Summary - The trip was wonderful! So much fun! So much good food! Sights!! A really great European trip. However, there were a few notable “hurdles” along the way that gave this trip more than its share of memorable stories to tack on to make it that much more memorable (in hindsight).
Part 1 - Leaving the US
We were scheduled to leave SFO at 4:00pm on Friday, have a short layover in London, and get into Rome at 6:00pm or so. If only…
We get to SFO, no problem. There are nine of us… my brothers (Joel & Daniel), my step brothers (Paul, Jake and his girlfriend Anne), my step sister and her son (Lisa and Jamari), and then Ann and myself. My parents had left earlier in the day on another airline and were flying through Germany to get to Rome. They flew United. We flew British Airways (if you know anything of what happened with them 3 weeks ago, you have a leg up on where this eventually heads).
We board the plane. Ann and I are in the front of the plane, and the rest of the group is in the back. We’re a little late pushing back from the gate… no big deal. Start taxing out to the runway, when a flight attendant comes up to the guy across the aisle from me.
“Sir, I need you to remove that for the duration of the flight,” the flight attendant kindly asks.
“Why should I? Its my right to free speech! You can’t make me. I have every right! Can I have your name?”
I look over and this moron has on a pin that says “Suspected Terrorist.” I mean COME ON! Its not like he looked dangerous or anything, but WHY would you want to do this?! Anyway, this goes back and forth for a few minutes, where its obviously clear that he is not going to take it off and the flight attendant says they will forcibly remove him from the plane… Oh great. The plane stops taxing. The Captain comes up and confronts the man. It is obvious at this point he is trying to make a political statement, taking about the first amendment, recording all the names of the flight staff, etc. No one else in the plane really knows what is going on, but the captain says there is a “security incident” and we have to head back to the gate. Wonderful!
So they get security on the plane and remove him from the plane, a long with his wife or girlfriend who was sitting at the back of the plane, maintaining while leaving the plane, “Why? It’s his right!” Shesh. At this point, we’re an hour late. Its tough to convey the incident in its entirety… I wish I happened to have a video camera.
So back at the gate, security has to check the plane, mainly around where he was sitting (pull up the seats, ask everyone around to reclaim their carry-on bags, etc) and also remove his bags from under the plane. Additionally, because its a trans-atlantic flight, we have to take off with a full tank, so we have to refuel the plane, and all the wonderful paperwork that comes with it. To compound this entire fiasco, the air conditioning at the back of the plane doesn’t work! Needless to say, quite a few people were pissed off… Another hour or so later, we’re ready to take off. Finially!
Its a long flight, but so are all flights to Europe from the west coast. Nothing out of the ordinary yet…
When we boarded the plane (4:00pm PST) it was the middle of the night over in London. We left without of clue of what was waiting for us.
(to be continued…)