I thought yesterday would never end.
I woke up at 6 AM yesterday in order to catch a train out of Lugano, Switzerland at 6:30 AM. My flight from Milan to Eindhoven was supposed to depart at 10:10 AM. Unfortunately, I overlooked some very important details whilst planning my journey.
First, I didn’t expect to have to change trains twice on the way over to Milano Centrale. Changing trains wasn’t the issue, but the layovers set me back about 40 minutes. I truly had no idea what I was doing or what train I was supposed to be on, so I asked several people and went with my gut feeling. Luckily, I took the right route and ended up at the Milan central train station where I needed to catch my bus.
If I had arrived at the train station a single minute earlier, I probably could have made my flight. Just as I walked outside to where the buses meet, the one to Milan Bergamo airport was pulling away. This was at 8:30 AM. Buses to the airport left every half-hour and I would have to wait until 9 AM to catch the next one.
I sat on the bus, waiting for it to pull away. I was annoyed, yet calm because there was simply nothing I could do about the situation. It was out of my control at this point. I just had to sit there and wait.
The bus arrived at the Milano Bergamo airport at 9:50 AM. I mindlessly overlooked the smaller print on my plane ticket that said “Gate Closes at 9:40 AM.” I walked up to the RyanAir counter and sheepishly asked if I could still make my flight. I was denied. My flight was on its “last call” for all passengers. I totally could have made it if the lady at the desk would have allowed me to check in.
Once realization set in, I felt totally lost. I was totally alone. I had no idea what to do. I had never missed a flight before! All I wanted to do was call my mom and ask for advice, but I couldn’t. It was time to grow up and fix this mistake on my own.
The next flight to Eindhoven wasn’t until the next day at 3:30 PM. That was a whole 30 hours away. There was no way I was going to attempt to navigate Milan all alone and spend tons of money on a hotel room. Milan was just not my scene. I did not feel remotely at home there. I actually felt quite scared in the parts of Milan I’d been to. The stations were cold, confusing, and creepy and the people were just the same.
After contemplating what I should do, I was told by the window attendant at the RyanAir booth that I could get a flight to Dusseldorf, Germany. Apparently that is a common destination for people who miss their flights to Eindhoven. I had to surrender 100 euros and decided to grab the 2:30 PM flight to Dusseldorf in order to arrive in Amsterdam within the same day.
If I hadn’t missed my flight, I never would have met these two wonderful Dutch ladies in the Dusseldorf airport. When you’re in a garbage dump of a situation, I can assure you that some good will always come out of it. You just need to stay positive, keep your eyes open, and see the opportunities.
I’d guess that these two ladies were somewhere in their 60s. One was very short and couldn’t touch the ground as she sat in the chair in the airport. They were both very cute and seemingly good friends. I heard them speaking Dutch to someone and they mentioned Eindhoven. I decided to speak up and ask where they were going.
They were headed to Eindhoven but something happened with the shuttle or their flight and the process was delayed. They had been waiting in those airport seats for ages. I told them that I needed to go to Amsterdam, so they decided to take me under their wings and show me the way.
While waiting in the airport for the shuttle to arrive, the two ladies got up and wandered over to a little kid ride in the corner of the airport. This is one of those rides you see outside a large grocery store or in a mall that has little cars and airplanes that rock back and forth. I wondered about these two 60 year old women observing the Sesame Street ride. They seemed to be looking for the slot to put change into. Surely they couldn’t be trying to ride on that thing…
The short little woman with grey hair put her money into the slot and hopped on the little blue car. She was rocking back and forth and laughing, having the time of her life as her friend watched and laughed too. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I watched too. It was completely unexpected, yet very refreshing.
These women reminded me that I need not take life so seriously. I used to know this, then somewhere along the line I forgot. Pablo Picasso once said, “Youth has no age.” This couldn’t be more true. These women were traveling long hours, just as I was, and yet they continued to have high energy and a positive attitude.
The shuttle to Eindhoven eventually arrived and due to whatever mistake the airport made, I didn’t need to pay a cent. The ride was about two hours long and I was never happier to sit on a bus, listen to my iPod, and look out the window.
These women also made me realize that I really like being alone, but I don’t like feeling alone. When I missed my flight in Milan, I had no one to help me out; nowhere and no one to turn to. I was in an unfamiliar foreign country where those who did speak English spoke it very brokenly. I felt alone. As soon as I reached the Netherlands, I felt safe and at home. I knew what I was doing and I felt comfortable again.
These two women took me under their wings and were very sweet in escorting me to the correct train once I reached Eindhoven. I knew exactly which train I needed to take, but I didn’t stop them when they pointed me in the right direction. It felt good to have a mentor again, someone else to do the planning for once.
I sat by the window of the train to Amsterdam and as it pulled away the two Dutch ladies waved goodbye to me. I waved goodbye back and an endless smile was suddenly stuck to my face. Though I never even learned the names of these women, they felt like family. We endured 4 hours of waiting and traveling together and attained an unspoken connection because of it.
It was an expensive and inconvenient mistake, but missing my flight wasn’t all that bad. After 16 hours of waiting around and traveling, I arrived to my apartment in Amsterdam with a smile on my face.