Cursing Al-Qaida

If you have been reading any of the previous posts about my artist exploits in the Mediterranean, you know that this trip was taken in the fall of 2010. The final post about the airport woes of traveling from Marco Polo Airport follows: If there is one thing that I have vowed not to repeat, it would be flying again out of Venice from Marco Polo. As a seasoned traveler abroad, this has been one of the most nerve-wracking experiences. Not so much for me but for many others who were sharing the unorganized chaos that Hallowe’en weekend. From experience I was already aware of the fact that Italians are notorious for breaking in line, and after this sampling of travelers’ Hell, Dante‘s inferno would have more pleasant alternatives.


The masses reminded me of a reenactment of Bosch‘s surreal apocalyptic paintings. Within a sea of impatience, an opening within the center of the line in which I was standing (which was on hold and going toward baggage check-in at a snail’s pace) was created by others who would push steel carts loaded with luggage directly into you, and if you didn’t move, they would move you. I kept wondering if I had a sign reading “Exit Here” in neon across my forehead, since this was continuous. Note: the word for you’re welcome in Italian is “prego” however it can be used for almost any situation. It can serve as a way of saying ‘coming through”, a useful tactic in traveling defense. I was told in Capri years ago that if someone tries to break in line behind you, you can maneuver swiftly with your elbows in a rear rowing movement (sort of like the funky chicken dance action) while saying “prego, prego.” This alerts the would be space-grabber that you mean business and that the space is being claimed assertively. It also shocks most of them because they don’t expect you to know how to do this effectively. I have tried it, and it does actually work. Saying “Excuuuuse ME” is futile, but if you wish to be polite, you can try ‘permesso” which may or may not prove successful. It amused me when I would see the startled look on native faces signaling their surprise in hearing the Italian with attitude spewing from my foreign lips.


I seriously felt compassion for fellow Americans who were “Italian way” novices, especially with the language barrier, which can cause some problems. Many, however, were vocal and upset, and it was easy to understand their reaction when their carry-on luggage was kicked aside with true force in a move that mimicked an offensive play of an Italian calcio(soccer) athlete. Like bees within a hive, multiple attempts were made to figure out the kiosk boarding pass system. Several times you would hear actual applause from that area when someone was successful in their quest to work the machines. Finalmente  the line progressed ahead of the airport staff who looked like Vogue models, luggage was weighed, and a sigh of relief was heard prior to the next hurdle. Another search ensued for the boarding gate: a small area with only five elevated chairs for a crowd of hundreds.


A merry-go-round of security checks in Paris followed after a short flight, and I was surprised when I did not have to remove my shoes through some of the checkpoints which aided in the speed of our afternoon departure. Since I live within an area with a high percentage of military, I thought it was a nice gesture when the airline out of Atlanta offered any active-duty personnel onboard seats within the First Class section. This was accompanied by a round of applause from those of us remaining in coach and upon a smooth touchdown at our destination.


The tour continues with sketches from the above in the Sketchbook Project 2011. The next stop is in San Francisco at the Madrone Studios, 1417 15th St. To see additional paintings from this artist, visit my website. For gifts online, visit my virtual store at Visual Interludes to see what’s cool at the zul. Till next time, safe travels. If you have any similar stories, I would love for you to share them.

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