August 1, 2011, 6:15 a.m.

I am on the plane heading home to Napa. I am ready to be home.  I rarely slept last night.  I ate too much for dinner.  I was hot.  I was worried my alarm wouldn’t go off at 4:15 a.m. I was getting bogged down with the details of the morning.  I was relying on the cab to pick me up on time and I needed to leave my hotel key in my room so once I was out of the hotel – I was out of the hotel; they didn’t have staff there at night.  In fact, I had 4 keys.  The hotel was a small hotel inside a large building.  So I had a key to the front door of the building.  I had to walk 2 flights of stairs to get to the elevator and use my elevator key to get up to the hotel.  Then, I needed a key to get into the hotel for those times it was not staffed (which is most of the time) and then I had a key to my room.  Since there was no staff to check me out, I had to make two trips downstairs with my bags and then go back upstairs and leave all my keys in my room and take the stairs for my final destination.   So, once I was on the street, I couldn’t get back in the building.

I listened to my meditation cd at 3 a.m. and was grateful for the comforting voice of Ann Albers.  I surrendered and got out of bed after the meditation.  Lugging my bags down made for a comedic start to my day, and a good work out given all the stairs and my heavy bags.  I stood solo on the sidewalk, with my luggage, and no other cabs around at 5 a.m.   I waited outside, visualizing my cabby showing up to try to calm my worries.  Strangers wandered the streets, straggling home from an evening out. Large trucks roared by me.  I stepped into the street and saw the cab a block away and flagged him down.  He reversed and drove up to my curb. A successful start!

I had 28 Euros left, which should have been perfect.  The cab ride to the airport is 20 Euros.  Fabbio was my cabbie.  He started at 4 am today and I was his third fare to the airport.  He apologized for being 5 minutes late.  I think drivers are crazy in Florence.  He drove like a bat out of hell getting me to the airport.  At one point, I glanced at the meter and it was close to 20 Euros. I was getting nervous.  Again.  When we got to the airport, he told me it was 38 Euros. What?!  I told him when I made the reservation, I was told it was 20 Euros, which is also my experience of having made a couple of cab trips from the airport.  He told me that was the “day” rate, but they charge more for early morning and late night.  We settled on my 28 Euros for the fare, he politely dumped me on the street and sped off.

I collected my bags and entered the airport.  My new bag had wobbly wheels (what do you expect from a bartered, fun bag from the market?), and it kept falling sideways.  Inside the airport- it was a zoo, incredibly chaotic.   First, I couldn’t figure out what line I needed to be in.  Then, a dog next to me peed on the floor and the owners were upset with the dog – I guess they didn’t consider bringing a dog into an overly stimulated environment may result in such outrageous bodily functions.   I hooked up with a compatriot, an Indian lady, and we tried to figure out the system.  She had been visiting with friends in Florence and was now going to India for 5 weeks.  She has family in India and she lives in Los Angeles where she is finishing grad school – an MBA with a focus on development and cultural studies.  She wants to help develop third world countries.  She graduates in December, but doesn’t know how the market will look for this type of work.  There may be jobs in New York, but she wants to stay in California.  Part of her trip is for business.  Her mother has a boutique in Los Gatos and sells women’s clothing.  She distributes for a large designer in India.  I asked if she wanted to get into the family business – no.  She, too, speaks multiple languages.  She said it was weird to be talking in English since she’s been speaking Italian all week.  She started learning multiple languages as a child, which made it easier to learn the languages.

We made our way through the lines.  I decided winning people over with kindness was the way to succeed today – success to make it through the cog of the confusing airport.  The Lufthansa lady helped me check in.  I received my boarding passes for Florence, Frankfurt and North Carolina.  Then, I had to pay for the extra bag.  I had to leave my bags and boarding passes as collateral with the lady at check-in and go out to the Lufthansa gate to pay for my bag and return with the receipt and she would check my bags to SFO and give me my keys to the kingdom – all of my boarding passes.

I was getting nervous about the time, and as if sensing my concern, they opened another check in station.  I was directed to the new operator.  There was so much busyness. And systems. And stress.  And none of the airline workers were happy.  They were a bunch of droids on automatic pilot with no signs of a pulse.  Very depressing.  Perhaps they were upset they were not officially starting holiday as everyone was leaving on theirs.

Even though it’s a small airport, I couldn’t find the gate after I checked my bags. I finally asked an airport worker for directions and he pointed me upstairs to the left.  No one was in the security line, so I did the usual unload, screen, reload and made my way around another corner, down the stairs – I felt like I was heading down the rabbit hole.  Fortunately, all the gates are right next to each other.  It’s 6:00.  Flight is at 6:30.  I made it.  I made my way to gate 6 and they took my ticket and gave me the stub and ushered me out the door and onto the bus.  Ahhhh, I can finally relax.  My back pack is completely loaded and I am bumping people on the bus as I try to maneuver forward to make room for more passengers, those later than I and undoubtedly stuck in the Lufthansa abyss.

Once on the plane, I can finally relax.  Relieved.  My cab arrived, I got rid of my last Euros, my bags are checked, they were not overweight, I made my flight. All-in-all, a successful start.  Given all that I’ve already accomplished, I’m certain I can handle Frankfurt, North Carolina and customs, find the van from SFO to Napa and a cab home  As we took off, I bid Florence adieu and  arrivederci.