One notable thing about Norwegian Air Shuttle flight 7096 is its small aisles. It’s as though the airlines believes all traveler’s carry the slight frame of Nordic Cross Country Skiers and are able to press their hips through the aisle-adjacent faces of other passengers. Imagine toothpaste pushing its way through a tube. Needless to say, there is an abundance of cheek-touching. The other notable thing is the seat size. On a bet, I once tried to squeeze myself into a child’s car seat, sliding beneath the straps and retracting my legs until my toes were nearly inside my hips. The cramping was excruciating and I made sounds I didn’t know I could make. That experience was an exercise in lounging luxury compared to NAS 7096. Vern Troyer (Austin Powers’ Mini-me) would have bitched.
The plane from LAX to Rome, with a brief stopover in London’s Gatwick Airport is presumably uneventful. However, with Rome’s airport fire beginning the day I left, Gatwick has now become my own personal Hades. I am currently standing in a 230-passenger-deep line, being told “All flights to Rome have been canceled until Sunday. It is now Thursday morning. I have non-refundable pre-paid hotels, trains, historic monument tickets etc. that are now expiring faster than the deodorant this here NAS representative is wearing (maybe). I am in a mood.
The suggestion, which comes with a very professional “Sorry, sir” and one of those palms-up head tilts that is just the gesture of death to someone who wants assistance, is that I could purchase a new $500 ticket for Florence the following morning, although it leaves from the London City Airport about an hour distant (just across the city). I make the purchase and have a brief word with God about destiny and being fucked with.
Crossing London at night has this dysmorphic Paul Revere thing about it, although when one traveler grabbed me to ask if I knew where the Jack The Ripper exhibit was, I jumped centuries and then sprinted toward the train station. The trip requires five trains, some underground, a bit of walking, and at least one “unmentioned” left turn (that bitch!).
My final train ride requires some explanation. ON the “tube” (London vernacular), doors open at each stop. At London City Airport, however, it’s a quick open/close and I am about halfway out when the “shutting” occurs. Backpacking through Europe means I bear this faint resemblance to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Michelangelo, and what with Florence on my itinerary, the whole things smacks of irony. Point being, the “shutting” catches the edges of my turtle shell pack and I quickly feel my heels lift from the floor, sort of like those old video games where you control the claws that come down and try to clasp a teddy bear, except here I’m the damn bear. I’m now hanging from the door, accelerating in space, seeing the beginnings of a tunnel wall about thirty meters ahead, and wondering if this what bugs feel like before they hit the windshield. With one death-defying heave, I launch myself from the train and roll onto the cement, and end up like one of those grey mini-armadillo-looking pill bugs with the flailing legs. I roll over and crawl my way toward the airport. (…riding this entymological analogy all the way home).
At 11:30 pm, I arrive at London City Airport, just in time to find the food stands closed and to hear that the last local hotel room has been sold out. I am now curled fetally in a chair, which even Norwegian Airlines would consider embarrassingly small, consuming a bag of vending-machine Funions, staring at the remains of a three-day old croissant, and wondering whether the Roman gladiators would be proud of me. Nine hours ‘til my plane arrives. Good night!