We approach Stazione Termini in Rome, and I gather together my backpack, my day bag, my -- cheat sheet! It's not here anymore... but the really upsetting part is that I had been carrying my airline tickets inside it, in case they were needed at baggage claim. I look under the seat. I look next to the seat. I look under the seat again, under the seat of Mr. Stylish across from me, the woman next to him. Not in my bags. Not in my pockets. Nor in my bags. Or in my pockets for that matter.

Nowhere.

I just arrived in Rome for a three-month stay, and I've lost my airplane ticket home.

Here's my first big opportunity, for a lot of things. First opportunity to find out how to use Italian pay phones, to call the airport -- but there are no phone books at the train station phones, and I wouldn't know who at the airport to call anyway, so don't worry about that yet. First opportunity to find out where US Air's Rome office is, but still there are no phone books at the train station, so nevermind. First opportunity to find out how to get back to the airport and start looking for my airplane ticket. Carrying my life on my back, I find a ticket machine and get a return ticket to the airport -- another eight bucks -- and catch a train right before it hauls out. Maybe the same train I just took, I don't know. I look for the seat I had, but they all look the same. Just siddown. Shutup. Hang on.

Conductor punches my ticket. Another opportunity! I tell him I've lost my air ticket, lo mio bigglietto d'aereo. See, I caught onto Italian pretty quick when emergency conditions warranted it! He says he can't replace my airplane ticket, and I already sorta knew that, but that's not what I was trying to ask of him. Opportunity seemingly lost. No lost and found on the train, just go back to the airport and see what I can do there.

The US Air desk at the airport is right next to an emergency exit, an arrangement which is not apparent to some oblivious tourists who walk right out onto the street through the emergency door, setting off a screaming alarm at the exact moment I begin explaining my predicament to the woman at the desk. That good-luck penny I picked up in Seattle is -not- doing me any good.

I thought it would be a language nightmare trying to describe my problem to a Roman service clerk who was speaking rapid-fire Italian on the phone while I waited in line. I should've guessed that a simple, "Parla Inglese?" would be all that was needed for her to say "Yes" and for her to describe in perfect English exactly how I can resolve the problem. She finds my reservation in the computer, says her printer is down but the ticket can be re-issued at any time, including the day of my return flight, for a fee of $70. I'd rather just have the ticket ASAP, but if there's a chance the original could be turned in as lost then I could get it back and save the money. In a way, it's good that the flight is from Italy to the US -- if someone tries to use it, they need to have a passport that has my name on it, and fortune of fortunes I haven't lost my passport yet! I decide that it's a weird state to be in, but having no return ticket home is something I can live with for a while. Kinda fun. Makes for real adventure. Now I have no choice but to get out there and be a part of this place. Lookout Italy, here I come!

So I call the Youth Hostel from the airport, because after spending the morning going back and forth between the airport and the train station it's getting late and I need a nap. Makes it that much easier to stay up for a dinner that begins at 8 or 9PM. Even then, though, I think to myself that it's really only noon, Seattle time, and I shouldn't be retiring for the night yet. The wild cab ride from the train station was plenty of adventure for the day, however. Turning, zooming, dodging through narrow streets and along crowded boulevards which I knew I'd become more familiar with during the next three months, I tried to follow the cabdriver's route on my Rome map to familiarize myself with the city and to make sure he wasn't circuitously taking me for the proverbial ride. Another twenty or so dollars blown before I'm even settled into a room, but now I get to relax a bit and find that hostel cafeteria for some (hopefully) cheap grub and a night's rest.

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