Love is in the air…portPosted on March 6, 2013
Late on Friday afternoon, I found myself at the airport, getting ready to leave Italy for the first time since September in order to head to Munich, Germany for a weekend full of business meetings. Rome’s Aeroporto di Fiumicino is the kind of permanently dusty, tired-looking sprawl of florescent-lit passages and worn linoleum floors that doesn’t do much to emphasize the romance of travel or, really, romance of any kind at all. The check-in counters are mobbed by a disorganized, tangled pack of passengers and suitcases, and the line snaking its way through the one or two open security lanes moves slowly enough that you start to suspect your feet might become permanently rooted to the ground underneath them.
It goes without saying, then, that the security line is not the kind of place where you’d expect to receive a spontaneous marriage proposal from a complete stranger.
I was going through the process of systematically ridding myself of all metal objects – belt, necklace, stray coins in pocket – while simultaneously shaking my laptop free of its case and trying to stuff it, along with my coat and purse, into one small plastic bin, when one of the security staff planted himself in front of me.
“I’m sorry, bella,” he said with an apologetic smile, “but if it is not too much of a problem, could you remove your boots, please?”
I sighed, having watched a pair of boot-clad feet march their way successfully through the metal detector only seconds earlier, but bent down and tugged off my knee-high boots.
“And your scarf, please, cara.” I obediently unwrapped the scarf. The security guy’s smile widened. As he took the boots and scarf from me and dropped them haphazardly onto the x-ray machine’s conveyor belt, he muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “will you marry me”, which I promptly disregarded as a simple misunderstanding or a massive translation error, because obviously there was no way that a man who had only laid eyes on me seconds earlier would be proposing marriage to me, right?
Wrong. A few seconds later he turned to face me again and repeated, very clearly this time, and very much in English, “will you marry me?”
I’ve never before been quite so eager to dash through the metal detector and to the relative safety on the opposite side.
Two days later, I found myself wandering through the Munich airport in search of some decent coffee to keep me adequately caffeinated for the flight. This airport was everything the Rome airport was not – sleek, airy, packed with upscale shops and restaurants – but for all its glossiness, it was proving nearly impossible to find a shot of espresso that didn’t come from a suspicious-looking fully automated machine with a three-Euro price tag attached to it.
On my second lap around the terminal, I suddenly noticed the smell of espresso – good espresso – wafting tantalizingly past me. Looking around, I spotted a small sign advertising a coffee bar and pointing down a nondescript staircase into some less-glamorous annexed area of the airport – the sign was written not in German, like every other sign in the airport, but in Italian, and as it turned out, that little section of the airport was dedicated entirely to an airline offering flights into Italy.
And so I descended the staircase and found myself swallowed up by Italy. Disorganized crowds packed the departure gates. Dramatic hand gestures were everywhere. Loud mobile phone conversations filled the air. And through all the chaos came the unmistakable sound of ceramic cups clinking against saucers – the coffee bar.
I ordered my caffè macchiato confidently in Italian, then struck up a conversation with the barista about why a Canadian girl who spoke (some) Italian was here, in Munich, draining every last drop of an airport macchiato as though it were liquid gold. And after setting the cup back down with a satisfying clank, I thanked the barista and turned to leave.
“Aspetta, aspetta,” he called after me. “I have a question for you! Are you married?” I shook my head, grinning, but continued towards the staircase.
His voice followed me up the stairs: “I would marry you! I would marry you right away!”