We’re home and I’ve finally slept off my jet lag. This morning I went out on the balcony off my bedroom, and looked at the Santa Tourista sky. As you can see, it looks like rain. It’s funny; rain in Florence was a cause for laughter. Here, rain is an annoyance. Well, it’s an annoyance to the Grams anyway. She was going to do some wash and put it out on the line, but she has to wait for the storm to pass. Also, she put out the hammock yesterday. “The winter’s gone, Gweeds! We can spend our afternoons in the hammock until fall!”
She was wrong again. So, this morning as I sipped my first latte of the day and perused the New York Times (hey, it’s Santa Tourista, not Timbuktu!), I thought about choices made and not made, the relative nature of right and wrong, and of good and bad experiences.
Since we returned, a lot people have wanted to know the whole story of how we ended up a wash rack in the train yard in Livorno. It’s a story about choices – all of them available and all the wrong ones taken. Now, we’ve done this before: chosen poorly. Our last trip home comes to mind when we were offered $500 if we’d allow ourselves to be bumped off an overbooked flight in Paris. We didn’t take it. Then, when we got back to the U.S., we couldn’t get home because the only road in and out of Santa Tourista had been washed out. We had to spend another $250 each to fly to Santa Tourista. Yes, that $500 we could've had if we had stayed another day in Paris would've gone a long way to covering it. Coulda, woulda, shoulda: *sigh*
This time, we didn’t pay attention and made the wrong choices. We could’ve had a driver take us from Florence to Pisa for 120 €. It seemed expensive at the time, but would’ve been money well spent. We could’ve spent the night in Pisa (Grams’ idea), but it seemed so cumbersome. We chose the train because it left at 4:30 AM and would get us to Pisa airport in plenty of time and it was only 5 € each. That would be the ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ choice.
Evidently, there is a special train that goes from the Pisa Centrale to Pisa Aeroporto, but you need to exit the main train to get it. We weren’t paying attention and stayed on our train as it left the Pisa station. “Oh look!” said Big Guy, “there’s the Pisa airport!” as we went by it. “There was the Pisa Airport,” said I. Grams just rolled her eyes. We ended up in Livorno, which was the end of the line and about 25 miles from Pisa. At this point, Grams got off the train and started looking for someone who could help.
As she wandered around the empty train platform (remember it was only about 5:45 in the morning at this point), she came across a couple. They asked her in Italian, “Does this train go to Florence?” She said, “No, it’s that one that’s leaving from platform 1,” pointing a train that was getting ready to leave. Then they asked, “but will this train go to Florence?” “Eventually,” she replied and she went on her way. Finding no one else, she got back on the train made her way back to our carriage.
“There’s no one here who works for the railway,” She sighed. Big Guy said, “Well, maybe it goes to the airport after Livorno.” “It’s too late,” said Grams, “It should’ve been there by now.” Suddenly, the train started up, but it was going the wrong way to get to the airport. Also, it was rolling very slowly. A few hundred yards later, it stopped. It was then that we realized that we were locked in the carriage.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a very small man appeared. He had on an undershirt and was wearing Wellingtons over his pants. A bandana was tied over his smooth dome. “Parli inglese?” asked Grams. “No, no! We wash! You go!” he yelled. And with that he took out a key, unlocked the doors and threw our bags and us off the train. That’s how we ended up going making our way through the train yard in Livorno, as the sun rose over Tuscany.
We had to go over broken concrete and past some sleeping bums (who were none too pleased at being awoken so early by our clattering rolling bags). It seemed forever before we got to the station. All of a sudden, that couple who’d asked directions appeared out of nowhere. They started berating Grams for leading them wrong. As Grams pulled out of their grasp she whispered, “Sheesh, I said it would eventually go to Florence!” It was at this point that Grams and I lost Big Guy. When we got there, we ran all over the station yelling, “Big Guy! Big Guy!” Finally, he found us. He had a taxi driver who was willing to take us to the Pisa airport. It would take almost our last Euro, but maybe we could just make the plane. Grams told him to take the autostrade. He said that we’d have to pay the tolls. She said that was okay; just get us to the airport, avanti.
Air France requires that passengers check in at least a ½ hour before the flight. We got there 25 minutes before our flight and they wouldn’t let us on. Our seats had been sold. So, there we were in Pisa, only 5 € to our names and facing the prospect of not being able to get out for at least 24 hours.
I suppose that we could have given up right there, but we’re not quitters. We sat down and gave it a good think. We would have to find a cash machine and then figure out how to get re-booked, and then find a hotel for the night. How we managed is for my next instalment. I will tell you this much: it was at this moment that Grams’ Capital 1 card stopped working. That’s almost a guarantee on any trip, just when we really need that particular card, it stops working. Grams will call up, apologies will be expressed, promises made; and the next time it’ll happen all over again.
But as we sat there in the Pisa airport, Grams started laughing, “Hey guys think about it, Fellini didn’t make it up. That man at the wash rack was right out of a Fellini film! ‘We wash! You go!’” Then, we all started laughing. She was right; all we needed was little Nino Rota music in the background.
To be continued . . .
Please give what you can to Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).
And, of course
(hewa ni hataraki: work for peace)