Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Going Home Via Rome

“What were you doing in Italy?” the accusatory customs officer at Boston Logan International Airport asked me last night as I re-entered the United States. I could have given any one of three answers.

Answer one: “Ah, you know, I just thought I’d stop off there for a few hours to see the Colosseum, take in a Serie A game at the Stadio Olimpico, sip an espresso at the Piazza Venezia, flirt with a Francesca or two, stroll the Via Condotti and pick up my spring fashions, pop in on the Pope and put him right on a few ecclesiastical and socio-political issues, degust a plate of artichoke ravioli at La Pergola rooftop restaurant topping the Hilton on Monte Mario, and then retire to my five-star room with an Alberto Moravia novel. I mean, what else would an international man of leisure like myself get up to there?”

Answer two: “Thanks to the weather, massive airline incompetence, and the staggeringly pointless new security measures introduced by your government since a martyr-fixated half-wit sewed semtex into his breeks, I was diverted to the Italian capital for the privilege of sleeping for three hours at the airport hotel, three security checks, having my luggage vandalized with the lock and zip ripped off - though, strangely enough, no Fiumicino baggage handler was interested in pilfering my soiled shreddies, snotted hankies, bottle of Maggi sauce, Christoph Biermann’s ‘The Football Matrix: The Search For The Perfect Game’ (in German), a Serious Drinking vinyl LP, or a four-DVD set of Ken Burns’ PBS documentary on the history of Jazz - and then standing for six hours in the airport terminal, watching pigeons fly around the cafeteria while security officers frisked assorted Category One risk passengers, such as wheezing pensioners, or soccer senoritas with their two-year-old kids. It was fun, I tell yer, though don’t let it stop you aggressively tossing out questions as I enter the fourth and final leg of this soul-sucking two-day trans-continental quest to lie down in my own bed.”

Answer three: “I was diverted to Rome on my way back to Washington DC from Germany because of the bad weather in Europe. Sir.”

Answer three is the correct one, unless you want to be slapped to the floor for an intestinal scan, enforced contortion, and indefinite incarceration. Uniforms have a knack of curbing my sarcasm, so I made it through by resisting a descent into wit’s allegedly lowest manifestation. The rest of the family, sent via London and Toronto, straggled home too in the end, although my battered suitcase - held together with duct tape and shrinkwrap - is still missing, along with the precious contents described above.

Mind you, I’m still extremely miffed that no Italian was interested in nicking my Ben Sherman shirt.