In a rare example of wishful thinking paying off, I’d plugged my near dead phone into my even more critical computer to charge in the vain hope that somehow their combined strength might just be enough to set off an alarm to wake me in time for the airport. By some miracle, it worked! People may criticise the battery life of the iPhone but in their defence, they’ll charge on the scent of an oily iRag.
None the less, I barely slept a wink for fear of sleeping through but at least sleep deprivation took the edge off my nerves. With tummy butterflies in full flight, I left the apartment to find the city stirring from its own slumber and the sun still low in the sky. I made my way through the city again, through the piazzas and past the Duomo to the edge of the old town and then onto Florence International Airport.
If I had been shocked at how small Pisa airport was, I was doubly surprised to find Florence’s airport even smaller still, especially given it’s popularity as a destination. I’d left plenty of time to get there to ensure I got a good spot at the arrivals gate, the only problem was, I couldn’t find it. It took me all of five minutes to do a complete lap of the entire facility and its two shops in search of the gate but as soon as I followed the signs in one direction, they pointed me back in the other. Eventually, I gave up and asked someone who incredulously told me that I was standing at it and pointed to a non-descript door that might have just as easily been to the toilets. It had been very different in my minds eye – at least this way there’d be no awkward spotting each other followed by that weird little parade down either side of the arrivals barrier before actually reaching each other. If you’ve ever met anyone at an airport, you know what I’m talking about.
I struggled to fill the half hour before Ryan’s flight landed. I had wrongly assumed the airport would have ample distractions but three laps of the newsagency later and I was at the mercy of the butterflies now the size of Mothra! I watched the monitor (the closest thing they had to TV) until it eventually flashed up a ‘landed’ next to his flight. Although I knew it’d still take some time for him to clear customs and passport control, I decided to jostle for position at the arrivals door.
Thinking I still had at least a good 20 minutes or so, I opted for a leaning spot but before I even had time to really put my body into full tilt, the door opened and there was Ryan! It was so sudden that it took a second to even register that it was him because it seemed like barely enough time to have even gotten off the plane. I was so pleased to see him that I was already talking his ear off and leading him through the airport to the exit. I must have paused long enough for breath for him to mention that he hadn’t yet collected his bag. I had assumed that the pack on his back must have been it and was admittedly impressed by how light he was able to travel. I was surprised they’d let him clear customs without the rest of his luggage – turns out they hadn’t and it was still waiting for him back on the other side! Looks like I wasn’t the only one excited for our reunion!
I’ve been through enough airports in my life that I was braced for a bureaucratic nightmare and the possibility of leaving without luggage at all. We asked around and were finally directed to the Lost Property desk where our long winded explanation was met by a nonplussed woman who basically said ‘just go back in and get it’ as though oblivious to the sacred one way airport system! We approached the door with some trepidation knowing that anywhere else, this would amount to a security breach that could see us locked up in a small room being strip-searched and probed. But we were met with no resistance or even interest, so much so, that I decided to go through with Ryan just because I could!
Sure enough, his bag was there waiting. We collected it and went to exit… oh yeah, passport control… and I didn’t have a passport… or even a ticket… or a very good reason for being in there… luckily they were just as lax on the way out as in and we got away scott free, without so much as a sidewards glance from the officials. I now know where to go if I need to slip into Europe unquestioned!
We jumped in a taxi back to the city and so began our foreign affair…