A week ago last night, I returned to New York. It’s strange how slowly a week can go in Rome, the week leading up to my departure, in anticipation and a mixture of sadness and excitement, compared to a week of winter break in the United States. By all accounts, comparatively, I’ve been pretty unproductive.
Still, as much as I loved Rome and the people I met there, I am happy to be back in the US. About a week before my flight, I came to realize there would be just no way to make my connecting flight in Philadelphia. My flight from Rome was supposed to land at 3:50, and I was supposed to take off again at 5:55. Between that time, I was supposed to 1) deplane, 2) go through customs, 3) find my bags, 4) go through a second round of customs, 5) re-drop my bags, 6) go through security again, and 7) change terminals. Even though the airline claimed I technically had time, I knew there was no way I’d make it. I had read on the internet that Customs in Philly had long lines and those with connecting flights could not skip to the front. I managed to convince the airline to switch my flight—for free—to a later flight, one departing at 8:50. For that flight, I’d have plenty of time, and after all, if I were to miss the first one, they’d be rebooking me for free on the day of. Why not make it less stressful for everyone and just re-book now? So, they did.
After landing—40 minutes late—in Philadelphia, some friends and I made our way to the customs line, surely more than 300 people long. It moved amazingly fast, however, and within about 30 minutes, we were through to baggage claim. All in all, an hour after landing, we were in line for the security for our next flights. Had my first flight arrived on time or early, I may have been able to barely reach the 5:55 flight. In reality, I recall looking at my watch while on line for the final round of security and reading 5:50.
Following security, I was into the departures area of Philadelphia International. I said goodbye to friends who were off to make their connections and, upon looking up, the first thing I noticed was a gift shop selling “Patty’s Pub” shirts, a reference to It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, the tv show on FX. Needless to say, the first purchase I made with US bills upon arriving was that shirt. Around 6:30, (12:30am, mentally,) I found myself feeling the first wave of exhaustion. A restaurant was nearby and a Philly cheese steak awaited. While my 8:50 flight to Westchester ended up taking off closer to 10:50, I was happy to be back on American soil. Landing at Westchester at 10:45, my parents took me home and I was in bed at 12:30. With the six hour difference in time, I had been awake for 24 hours.
On the following Monday, I went up to Connecticut College, by train, for a meeting and to visit friends. It was fantastic to see the people and places I had gone so long without. It was a taste of Conn, holding me over until late January.
I may post scattered images and messages on this blog in the future, but in the mean time, I want to thank all who read and followed along. Numerous people reported that they would check each morning to see what the new “picture of the day” would be. While I never anticipated having a photo of the day, I love the concept that grew, and I am happy to have shared my experience in Europe with you all, even if the images only begin to scratch the surface.