Recently, two country mice named Dennis and Sue set out on a great adventure outside the country, literally. We drove to the big city of Philadelphia and departed from the airport there for the wedding of Sue’s nephew, Steve, in Sicily — the triangular shaped island at the tip of Italy’s boot.
We went by way of a layover in Madrid, Spain, which turned out to be an adventure in itself. First of all, neither of us speaks Spanish. I know un poquito (“a little bit”), but not enough to get by in everyday conversation. Madrid’s massive Baranjas Airport was a virtual tower of Babel. One had only to look at the listing of departing flights and their destinations to realize how many folks from every corner of the globe were intersecting at this location. It quickly became obvious that many of our fellow travelers spoke neither Spanish, nor English. As if that weren’t confusing enough, we were also befuddled by the airport’s system of serpentine corridors that often led to dead-ends.
It was somewhat amusing to have other travelers come up to us and ask in their foreign tongues for directions, or at least that’s what we think they were saying. We’d later encounter some of them at the same information booths that we went to for help. Unfortunately, usually these information personnel didn’t speak English.
In Philly’s airport, standing in various lines for check-in, security and flight boarding had reminded us of cattle chutes back on our farm, and we were the livestock being driven along with our herd of fellow passengers. At the Madrid airport, we country mice felt like laboratory rats in a giant glass-walled maze. We wanted to go to an area with shops and eateries a floor below us, which we could clearly see through glass panels. We got on an elevator, but it didn’t have a stop for that floor, so we got off and boarded an escalator. It didn’t go where we expected it to either. We then tried some stairs, but with the same result. We could see the shops, and more importantly to our hungry stomachs, the restaurants, but we couldn’t get to them.
Asking airport personnel for assistance yielded advice that took us in several different directions, but not to where we wanted to go. I finally asked Dennis if perhaps we were in an episode being filmed for “Candid Camera,” an old television show that put people into unusual situations and then recorded how they reacted.
Fortunately, we had a long layover in Madrid, with plenty of time to explore blind alleys. Eventually we gave up trying to reach the commercial area we could see and blessedly discovered a previously unknown commercial area adjoining our departure gate. It was “only” two lengthy shuttle train rides away from where we’d landed. Most importantly, we found it before starvation set in and also before our connecting flight departed for Sicily.
All’s well that ends well. Nevertheless, this country mouse can recall a distant time when air travel was relatively simple and easy, and my flying fears related to being in the air. Now it’s the flight-related frustrations of time spent inside terminals that’s become the scary part.
As my late mother would likely have stated in a situation like this, “Next time we go there, let’s stay home.” That being said, the travels of these two country mice certainly turned out to be worth the temporary travails we encountered. Stay tuned for further details.