Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Live and Learn

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."--George Santayana

I think Mr. Santayana's quote was probably directed at me.

I frequently learn life's most difficult lessons, twice.

For instance:
-It took me two semesters at college to realize just how inept I was in chemistry.
-I had to learn about not lying to your parents because they always (and I mean always) find out. Once after that little party I had senior year and after the stupid Principal's daughter crashed into my car (I wasn't even in it! I was parked... at a party).
-I've learned "beer before liquor, never been sick-er" a number of times. Come to think of it, I still have to re-learn that on occasion.
-That it's never the same twice.
-That eating Incredible's Pizza (incredible would be a gross exaggeration for this "food") after a bar party at school is never a good idea.
-That getting off a plane/train in a foreign city/country without any ideas and/or plans isn't always the best course of action.
-That when I get to a foreign city/country without any ideas, plans or places to stay will all work out (especially with my last traveling partner).
-That that last, last bite is never worthwhile.
-That eating junk and/or dairy right before a fitness test/set of sprints in lacrosse will always result in me barfing. (Nice visual, I'm sure.)
-To dress for the weather (and now, consequently, not to trust weather.com).
-Last but certainly not least: traveling out of your way to save money.

A history of the last time I did it:
When I was studying abroad my friend Molly and I wanted to go to London. The cheapest tickets were out of Bratislava which was only a 45 minute bus ride from Vienna. Unfortunately, with these cheap tickets also came a very early departure time of six am. The only bus that would get us to Bratislava in time for our flight was the last one at 12:3o am. We took the bus (which almost didn't show because it was blizzarding) arrived at the near desolate airport and tried to find a comfortable place to sleep. I don't know how many of you have ever tried to sleep in a Slovakian airport in late November, but I can assure you, it's not particularly comfortable. Lack of sleep definitely took its toll (we may or may not have been hallucinating during Wicked). On the way home we took a different airline, still through Bratislava, which allowed only one carry-on bag so we had to put on just about every article of clothing so as to consolidate our luggage. We could hardly bend our arms or sit down and at that moment I thought, "Is this really worth it?" (But being a poor college kid of course it was.)

It happened again this past weekend. In an effort to save money I was going to fly to Copenhagen from Geneva and then fly back to Milan. My flight to Copenhagen left at the normal hour of 10 am however the 2.5 hours it takes to train to Milan accompanied by my chronic need to be early for flights had me leaving on a 4:57 am train. I left my house a little after 4:30 only to walk out into the rain (super). About a third of the way down the hill I realized I had forgotten my boarding passes (super duper) but I didn't want to risk it by running back up to grab them. After the early morning the rest of the travel experience was uneventful which was nice. Plus all my stuff for a whole weekend fit into my red Longchamp bag. I've carried bigger bags to the gym so I was very impressed.
The way home, however, was not so easy. When I went to the train station Wednesday to buy a return ticket from Milan (which is a four hour train ride and it's not even the main Milan airport, it was an hour bus ride outside) the man informed me that since it was a holiday weekend all the trains were full, all day. I asked him if I could just stand (how many times have I been on an overcrowded Italian train?) he flatly refused me. I asked if I could have any ticket to anywhere in Switzerland and I'd just use my Gleis 7 to ride back from whatever city I was in. Nope, that was not going to work either. I affected my "it's all going to work out" attitude and hoped that my friend Gabri could persuade them to give me a ticket on the Italian side (no dice). Saturday morning I realized that a train home was pretty much out of the question until Monday and I needed to find an alternate means back to Switzerland. I entertained the idea of renting a car but my [lack of] stick shift skills would have left me either in a horrible accident and/or still circling in an endless roundabout. Plus, if I got a ticket they probably would have taken me in on account of my mother having an outstanding speeding ticket from there. I then remembered that my friend Shelley has a car so I asked decided I could lose nothing by asking for this huge, huge favor. She, amazingly and generously, said yes and we agreed to meet in Como right on the Italian border of Switzerland and Italy.
My flight arrived a little late but being the prepared kid I was I bought my bus ticket mid flight so as I exited the plane I had to "bust a move" (another one of my dad's favorite phrases) to get to the bus terminal. I ran through the mostly empty airport (creepy) and took the very last seat on the bus (yes!). Gabri had looked up train times for me (thanks man!) so I bought a ticket at the automated machine and had 35 minutes to spare. When I got to the tracks however I didn't see any signage for my train to Como. I asked a man and he said, all whilst laughing, that silly me! This train left from a different station, five metro stops away. A large expletive formed on my lips but instead I thanked him and took off for the metro. The first three machines didn't take credit cards (I had no Euros on me) so I was already a little panicky and more than a little sweaty. I got my metro ticket and raced to the correct platform. No train for six minutes and it was 6:20!! I rode the metro in a my paranoid state (re: looking at the clock on my phone every 37 seconds) and then ran (in a couple circles) around the correct station looking for the trains. Usually, in Milan, you have to put your metro ticket through the machine when you exit as well but the guy in front of me didn't so I barreled through. I finally found my track and had less than a minute to spare. There was another plastic partition in front of me which I figured would open automatically. It didn't. Which I learned by crashing into it. I made it though (forgot to validate my ticket but luckily it wasn't checked) and met Shelley in Como. We grabbed a delicious dinner, saw the sunset over the lake, and then crossed the border (on foot) back to her car in Switzerland. We set off back towards Z├╝rich around 10 pm and it was smooth sailing until the Gothard Tunnel where we encountered 1.5 hours of stop and stop some more traffic. Finally arrived at 1:30 am and Shelley had to continue back to her house (I mean this was above and beyond kind and generous).

I have definitely learned that perhaps convenience is worth the added price. That is, until my next trip.

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