A mile or so down the road from one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen — the Valles Caldera, the massive caldera of an ancient volcano, 11,000 feet up in northern New Mexico — we came across this paradisal place, the Las Conchas Trail on the East Fork of the Jemez wilderness. Easy to miss, but once found and seen, impossible to forget.
So you’re driving through the panhandle of Texas with the land flat as a bedsheet as far as the eye can see, and then all of sudden the ground drops a thousand feet. Congratulations, you have discovered Palo Duro Canyon.
Always rather embarrassing to wonder what one gets out of travel to make up for its privations, except that it requires so much more imagination to stay at home.
— William Empson, letter to John Hayward, 7 March 1933
Yesterday I woke up in Rome at 6:30am, had a quick breakfast at the absolutely delightful hotel my friend and colleague Elizabeth Corey had recommended to me, and then:
- walked to the Circo Massimo metro stop
- took the metro to Termini (Rome’s chief train station)
- took the Leonardo Express to Fiumicino Airport
- walked from the train into Terminal 3
- took a shuttle bus to Terminal 5
- got into a long queue to be asked questions about my visit by a security agent
- was funneled into another long queue with people who were checking bags, even though I already had my boarding pass and wasn’t checking a bag
- got into another long queue to have bags and body scanned
- got into a fourth queue to have my passport stamped
- was funneled into as fifth queue to get on another shuttle bus to take me back to Terminal 3, where I was finally dropped off near my gate
- took a ten-hour flight (complete with screaming baby) to Charlotte
- got off the plane, went through customs
- got back into the TSA security line
- walked to my gate
- took a two-hour flight to Dallas
- waited for four hours for my two-hour-delayed flight to Waco (spending some of that listening to an American Airlines employee be loudly rude to an old man in a wheelchair who had missed the last flight of the day to his destination, Madison WI)
- flew home, arriving at 11pm Texas time, which is to say, nearly 24 hours after I woke up.
This is simply insane. There is no way for the airlines and our security-theater system to make a voyage like that pleasant, and yes, Louis C.K., I heard you, but everyone seems to have gone out of their way to make it as complicated, confusing, frustrating, and generally unpleasant as possible. My visit to Rome was wonderful, if exhausting, but the memory of yesterday is going to have to fade considerably before I will be able even to contemplate another overseas trip.