Luckily, I found a crumpled $20 dollar bill inside one of my pockets. I walked around to try and find a money changer to convert it to euros.
Unfortunately for me, all the stores were closed due to the local religious custom it was after all a Sunday in Italy. I later found out that due to the exchange rate they would only change larger sums of money. Now, regretting not bringing a cellphone, I found a payphone and dialed a relative collect. But before I could explain my situation, the call was cut short and I could no longer make any calls. The reality of my dire situation was slowly clutching at me like a cold hand. It’s a horrible feeling when you realize that your helpless and without money in an alien country. As ridiculous as it sounds, what bothered me more was the fact that my wonderful vacation was being swallowed up before my eyes. All that planning and excitement had been disrupted by that little plastic card in my wallet.
I reminded myself that nothing in life is a total loss, just a different journey than the one that was expected. I knew that I wasn’t helpless and that things would run their course, as they are meant to.
My grandmother always used to say “Man Plans and G-D Laughs”.
Looking around, I assessed my situation and all of the ways that I might be able to try and fix it. I went to the airline administration office and asked them to change my ticket to an earlier date. The best they would do was to put me on a flight 4 days later. It wasn’t what I wanted but under the circumstances I willingly accepted. With tears in my eyes and stabbing pain in my stomach I dragged myself and my backpack down to the food court.
I sat there and thanked G-D that there was a roof over my head and the possibility of food. As I hungrily watched everyone enjoying their meals, I remembered that I had not a euro to my name and had no way to purchase the meal that I desperately needed. I thought about the 4 days that stretched ahead of me and wondered how long I’d survive without eating. I found a lone luggage cart, threw my bag onto it and arranged it in front of my chair to use as a footrest. I noticed that the carts had a coin slot and that a nice shiny euro was planted inside of it .I thanked G-D for giving me this cart, though I felt bad for the person who left it there and lost their euro. I sat there for a while and thought of all the things that I could do to pass the time. There wasn’t much, aside from checking out the shopping and of course the bathrooms. It sounds desperate I know, but that’s all I had other than my Harry Potter book.
In fact, I ended up reading it so many times that to this day, I cannot read it again. After walking around for a few hours I realized that my hunger was growing (as was my boredom).
Something had to be done!
Just then, I noticed another lone luggage cart with a shiny euro inside.
It all became very clear from that point forward:
All I needed to do was collect enough luggage carts and use the money inside to purchase food. I don’t know how many carts I collected, but at the end of the day when I settled into my sleeping bag my stomach was full and I slept soundly.
During my long stay at the Milan Malpensa Airport, I met a lot of interesting people who, like me, were also spending a night or two on the airport floor .One well to do woman from Tanzania was mysteriously living in the airport for about 3 weeks. I spent a few nights sleeping on the floor with a bunch of college kids from Argentina, who had some trouble with their visas. There were also many traveling pets who I enjoyed playing with, as one of the many ways to pass the time .Most of all I enjoyed meeting all of the individuals that somewhat shared my “vacation”, and of course a small piece of our lives.
The lesson that I learnt and gladly pass onto my readers, is to always travel with at least 2 credit cards a cell phone, and to forever be resourceful.
And of course, don’t forget to always find the silver lining in every cloud J