One More for Milan!

by Josh Valcarcel
North Carolina, USA

I was raised in Spain, with Spanish father and American mother, so have double citizenship and two passports. I’ve flown many international flights. While in college in the USA, I planned to go home to Spain for Christmas. My fiancee lived there, and I hadn’t seen her for 5 months. I was 21 at the time.

I flew to Newark, New Jersey, then took the connecting bus to JFK. My flight was on Alitalia to Milan, then Barcelona. I was well prepared, tickets in place, passports on hand, good book to read. I got to JFK six hours ahead of my departure, and joined the Alitalia line.

Catastrophe struck when I went reached the counter and realized I had no tickets. I was dumbfounded. I’d shown them to the connection bus driver, yet I had my Spanish passport, but not my American one. Finally I realized I’d left them on the bus seat.

A deep sick feeling came over me; without those tickets, I was stuck. I had 5 hours. I struggled back to the buses with two large suitcases and a large carry-on.

I hailed buses, but few stopped. The first three said to go to Newark to the Lost and Found; they couldn’t help without the bus number. The fourth person finally used the radio, to no avail. The fifth said, “Step back onto the curb, and I’ll be right with you.” He then closed his doors and sped off.

Returning to Alitalia, I asked for help, such as a reprint, since I still had my Spanish passport. The lady firmly said she saw my ticket on the screen, but a reprint wasn’t possible. Another ticket at $485 would be necessary. I had $27.75.

As hours ticked by, I became more aggressive. I followed the Alitalia supervisor, pleading for a reprint exception. He said to buy another ticket. Finally, standing by the service desk, I heard a representative say: “No more people for the Milan flight! The door is closed!”

I realized I wasn’t going home, covered my face with my hands and started to cry in despair. Then a lady asked: “Young man, why are you crying?” I sobbed through the main facts, and immediately she said: “You’re not staying here, you are going home.” She marched me back to customer service and gave the lady my passport, saying “Print his ticket right now,” and on the radio “Hold Milan, I’ve got one more!”

It seemed a dream, but there was my ticket!

At the screening area 120 people waited in line to be searched. Then an officer shouted, “Who’s the guy going to Milan?” I raised my hand, and people stepped aside. Safely in my seat I suddenly realized I hadn’t thanked this person who, in a moment, changed my tear-filled face… to a tear-filled face with a smile.

So to the Alitalia employee, whoever you are: Thank you! I am now happily married and have a little girl.

Originally published as HeroicStories #701 on March 27, 2007

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