrong.
Well, little did I know. Our day had just begun.
to be continued…