in Travelling

Queue at Ciampino

None of us wanted to leave Rome except that it meant returning home. We are all anxious for that. After a perfect morning, we went to Ciampino airport to check in for our RyanAir (discount carrier) flight to London and then off to Halifax the next day. The next day part did not happen because Heathrow was closed. We are still in London.

We allowed about three hours in the airport because we did not want any problems getting out. Hah. When we arrived there was a line that was hundreds of people long. It stretched from the agents’ desk and filled the entrance to the airport. It then stretched across to the security area of the airport before bending at right angles to continue towards the restaurants and convenience stores. It was a long line.

We queued up and began waiting. There were three agents working the desk. An hour passed. It was hot. When we finally made it to the entrance area (this was the main serpentine queue that eventually would lead to an agent) we knew we would have lots of time before our flight and remained happy. Not everybody shared our joy.

Then an agent left for a lunch break.

A group of three young men (one wearing the stars and stripes as a pair of shorts over his pants) attempted to move to a new part of the queue. Another man got angry at the agent who was leaving for lunch. A lady got angry at the moving young men. People pushed. The queue then gave way to a shouting and crowding mob that formed a tight semi-circle around the remaining agents at the desk. We were about twenty people from the front of the queue when this happened.

I have mentioned the incessant honking of car horns in traffic and the shouts of motorists before. I had thought that Italian, or at least Roman, impatience was a cliché (and it is) but being in the centre of a gesturing and shouting crowd was quite an experience. The hubbub subsided and a replacement agent came to the desk and the check-in procedure returned to normal, albeit without the previous queue and with a tight semi-circle around the desk. We actually had to force our way out of the mob to get to the security checkpoint.

I should point out that everybody in the line was going to be able to fly that day. There were no closures of airports at that point. Even the people who were getting tight on time were taken out of the line and directed to the desk for immediate service. It was just the result of long waits and tired travelers.

Although both girls were jammed in close quarters neither got upset (confused is technically not the same as upset) and we all managed to laugh about it. The disintegration of the queue was very strange sensation for us as people who are trained from an early age to stand in queues and wait for orderly service. For couple of the Brits in the mob (obviously feeling that the queue is an essential part of daily life) I had visions of shaky recollections to therapists as soon as they were back on British soil.

All in all, our morning was an idyllically Roman experience; the afternoon in the airport was somewhat less idyllic but it was a counterpoint to the morning and gave us far more to talk about. Besides, we got to see a lot of new hand gestures.

  1. Sounds like a very exciting ending to an absolutely exhilarating trip. Looking forward to seeing the family back in PEI — the Island has missed you!

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