Also, the wine is fantastic

People often tell me that they get very frustrated when they have to work in Italy. I'm luck enough to have the opportunity to come here a couple of times a year for my job, and I've always told people that when I travel to Italy, I just reset my expectations, and set my stress threshold down about twelve notches, and I'm fine. Which is really just a lesson that I should apply when traveling in general, I know. But there's something about coming to Tuscany that makes me willing to deal with things that I wouldn't otherwise be prepared to handle without serious amounts of alcohol or prescription strength medication.

Today, I flew into Pisa on my way to Siena, which is the literal heart of Tuscany. There are no direct flights (of course), so I ended up flying Lufthansa from Manchester to Munich (which is a gorgeous airport, especially compared to the eternal post-modernist beast that is the Frankfurt airport), and then a small flight down from Munich to Pisa.

The flight from Munich to Pisa was titled "Lufthansa", but was operated by one of those small, sub-contractor airlines that you get on the shorter routes. This one was Italian, titled "Il Duce Air" or something. We all got off the shuttle bus and trudged up the stairs to take our seats and prepare to go. The pilot came on the PA as we went through this routine and told us that our slot was delayed a bit, but he wanted to get us in the plane, just in case things improved. About this time, the passenger in front of me called the stewardess over to point at her window. Which had just fallen into her lap. The plastic liner had fallen forwards into the plane, and landed in her lap, and the plexiglass interior window had slid down to tilt precariously at her head. The exterior window still looked to be in place, but the stewardess screwed her eyebrows together and then hurried to get the pilot.

Oh boy, I thought. I'm never getting to Pisa tonight.

The pilot came back and looked at the window and said "um.. we'll call maintenance". And then the stewardess moved the ladies from that row up to row 1, and opened a bottle of wine while we all sat and waited.

About 10 minutes later, the maintenance guy showed up, took a look at the window, pulled out the precarious bits and said "oh, go ahead and fly. That inside window isn't important."

Er. Ok. Then why, exactly do they put it there in the first place, I wonder? Excuse my murmurings. I suddenly got religion.

We did take off, and we managed to make it to Pisa without explosive decompression, however, so score one for the insouciant maintenance guy.

But wait. There's more.

In Pisa, we had to de-plane and get on the little bus that drives you 50 feet to the terminal (because that large expanse of runway is dangerous to us ignorant civilians.) And we waited patiently in the baggage claim area for our luggage to be tossed onto the conveyor belt, talking about the miracle of our successful passage. And then our bags started coming through. After about three bags, however, the power shut off for the entire airport. Except for the P.A. system, which inexplicably continued to work, as they continued to call for other departing flights to begin boarding.

In the next ten minutes, not a single word was said about the power being out, but some resourceful lady reached through the strips of tar paper screening the luggage conveyor belt from the outside where the baggage handlers were and started hauling in a bag. In about 30 seconds, all of us had formed a human luggage chain, like a suitcase bucket brigade pulling in the contents of our plane's cargo hold.

What was fantastic about this was not that the passengers took it upon themselves to figure out how to cope, but that no one raised even an eyebrow at the power outage or the lady half crawling through the baggage chute to get the next suitcase and pass it back. The customs guy I passed on the way out kind of just shrugged as if to say 'Yeah. But what can you do?'

I seriously do love this country.