Day one starts, not surprisingly, in Lisbon. It was about 4 PM and I was leaving work — the flight was late in the day, so I figured I could spare taking an additional day off. Lena was waiting for me outside in the baggage-loaded car, João was the driver. We had a few hours still, but expectation always gets to us, and we can’t but be excited and get there early. Too early sometimes.
The flight leaves at 7 PM sharp and, to our disappointment, the Euro2012 Portugal VS Spain semi-final starts at 7:45 PM. We’ll be 10,000 feet in the air without any ground connection — we’ll be in the dark until we land at 10:45 PM. Bummer.
After two long and boring queues we get seated in the plane. As though that was not enough, we got to get through the old “the emergency doors are located on the side of the airplane” routine. Just as we are getting pulled out to taxi our way into the runway, a Spanish 60-something year-old man asks the flight attendant if we are getting updates on the game. She smiles and replies the pilot will ask ground control for updates whenever possible — a few cheer. I smile but can’t stop thinking controllers should be looking at radars, flight routes, and things alike, not the freaking match.
First half goes by, then full-time, and the latest information is always the same “Portugal and Spain are still tied, 0–0, no team scored”. We’re almost landing in Rome, so now I just want to jump ship and watch the penalties. No such luck, there are any TVs around and by the looks of baggage claim, it appears our suitcase has taken some days off as well. We’ll be stuck here for a while. All of a sudden, a group of teenagers start shouting and cheering; “España” I hear, and know in that moment our opportunity is now gone.
When we get to the arrivals, now accompanied by the rolling luggage, our driver is already expecting us. He’s a relaxed big-boned Italian in his mid-fifties, but don’t mess with him. Once he gets in the back of the wheel of his brand spanking new Mercedes, going 200 km/h, and flashing his headlights to cars in front of him — all in good Italian fashion — he certainly doesn’t seem as relaxed. Despite his inability to understand English and Portuguese we start chatting in what could be described as a concoction of Spanish, sign language with a hint of — and to best of my abilities — Italian inflection. I still believe that made the difference.
Before reaching the center, we had the opportunity to inquire him about some not-so-known facts about Rome, watch a shiny black Corvette eat our dust, and talk a bit about Portugal. He’s a fan of Cascais, which he’s visited with his family on two occasions now. Soon enough he was giving us a tour of Rome, driving by the most famous landmarks, explaining a few of them, even jokingly asking us “cosa è che?” when we made a right turn and gazed at the glowing, imposing, and mighty Colosseum right in front of us. We gave him the right answer and he was pleased — “Bravo!”, he said.