When I was in the process of leaving Italy at the end of November, I had this great idea to fly with my bicycle. I only had to pay en extra 25€ to fly with the bike and thought it would be much easier than strapping it to the back of a car.
Since I had to get up at the crack of dawn to get to the Milan airport, I left my bike at the train station in Trento the day before and went to buy yards and yards of bubble wrap. After negotiating three train stations and catching a bus to the airport with the bike, a suitcase and hand luggage, I thought I was all set when I went to check in at the desk. There I encountered one of the rudest women that I had met the entire time I was in Italy. After assuring her that my tires were indeed deflated, she moved on to the next criticism to prevent me from checking in my bike. I was supposed to have removed the pedals and turned the handlebars so it was in a straight line with the frame. At this point I started to panic and asked what I could do, as I didn't have any tools with me. She basically told me to take a hike and that my problems were of no concern to her. I couldn't even get her to tell me who could possibly help me in the airport. She told me I had an hour and 40 minutes to figure it out. Lovely. When I was on the verge of tears, she had finally finished speaking with me, and said "next."
I have to say I was shaking and had no idea what I could possibly do. I couldn't leave the bike there, but I had no idea how I could find the tools I needed to get the bike in order. As I looked out the plate glass windows, the first thought I had was that men always had tools in their cars, and I asked the first taxi driver I could find if he had tools. At this point my Italian was breaking down a bit. I was having to ask for tools I didn't know the name of, and I was shaking with fear. Of course they didn't have anything, but they did seem willing to help me solve my problems. Two of them started asking around. At first it was just other drivers, then it was the carabinieri, and guys that vaguely looked like mechanics. Finally someone had a hex key and the handlebars were turned the proper direction. I started to feel slightly less anxious. I only had to get the pedals off. I was ready to consider breaking them off, but after another 10 to 15 minutes of searching, someone showed up with the right sized wrench. One of them came off, and I was almost euphoric. The other one was proving to be more stubborn. My assistants almost gave up hope but in the end they managed to loosen the other pedal too, and I was ecstatic. I was ready to go, and I still had plenty of time to check in before the flight was closed. I went to the other end of the counter and some nice young man helped me with no arguments.
The rest of the day was uneventful. The flight went well and the pilot was ludicrously cheerful. He kept going on about what a lovely day it was to fly, and giving us weather updates, in his cute Irish accent. I was so relieved that I had made it on to the plane that I bought some overpriced food from the attendants, and didn't even cringe.
When I picked up my poor bike at the baggage carousel, her handlebars had become completely unmoored and she looked a bit like a wilted flower. However, I still felt buoyant, and managed the somewhat daunting experience of driving on the wrong side of the road without too many problems. Of course this was just the first stage on my cross-Europe odyssey, and other delights awaited me in the following days.