I normally consider myself a very conscious traveler. By that, I mean that I am always aware of my surroundings, keep my important belongings very close, and gain a strong, healthy suspicion of almost everyone. Even when I am at home, I tend to be a pretty strict rule abider. ‘We can’t cross here; it’s jaywalking.’ ‘We can’t walk to that side of the counter; it says to order over THERE!’ or ‘The movie theater signs specifically say to turn off our phones.’
Anytime I do allow myself to bend the rules, I tend to get a little anxious feeling deep inside. I really am not a rebellious spirit. So it’s safe to say that when I travel, I play by the rules of safe travel. However, every traveler has that one story that starts with “This one time in…” *
*Disclaimer: If you are my mother, you can stop reading here. My trips were all great and I was never in any potentially-dangerous-now-funny situations.
It all began when I was studying abroad for the semester in London. During one of the longer breaks, my schoolmate and I decided to do a five-city tour of Italy, starting in the South and moving North. We had managed to get through four cities like Italian pros! No mishaps or craziness. All we had left was to leave Florence and make it to our last city, Venice.
We set out on foot to the train station. This was rather normal for us and we had been pretty decent about arriving at our intended destination fairly easily. Why should this time be any different?
In short, the difference results in 15 awkward strangers on the streets pointing us in very different directions. The difference was about 6 different estimations on the time and distance to our destination. The difference was 3 individuals who swore the station we wanted to go to did not exist and that we were really looking for the main station. The difference was 1 Italian restaurant and 1 dear Italian grandfather.
Realizing that we had 20 minutes until our train would depart and in a last minute frenzy, we rushed into a restaurant to ask for some more clarity. (We couldn’t afford to miss the train because we had some later connections already locked in.) The waitress called across the room to some diners who then shouted back, which prompted the waitress to yell at the cooks. Out of nowhere, an elderly Italian man made his way to the counter and began his friendly conversation with the waitress. Despite my lack of understanding of the Italian language and my schoolmate’s reliance on her Spanish language to decipher what was occurring, a solution was finally reached!
Solution: The old man would call a taxi as he also needed one home for himself. He would then give our driver the directions in Italian so that we could make the train.
What this really meant: The old man would share a taxi with us, befriend the taxi driver, and pour over us because both of us reminded him of his granddaughter. (But he did pay the taxi fare)
Now, I would never get in a car with someone I do not know, but everything happened so fast and the time was now nine minutes until departure. (And I couldn’t very well get out of a taxi with my luggage because no sooner had the old man got into the passenger seat, the driver took off.) I don’t know what gave me more anxiety, the situation or the countdown until we would miss our train.
Cue four minutes before train departure. Our taxi miraculously makes it to the correct station. However, what lay between our taxi and our train was a pinch on each check, followed by a kiss on each cheek and the forehead, and finally a blessing to keep us and his granddaughter safe. After we both received our kind gifts, we ran off for the train, literally throwing ourselves into our respective train cars.
We had seats in different cars and had just managed to collapse in our seats when the train started moving. We had just barely made it. After a few deep breaths, I opened my phone to see the message, “What just happened?” to which I replied, “We can never tell our mothers.”