The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday July 23rd

Life in London takes flight

<p>The Colosseum, a staple of Roman tourism.</p>
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The Colosseum, a staple of Roman tourism.

Flying has never been my strong suit. 

At one point, I had a dismal 50 percent success rate when it came to actually catching a flight. 

These failures weren't my fault though. The first time I flew by myself, I'd used up every available brain cell to take the SAT that morning. Really, I can’t be blamed for that one. The second time, I missed a connection because my first flight was delayed. Obviously wasn’t my fault there, either.

I guess it was my fault that I ended up giving my number to a complete stranger at the airport that day, but that’s a story for another time.

Despite those early failures, I’ve had a real bounce back in recent years. I’ve made 100 percent of my flights so far in 2017! It’s been a great year!

What is the secret to my success? I’ve discovered that flying is all about two things — confidence and following the crowd. I might have put these principles into practice a little too well on my flight back from Spring Break.

Our story begins on a bright, sunny day in Rome two weeks ago. I walked into the airport terminal and looked around. I had no idea what to do. The setup seemed nothing like any airport I’d been in before. 

Please bear in mind that I speak no Italian. Literally the only thing I can say is thank you, which gets you exactly nowhere in an airport.

Luckily, I remembered my principles of successful travel, so I followed the crowd. That was a mistake. 

I found myself in the checked bag line — a good thing — in the middle of a large high school group — a bad thing. They were all speaking in Italian so I tried to look small and inconspicuous. That strategy did not work. 

As we neared the counter, the teacher leading the trip looked right at me and then asked the student standing next to her a question. He turned to look at me, shook his head and said something back to the teacher. 

This leads me to conclude one of two things: either she asked if I was a member of the group and he said no (in that case, she’s a really bad chaperone) or she asked him if I looked intelligent enough to get in line without mixing myself up in a school group and he said no (in which case, they are very rude people). 

Either way, I started subtly trying to let other people pass me in line by pretending to be very engrossed in my boarding pass. I think this strategy worked and my bag was soon safely checked.

My next hurdle was customs. I almost blundered into the Italian passport line but changed course just in time. The customs officer was an overwhelmingly attractive Italian man, but I didn’t let that phase me.

I generally forget important details like my name when faced with customs officers, but my first travel principle (confidence) was in full swing by this point. I may have come off a little too confident because I’m pretty sure he tried to wink at me as I walked away. 

I say “tried” because he just ended up scrunching up half of his face. It was weird.

Anyway, numerous delays and several horribly written novels later, I arrived back in London. There was only one more difficulty to get through, UK customs. For this, I would need to pull out every millennial's most effective confidence strategy — headphones.

Have you ever walked through an airport with shoes that click super loudly (I like to call them confidence boots) listening to really hype music? Try it sometime. I was at the height of my power.

Life was great until I approached the customs line, where I came to an abrupt halt. 

Headphones are super cool and all until you need to talk to important people, so I fumbled to turn off my music. That made me super flustered, so when the customs officer told me I had a nice tan she was probably just trying to make me feel better about my beet red face. She also told me I looked 14, which made me start to doubt my own age. By the time I got through customs and returned home, my confidence travel principle was completely shot.

At least I made the flight this time.

swerve@dailytarheel.com

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