Another aside before I tell you more about Italy. I just got some preliminary sales figures from my publishing house for Sex, Murder And A Double Latte. They were good...no scratch that, they were fantastic. The reviews and press that I have received have been great but nothing is as effective as word of mouth recommendations from readers. So once again, thank you for all of your support and thank you for recommending my book to your friends. None of this would be possible without you.
Now back to my European adventures starting with my first trip to an Italian bookstore.
Brenda and I stumbled upon it while wandering around central Rome. I stepped inside and there it was, Sesso, Omicidi E Cappuccino!!!! It was facing out on a shelf right up front! I was so excited it was all I could do not to start squealing and jumping up and down. Okay, maybe I did jump a little because the employees noticed. They got caught up in my excitement and two of the guys who worked at the store ended up buying the book and having me autograph it for them. One even poured Brenda and me a glass of wine to celebrate. Apparently my timing was impeccable because the book had just arrived in that day’s shipment.
Now flash forward to the next day which was my last day in Rome. Brenda and I had booked tickets on the internet for a Euro train to take us up to Matera that night. Here’s a word of warning for those of you who might be traveling in Italy in the near future: the internet hasn’t entirely caught on over there. That’s not to say that people of the younger generation don’t use it for emails and the like but it’s rare that someone buys merchandise online or say…a train ticket. In fact it’s so rare that if you do buy a train ticket online many of the people who work at the train station will be so baffled that they won’t know how to help you.
This probably would have been a minor problem if Brenda and I hadn’t lost track of time the afternoon before our trip while drinking grappa and flirting with a cute waiter. So basically what I’m saying is that we missed our train by literally four minutes. We stood in line with a whole bunch of other people who missed their train all of whom were getting rescheduled without a problem. However when we got to the booth the woman told us that since we bought our tickets on the internet we would have to go stand in “the main line.”
Brenda and I went to the “main line” and after standing in it for a good fifteen minutes the woman at that booth told us that since we bought our tickets on the internet we would have to call the number on a little slip of paper she was handing us.
Okay, now we’re frustrated but we go to a pay phone to call the number as we’ve been told to do. The phone doesn’t work. We go to another payphone. That phone doesn’t work either. By this point Brenda and I are jamming euros, and phone cards into any payphone we can find in a desperate attempt to get booked on another train.
That’s when Ivano showed up. I think his job was “customer service” for the train station. Or maybe he worked for a private company that gave out tourist information. Or maybe he was just some random guy who likes to rescue damsels in distress. Who the hell knows? The point is he helped us. He tried to make the phone work and when he couldn’t do that he dialed the number we had been given into his cell phone. Now here’s the kicker:
The customer service agent he got on the phone told him that since so much time had passed (over an hour by that point) we wouldn’t be able to transfer our ticket. Of course the only reason so much time had passed was because they kept sending us to the wrong line but that was apparently a moot point.
But Ivano wasn’t going to accept that answer. First he helped us get a ticket on a train that was leaving later that night. He also helped us check our bags at the train station baggage hold and finally he argued with the train station employees until he got us a refund for the first ticket.
Beyond being incredibly helpful Ivano was also a lot of fun to hang out with. He apparently studied accounting in Southern California for a while but left because of all the restrictions put on smokers. “I do not like the dictatorship,” he explained. “Here in Italy you can smoke where you like, drive as fast as you like and bring alcohol out onto the streets if you like. The police never stop you.”
Brenda and I exchanged looks which Ivano noted. He waved his hand in the air impatiently. “Yes, okay, they stop you. But only to pick you up.”
He was also insanely flirtatious. Brenda made a comment about his being forward because he was Italian but Ivano claimed that his interest in us had nothing to do with his nationality. “I believe in honesty,” he explained. “Yes, I want to be your friend but I would also like to take you both to bed. I don’t know if I can handle both of you but if you let me I will try.”
We didn’t let him. But I did buy him one of my books from the bookstore in the train station (they actually had it in the window!) which he seemed to appreciate.
In the end we got on an overnight train going to Matera and once we got there the book publicity stuff really started. But I’ll tell you more about that on Friday.
For those of you who are Jewish: L'Shana Tova and if your fasting may you're fast be light.
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