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The Whiteboard Jungle: Italy was a delight; flying there and back was not

The Hilton Molino Stucky Hotel is reflected in Venice, Italy’s Grand Canal at 4:30 a.m., part of a 21-hour trek home for Brian Crosby and his family.
(Courtesy of Ben Crosby)

Before starting our trip to Italy, the one leg of it causing me the most concern was the getaway day when we had to leave Venice at 4:30 a.m. in order to catch a one-hour flight to Rome, then the 12-hour flight back home.

Because of the canal and the ban on automobiles where we stayed, we figured we would have to schedule both a water and a land taxi to reach the airport.

Thankfully, a solicitous hotel employee arranged transportation that only included land travel.

The final “day” started at 3:30 a.m. Right on time, the taxi driver arrived at 4:30 a.m. As we walked the half-mile to the parking area, it was remarkable to see Venice completely empty along the Grand Canal, quietly beautiful.


At 5:45 a.m. we boarded the flight to Rome, landing at 7:25 a.m. We lugged our bags down the ramp and immediately hopped on a bus on the runway that was as crowded as a New York subway train taking us to the terminal building.

Within minutes, we had to get on a train that took us to a different building where our second flight was departing.

At 7:55 a.m., we quickly scanned the monitors to locate our gate: number 34, of course, all the way at the end.

Practically jogging, we got to customs at 8:05 a.m., boarding the plane at 8:15.


As we were catching our breath, strapping ourselves into our coach seats, across the aisle on this half-day trek in the sky was, you guessed it, a 1-year-old baby. If I wasn’t a parent myself, I would have cried right then and there.

One of the things I learned about myself in traveling to Italy was that I cannot tolerate long flights; I don’t know how people do it.

Since the price of a first-class one-way ticket surpassed the total of four round-trip tickets, we had to fly economy.

You’re buckled into a seat, your thighs are smashed against the arm rest partitions, and since your body is limited in movement, your pores open up, perspiring in all the nooks and crannies of your body.

Since I barely had three hours of sleep, it was hard to concentrate on reading or watching anything.

No matter how I shifted my limbs or lowered or tilted my head or rolled up the blanket or “pillow,” I could not get comfortable nor could I sleep.

I tried not to continually look at the remaining hours for fear of going completely bonkers.

Blessedly, touchdown at 12:20 p.m. PST.


You would think that once we landed at Los Angeles International Airport a huge sense of relief would uplift us, but no. Our prepaid car to take us back to our house was 40 minutes late.

Even after the driver showed up, the nightmare did not end. Despite knowing how arduous our travel was, she insisted on peppering us with questions during the course of the hour-and-a-half migration on half a dozen freeways.

She was so engrossed in talking that she blew by our exit which meant she had to continue another 2 miles before the next one.

All told, my family was up 21 consecutive hours. I felt like we were playing the family edition of “The Amazing Race.”

The only way I can see myself flying long distances in the future is if there is a stop in New York for a few days, then continue on to Europe, then reverse the process — or I become president of the United States and fly on Air Force One (not happening).

Look, my family and I enjoyed visiting Rome, Florence and Venice. We have physical evidence via photos and videos showing us smiling in front of historic landmarks.

But flying there and coming back was tortuous. As the Frank Sinatra song “It’s Nice to Go Trav’ling” goes, “it’s so much nicer to come home.”



BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of “Smart Kids, Bad Schools” and “The $100,000 Teacher.” He can be reached at

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