Okay I’m feeling marginally more rested.
My trip started off with what I took as a good omen. You see I was in the Dallas airport on a layover when I realized that I had left the book I was reading on the plane I had just departed. I had another eleven hours or so of traveling ahead of me and the idea of passing all that time without the benefit of reading material was extremely distasteful. So I went back to the gate and tried to convince the woman at the boarding desk to let me back on the plane to look for my book. I don’t think she was going to let me but the pilot and copilot walked by, overheard my plight and offered to escort me back on the plane. I found the book (yea!) and was extremely grateful. We all started chitchatting and at some point it came up that I was going to Italy to promote the Italian translation of my novel, Sex, Murder And A Double Latte. At that point the co-pilot said, “Wait a minute, wasn’t that book recently reviewed in The New York Times?”
It was just the coolest thing! In fact the coolness factor was all the more pronounced because while attending Member’s Night at the San Francisco Zoo with my son the night before a woman had stopped me and asked if I was the author she had seen on The Look For Less. I swear I’m beginning to feel like an honest to God D list celebrity! Okay, D- but it’s still pretty amazing.
Anyway we made it to London and then to Rome without too much fan fair. The challenges didn’t really start until we tried to figure out how to get to our hotel. We had been cautioned against taking cabs since the drivers often try to overcharge tourists so we thought we’d take a train. We called the hotel to find out which train would get us there. A woman answered and I asked her in Italian if she spoke English. Her answer was “no.” Not “No, una momento,” to indicate that she’d try to find someone who did speak English. Just no. Now normally I don’t expect people who live in non-English speaking countries to speak my language but when those people happen to work in a hotel that caters to travelers from overseas I expect them to at least make an effort to try to overcome the language barrier. But no. So I handed my phone over to my travel companion and friend Brenda who took a little Italian in collage. After trying to communicate with the front desk woman for a few minutes Brenda was finally able to get her to hand the phone over to a co-worker who spoke a little bit of English. He told us what train to get on and where the hotel was in relation to the train station which was great. Or at least it would have been great if the information had been correct. Anyway we got on the train and we rode, and we rode and we rode some more. Eventually I decided that we needed to get off and try to figure out where the hell we were. We decided that we had gone too far (although there was no actual proof of this), took the next train going the opposite direction and miraculously figured out which stop to get off at. By that time we had been riding the train back and forth for two hours. Anyway we were exhausted but thrilled to be at the right place and were walking through the train station toward the street when we were stopped by two police officers who demanded to see our passports.
For those of you who don’t know, the police don’t actually have the right to demand to see someone’s passport in a train station in Italy or any other western country. But they were rather instant and as a general rule I don’t like to argue with armed police officers while traveling in a foreign country so we handed our passports over for their inspection. Brenda muttered something about Nazi Germany but they didn’t appear to hear her which I think is a good thing since most Europeans really get touchy when you accuse them of being part of a fascist regime, defeated or otherwise. Plus we were in a part of Rome that was once a Jewish Ghetto so it just seemed like it would be best to avoid the N word. One of the officers called in our passports (or at least he spoke into a phone and appeared to be doing so) while the other questioned us. While this was going on another foreigner who had witnessed the whole thing assumed that they were checking everyone’s passport and tried to show the cops his. They barely glanced at it. I started to listen to the questions that Brenda and I were being asked with a new ear and suddenly a little light bulb went on over my head. The officers didn’t think we were terrorists or criminals. They thought we were cute American girls and they wanted to spend some time with us.
To be honest this irritated me a lot (Brenda skipped irritated and went straight to pissed). It’s not that we didn’t expect that the Italian men would live up to their reputations but for these guys to use their power as police officers to try to get us to give them our hotel information and travel itinerary is obnoxious as hell. They did offer to accompany us to our hotel so we “wouldn’t get lost” but we managed to dissuade them (although that took some doing).
I swear by the time I got to my hotel the idea of handing over my life savings to a crooked cab driver didn’t sound so bad. But it wasn’t long before things started improving…a lot.
However you’ll have to wait until Sunday to hear about that.
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