Back story: I’m going to Italy with family (mom, step dad, 14 year old sister, and sisters friend) to celebrate my moms 50th birthday. It’s a 2 week trip and I’m honestly not too excited (would much rather do it with friends.) I’m 27 live alone and absolutely love music festivals. I’ve been to a ton but have Tomorrowland at the top of my bucket list. Today I said fuck it and bought a day pass for Friday. I’m a bit nervous cause I’m doing this trip alone plus I only speak English and Spanish. But as a Miami native this might be the best chance I ever have to make it. So my Reddit friends I’d like your advice and input :)
Plan: i have a 2 week stay planned in Italy and will be in Rome July 26. I bought a flight for Thursday to return Saturday. I’m thinking about booking a hotel as close as possible to the airport to save on transportation costs and avoid some stress. I’m landing in Brussels airport which is roughly 30KM from the festival and plan on booking a hotel that’s walking distance. Is this a good idea? Are there other hotels that provide a shuttle to and from the festival? Is taking a taxi there and back safe? My priority is safety and ease of transportation. Which is why I’d rather not take a bus or train.
I’m super exited and can’t wait to see Hardwell for the millionth time but I wish the techno line up was a bit better that day. I’d appreciate and tips to help make my experience as best as possible :)
I am a taxi Cab driver so when I am working the company‘s phone number listed on, google has calls forwarded to my phone using *73 and has worked for years. Thursday like two days ago every incoming call was unknown name even one in my contacts list so I did everything I went down to Verizon and they turned off my block unknown calls thing, I got the 16.4 update. I have an iPhoneX. Now every five calls has a phone number, but the rest are all unknown. The Verizon store phone came up as unknown but the workers cell came up as a number. I have to be able to screen my calls or call people back for work. Why is it doing this?! 😭😭😭
I have enough points for the Cavalieri. However, given that I’ll be with my teenager who wants to be in the middle of it all, I have very real reservations about location on that one. We could taxi/Ubeshuttle over to town, but it will make us lack the spontaneity I think we are after in terms of where to dine, when to do what, etc. OTOH I would love go spend some time at the spa.
So without Cavalieri, that leaves me the Cosmopolita, with a somewhat better location but worse reviews vs. the Doubletree in Monti, which is a little further but better reviews. (We are also arriving by train, so Monti is attractive from that angle, but we can just hop into a cab to anywhere else, so it’s not a decision-making factor…)
What would you do?
It caught my eye the moment I got behind the desk. The pamphlet was lightly wedged between a potted plant and a filing cabinet, no doubt having slipped someone’s hand and mind as papers were being shuffled around the nursing home. The pamphlet must’ve been casually dropped recently, yet it looked ancient. Its paper was yellowing and worn and the pages were ever so gently sticking together. Even its font, regal and as far from modern as one might go, seemed to come from a different time. FLY WITH MORANA AIR TO PLACES YOU HAVE SEEN BUT FORGOTTEN!
Most of the adverts that would make their way through the nursing home would have large lettering to complement our clientele’s eyesight. The titles of the Morana Air flier were just as big as any other, yet the actual text of the ad was so miniscule even my healthy eyes couldn’t read it. FLOAT!
— the first page commanded. Beneath the title there was a scrawl of ant-sized literature and beneath the text there was a picture of an old bearded man. He was inside of a dark empty airplane and had a look of utter shock stamped on his face. He was floating. GO FAR AWAY!
— the next page ordered, accompanied with a photograph of a massive black airplane flying over a majestic cover of clouds. The photograph was composed like any other airline advert, but there was something wrong with that plane. Its wings were far too short to accommodate its long, raised hull. The plane didn’t look like it should be capable of flight. TOUCH LOVED ONES!
— the third page read. Beneath the title sat an image I could not decipher. I do not know whether it was a photograph or a drawing or some sort of collage. The image was dark, and within that darkness there were hands and wild faces caught in the midst of some religious rapture.
There were no images on the back of the flier. The space had been completely taken up by Morana Air’s supposed motto: NEVER WEEP ALONE — FLY MORANA AIR!
I was new in the nursing home. It was my first shift without supervision. The flier seemed odd, sure, but there were plenty of other odd things in the Wolf Pines Assisted Living Facility for me to contend with. When I found the flier I simply tucked it away into one of the filing cabinets and pushed its queer offers far from my mind.
The holiday season was busy. Families would come to visit their relatives and the residents themselves would travel out of the facility to celebrate their Christmases. The paperwork associated with the visits, along with the occasional lonely resident who tried sneaking out with the crowds kept me occupied, yet a couple days after the new year I found myself thinking about Morana Air once more.
It was a stormy January night. I had done a couple night shifts before and learned to enjoy the calmness that they provided. By the time I clocked in, visitation hours were long over and no one ever called the nursing home past sundown. I grabbed myself a book and prepared to enjoy an evening of rainy solitude.
It didn’t occur to me for a while, and it certainly didn’t occur to me then, but that night was the first Friday of the month.
A couple minutes before midnight an orderly came in with a resident. Apparently, Mr. so-and-so had a taxi picking him up to take him to the airport. When I asked the resident where he was flying to, he stared back on in silence. When I asked the orderly, he simply shrugged.
No matter how hard I tried, the old man was impenetrable to my attempts at conversation. He would occasionally grunt to show that he had heard my questions, but he wouldn’t return a single word or look me directly in the eye. When I finally gave up and returned to my book, I found myself rereading the same paragraph over and over, unable to concentrate on the text.
That’s when the thought hit me — Morana Air.
I reached into the cabinet and found the flier exactly where I had left it a couple weeks prior. I grabbed it and took it to the resident, close enough that he could read the massive lettering on the front. The moment I showed the old man the flier, his cloudy eyes grew wide with shock. With a quickness I did not think he was capable of; he snatched the flier from my hands and shoved it in his coat.
The old man’s sudden burst of shock produced even more questions from me. Among other things, I wanted to know why he had snatched the flier away from me. With the first barrage of questions the old man still wouldn’t meet my eyes, yet when it became clear I wasn’t going to leave without answers he finally looked up.
“They don’t like it when you ask questions,” he said, in a voice balancing between a whisper and a wheeze. Then, he shifted his eyes to the floor from which they did not rise.
The old man’s words troubled me. After a couple more futile attempts at talking to him, I made my way back to the desk and called to make sure he was, indeed, meant to get on some midnight taxi. The orderly who had brought him picked up the phone and assured me that Mr. so-and-so’s paperwork was all in order and that his caretakers and family had signed off on the trip. If I wanted more information, the orderly said, I should get it out of the old man myself.
The phone call couldn’t have taken more than a minute or two but it was, to put it lightly, frustrating. The orderly had zero interest in the resident’s mental state and wasn’t the least bit concerned with the old man’s strange behavior. Seeing that sort of attitude from someone who is meant to take care of vulnerable people made me angry and through that anger I lost focus. Again, it couldn’t have been more than a minute or two, and I doubt I was distracted enough to not notice the squeaky sliding door open or close — but when the orderly finally hung up on me, I found the old man gone.
The storm outside had picked up to a tropical degree, but in my panic I ran out into the frigid rain. Off by the gates of the nursing home I could see taillights turning off onto the main road.
The man had caught his taxi. His destination was a complete mystery to me and the idea of dropping off a senile man at the airport filled me with disgust, but both his caretakers and his family had signed off on the trip. I tried to content myself with the idea that I was simply doing my job and returned to my book. I tried hard to focus, but I kept reading the same three pages over and over again.
The Wolf Pines Assisted Living Facility had a staff room, but it was sparsely populated. People were always working and, when they had breaks, they would either smoke in front of the gates or, if they had a car, ride back home for lunch. From the few colleagues that I did find a moment to chat with, none were interested in my questions about Morana Air or the strange midnight taxi ride. Apparently, Morana was a charity that offered free senior trips to residents. That’s all my colleagues knew and cared to know.
The food served at the Wolf Pines cafeteria is better suited for the pallet of people half a century older than me, but the tables face a beautiful garden. Whenever I was working day shifts I’d pack a lunch and eat in the cafeteria. My breaks were pretty late, so the tables were mostly empty. Every once in a while though, some of the residents would join me and chat. They were considerably nicer than the employees and I really started to look forward to my lunch breaks.
When I asked the residents about Morana Air, however, they had no answers. A lady of about 90 said that one of her friends went on a Morana Air trip a couple weeks back. When I tried to find out where the trip went or whether her friend had talked about it, her memory was far too faded. She didn’t recall if her friend ever spoke of the trip. She couldn’t recall whether her friend had returned at all.
I had so many questions about Morana Air, yet as the weeks dragged on they lost their urgency. I had worked plenty of night-shifts since that January storm, yet nothing of interest happened. No one entered the building, no one left and the phone only rang once and that was purely because someone misdialed the last digit of a pizza parlor.
It was only three months later, at the start of April that the specter of Morana Air entered my life again. Just at around midnight a familiar orderly entered the lobby. He was accompanying a frail old man with a thinning beard. Rolling next to the resident was an oxygen tank. When I told the orderly that the airport might have an issue with the oxygen tank he simply shrugged.
Mr. so-and-so had a taxi coming for him to take him to the airport. His caretakers and his family had approved of the trip. It wasn’t the orderly’s job, or my job for that matter, to poke around the details.
I tried to talk to the old man but it was of no use. No matter how sweet or curious or direct I was, the man wouldn’t answer my questions or meet my eye. When I had finally given up and sat back down at my desk I could hear the faintest whisper from him.
“They don’t like it when you ask questions,” the old man said, and then took a drag from his oxygen mask.
There wasn’t a thunderstorm outside this time, so, when the taxi arrived; I could see it from my desk. Immediately, I got up and offered to help the resident to the car, but the old man shooed me off and then said something about “Them not liking it when anyone helps.”
The man shambled his way to the taxi, pulled his oxygen tank in and then the car drove off into the darkness. The return of the strange airport fare was a reminder of the Morana Air mystery, but it made me no wiser on the subject. I sat behind that desk all night long trying to make sense of what I had seen. By the time the sun rose I was no wiser on where Morana Air was taking the residents of Wolf Pines, but I had noticed a pattern.
Twice, they had come on the first Friday of the month.
I wasn’t scheduled for the May 5th night shift, but I made some uneven trades with the smokers outside the gates. When the first Friday of the month came again I was back behind that desk. My book stayed shut the whole night.
The orderly wasn’t of much help, but I didn’t expect him to be. The woman, likewise, wasn’t helpful in illuminating the mystery of Morana Air. When I started asking questions about where the taxi was going she averted her eyes and focused on fidgeting with her ring. I had some hope for getting information out of the traveling resident, but that was not the crux of my plan.
I was going to talk to the taxi driver. I was going to find out what happened with our residents when they reached the airport.
Outside, the night was calm and still. As if the driver knew I was waiting, the taxi didn’t come for a long time. When I registered the faintest bit of light in the driveway, however, I was on my feet and ready to ask questions.
When I approached the door the old lady blocked my path. She, much like the other midnight-riders, said that they
did not like folks asking questions or going with company. When I demanded the old lady explain who they
were she did not provide any answers. Instead, she slipped off her ring and offered it to me as payment.
I wasn’t someone to be bribed. I was looking out for her. All I wanted to do was talk to the taxi driver to make sure the old woman would be safe.
She offered the ring to me in scared whispers, yet when I declined her bribe the old woman’s demeanor completely changed. She turned aggressive. With shouts and swipes of her nails she demanded I let her through the front door to her taxi. The woman was frail and she posed no danger to me, yet her shouts had alerted a trio of orderlies who entered the lobby to investigate.
Her family and caretakers had signed off on the trip, they said. I was in no position to stop her or interview the taxi driver, they said.
By the time I got home I received a mass e-mail from Wolf Pines management. The e-mail did not name me directly, but it concerned the practice of exchanging shifts without notifying management. Exchanging shifts, according to the e-mail, was strictly forbidden and bordered on fraud. Anyone found partaking in this swindling of the company would be punished.
By the time I woke up I had a second e-mail waiting for me in my inbox. The e-mail, once again, came from Wolf Pines management but this time I was its only recipient. I was not just chastised for ‘manipulating one of my coworkers into exchanging shifts’ but also for ‘getting into a yelling match with one of the residents’ and ‘disparaging a charity that worked with the nursing home.’
Apparently, Morana Air graciously offered residents of Wolf Pines free trips to exotic destinations. That was all I needed to know. Any further questions weren’t welcome.
When I made my way to the afternoon shift my spirits were low. Getting chewed out in the two e-mails didn’t feel good, but more importantly I didn’t manage to confront the taxi driver and my chances at being able to do so again seemed nil.
Not long after I settled at my desk though, a familiar cab pulled into the driveway.
The taxi driver was a big burly guy but he spoke in a near whisper. Nervously, he asked me if I knew anything about the residents that leave the nursing home every first Friday of the month. I was beyond relieved to be talking to the man, but my response seemed to have scared him. When I asked where the customers went and whether they spoke about their journey in the car, he simply shook his head.
He said he just dropped them off at the airport, as he was instructed to do by dispatch. That was all he knew. Nothing weird happened on the rides.
I tried asking more questions, but the driver had suddenly become uninterested in talking to me. By the time I even said the words Morana Air he was already out the door.
For a brief moment I thought I could find answers, but then I was plunged back into darkness. The taxi driver’s reaction made me certain that there was something off about the midnight trips. The moment he saw that I also had questions about all the strange airport rides, he backed out. He had questions too, but he knew a lot more than he was letting on.
Halfway through my shift I got another visit. My boss dropped by my desk to repeat the fine points of the two e-mails I had received from management. Her tone was a lot nicer than the text, but within her friendly attitude and empathetic voice there was a clear message:
I wasn’t meant to ask more questions about Morana Air. They were a trusted partner of Wolf Pines and implying that their trips were somehow unsafe was not appropriate under any circumstances. If I was to keep my job, I was to stop asking questions.
Without much of a choice, I told my boss that my curiosity about Morana Air had been satisfied. I knew that I could no longer ask any of my coworkers, but for a couple of days I kept some hope alive for the taxi driver coming back. From the look on his face, I could tell that he knew that something was wrong with the midnight trips.
From the look on his face, I could tell that he felt guilty.
Yet the taxi driver never came back. As the weeks went on Morana Air went from being a mystery that consumed every waking moment of my internal monologue to an eerie curiosity that I would occasionally think about shortly before I fell asleep. I still didn’t know where the elderly residents of Wolf Pines were taken every first Friday of the month, but what I did know was that I couldn’t lose my job.
After the initial mystery of the midnight trips, my life in Wolf Pines attained a calming regularity. There was the occasional escape attempt for me to calmly prevent and every other week I’d get at least one mind-boggling phone call from an overbearing relative, but aside from that work was just as tranquil as it could be. I managed to make a big dent in my reading list with the night shifts and, on the busier day shifts, I always had my lunch breaks to look forward to.
Many of the friendships I had made in the cafeteria were tragically short, but such is the nature of friendships in nursing homes. Throughout the months I said goodbye to a lot of the old folks who would sit with me during lunch, but one stayed a constant — Gabriella.
Gabriella was a stout woman in her early 90s. Aside from the wrinkles on her face and the difficulty she had sitting down or getting up from her chair, you couldn’t tell though. Gabriella’s mind was sharper than most healthy adults I know and her sense of humor had the cut of a professional. She had spent most of her life teaching and had an endless supply of stories from all the corners of the country where she had taught. Whenever I went for lunch she’d be sitting by my usual spot, waiting for me. My chats with Gabriella quickly became the highlight of my work day.
I had mentioned Morana Air to her, once. The cafeteria workers seemed completely uninterested in anything past the lunch queue and there were no other members of staff in the room, yet I still found myself speaking about Morana in a whisper.
I was actually relieved when Gabriella said she had never heard of them. By then, the questions of the midnight rides were starting to slip from my mind. Gabriella not being familiar with Morana Air calmed me. I presumed there still was a taxi arriving at Wolf Pines every first Friday of the month to pick up our residents, yet without being involved myself the concept was abstract enough to forget about.
I had accepted that some mysteries were better left unexplored. I almost forgot about Morana Air all together, but last week I was given a horrid reminder.
It was a day like any other. I got off for my lunch break around three and Gabriella was already sitting at our usual table waiting for me with her tray of easily chewable food. Something about her was different though. That usual sharpness of mind that reflected in her eyes had dulled, or, more accurately, was flickering away. When I sat down she spoke no differently than she usually did, but every couple of sentences her eyes would glaze over and her articulation descended into the realm of a child.
At first, I simply thought that something was wrong with her in a medical sense. It was tragic, yes, but the woman was not too far from being a century old. I thought I was simply watching someone’s years catch up with them, but then, about halfway through my sandwich, Gabriella took out a familiar piece of paper. FLY WITH MORANA AIR TO PLACES YOU HAVE SEEN BUT FORGOTTEN!
She said a handsome young man in a suit had come to her room last night and told her all about Morana Air. She would go on a trip far, far away and meet everyone she had missed for so long. She would fly high up in the sky and float and laugh and feel young once more. She would fly with Morana Air and, best of all, the trip was completely free.
When she spoke about the trip her voice lost all trace of the Gabriela I knew. Even though she was 90, when Gabriela spoke about Morana Air she took on the voice and look of a barely cognizant child.
I tried asking questions. I tried asking about who the handsome young man was or where she was flying to or why she would trust a mysterious travel company that she had never heard about before. To my questions, Gabriella simply shook her head:
“They don’t like it when you ask questions,” she said.
I had heard those words enough to not have any faith in getting past them. Instead of asking more questions, I asked Gabriella if I could borrow the pamphlet and give it back to her the following day. For a moment her eyes attained that same sharpness I was accustomed to. She gave me the pamphlet and then, with complete lucidity, asked me how my day was going.
I told her I had a meeting with the boss coming up and had to cut our lunch short.
Gabriella said she was looking forward to seeing me the next day.
I never saw her again.
I didn’t lie about the meeting. My boss wasn’t expecting me, but I did meet her. Pamphlet in hand and with fifteen minutes left on my lunch break, I went to her office and repeated my qualms about Morana Air. She was surprised to see me unearth the forbidden topic months after I was told to drop it, but when I showed her the pamphlet, when I told her about the “handsome young man
” that came into the rooms of one of the residents last night — my superior’s demeanor changed. Holding the pamphlet by the tips of her fingers as if it was covered with filth, she started to ask questions.
For the first time since I started working at Wolf Pines, I saw my boss become visibly concerned. She spoke slowly, calculating each word. She wanted me to tell her, in detail, about all of the midnight shifts I had worked where residents left for Morana Air flights. She asked about the taxi driver and the woman who tried to give me the ring and then, when I had answered all of her questions and posed some of my own — she fired me.
My termination had nothing to do with Morana Air. I had left the reception desk unattended for over ten minutes. That was unacceptable. When I tried to argue the decision she summoned a familiar orderly that showed me the door.
I’ve checked before — I’ve checked many, many times before — but there’s still no trace of Morana Air online. They have no website, they have no way to book flights and there isn’t a trace of evidence of them ever having any charity programs for senior citizens.
I’ve been warned that if I tried to go to Wolf Pines Assisted Living Facility under any circumstances, the authorities would be contacted and charges would be pressed. The last thing I want to do is end up in cuffs, but as I watch the days count down to the start of the month I can’t help but to wonder what will happen to Gabriella.
I can’t help but wonder where the midnight taxi will take her