Saturday, July 5, 2008

A tale of two queues

Yesterday, 4th of July, independence day for the American people, I finally flied back to the States. My flight was leaving from Rome. Nice and comfortable since my maternal grandparents live in the eternal city. Although you still need to get to the airport and the only feasible option is to get the train.
My grandpa is always willing to get me to Roma Ostiense, one of the train stations where the train stops. As usual, I head for the vending machines for tickets as I always do since I am allergic to lines. In my opinions lines are the extreme symbol of inefficiency and lack of organization. Although, again, the vending machines are both broken. The information age has been around quite a while. Even in the subway there are plenty of machines to buy tickets but at the Roma Ostiense train station there are only two. And they don't work.
Ok, there is no need to panic, I will buy a ticket as people used to back in the pre-information-age era. The line at the ticket office is not even that long. Only three people. It's 8:24am and the next train leaves at 8:33am so I should manage to get it. But the guy is taking his time. Actually the ticket officer is taking his time too and there is only one. It's 8:28am, 8:31am. I finally decide to drop the idea of buying a ticket and leave for the train but it's too late. Well, no reason to overreact since there is a train every 15 minutes. Too bad the next one is 25 minutes late. I go back to the ticket office and the same guy is still talking while now there are at least 12 people in line, most of them coming from the ticket vending machine. He finally leaves at 8:48am while people behind started to get nervous. I contemplate that I had time to lose another train if it wasn't for the fact that it was late.
I finally get into the 9:03am train, which is pretty full and gets to the airport with some delay. During the trip I am thinking how it is possible that we spend billions of euros to build high speed railroads to save half an hour while the same amount of time can be lost because of technology repeatedly not working in the train stations. I arrive at the airport about 80 minutes earlier than my departure instead of the canonical two hours suggested for international flights. I hurry up and I manage still to get to the gate ten minutes before they start boarding. Although I get placed in seat 39F, the very last one. That means that you can't tilt the seat and that you are going to be the very last to get out of the plane, a critical feature if the plane lands late and you need to make a connection.
After a long flight, during which I ended up watching four movies, 10000 BC, Natural Treasure 2, Hercules and PS I Love You, I land in Philadelphia where I board a smaller flight to Boston. This time my seat is 6C, the second one after the first class seat. That's very good news since getting out first will give me better chances to catch the bus for Hanover, my final destination.
During the flight the captain is happy to inform us that, thanks to tail wind, we are going to land 25 minutes earlier. After that happens and the plane parks in front of the gate and everybody stands up, anxious to get out. But the door doesn't open. The captain first informs us that they are having difficulties with the connecting bridge, then that they are still having mechanical difficulties and that a mobile stair is on her way in case the problems could not be solved. We impatiently wait, seeing that freedom is just a few steps away. Sadly, jumping out of the plane is not an option. Finally, 25 minutes after parking, the captain informs us that the mobile stair arrived but it is going to connect at the back of the plane. It is 6:48pm and the bus starts going around the terminals at 6:55pm. Running would be an option if it wasn't that you have to wait for all of the people in front of you, that means all of them, again, to get out of the plane. The best ones are those that wait until is their turn to start organizing their luggages. Electrocution should be the only outcome for their behavior. After a short run, I manage to collect my luggage and step out of the airport at 6:56pm. The bus arrives just about 5 minutes later making me draw a sigh of relief. Only sad point, they are showing Natural Treasure 2 aboard, again.
Long story short, even here in the United States, the land of efficiency, they manage to have dozens of people lose their time for the most stupid reasons. Maybe my grandpa was right when he said that it was better during the Fascism when trains were never late. Too bad the world is not like Wikipedia, where if something is wrong you can actually fix it instead of cursing the people who are guilty of it. For everything else, I guess the only option is to have a little patience.

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