Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Around the World: Rome

March 13, 1992

The couchette worked out well for the evening.  Sarah and I stretched out on the bench seats.  I woke up with my back to the cabin and a weird feeling that I should look behind me.

There, standing over my legs is a young Italian man, with his pants dropped to the floor.  Masturbating.

I spin around, making sure my feet kick him just below the kneecap, (because I couldn't aim higher with both legs tangled in my sleeping bag) putting him off balance.  "Just... aaaah.... what the hell are you doing?"

He manages to stagger over to the bench Sarah is still asleep on and sits down, his pants still around his ankles.  He is looking out the window of the sliding door that leads into the passage outside the couchette.

"Do you speak English?"

"Yes," he says with enough eye contact to acknowledge me, and looks away again.

"Why are your pants around your ankles?"

"Oh," he replies, shocked at this revelation, "I am hot."

I hear footsteps coming down the hall and shove open the door to the couchette.  I'm hoping to see train personnel, but it's just two other male passengers.

I shriek to the two guys in the same tone I would use to announce the train is on fire, "This guy's wanking off over girls while they sleep!"  The two guys head towards me to investigate. "His pants are still around his ankles.  Help me throw him out the window!"

The wanker gets his pants up enough to skedaddle down the hallway and the two guys chase him to the end of the car.  On their way back, one of them asks if I'm okay.  I thank them and we all return to our respective cabins to get some more sleep.  I make sure I don't have any extra sauce on my sleeping bag first.  Sarah only stirred throughout the ordeal.

After arriving in Rome hungry, Sarah and I find a little bistro with inexpensive prices for pasta posted at the entrance.  What the posting failed to mention was the 2500 lira ($2.50) cover charge for the pleasure of eating there.  At least the bread was free.

Went to the Colosseum and followed a tour through some of the catacombs.  After hearing some stories of Christians becoming lion food, it's a little disconcerting seeing the abundant presence of stray cats around the site.

Sleeping cat at the Colosseum.
Photo by Deb Collins

Walked to the Royal Baths.  A beautiful garden is surrounded by ruins and a large portion of the site is inaccessible for restoration efforts.

On the way to the Michelangelo museum, some covert pedestrian pinched my butt.  When I turned to see who the culprit was, the offender had already disappeared into the crowd.  While I searched for my perpetrator, I hear Sarah yelp that someone has done the same thing to her.  Crafty little buggers, these Romans are.  When we arrive at the museum, it is also closed for renovations.

Somewhat disappointed with Rome, we find a little cafe to get away from the butt pinching and figure out what else of Rome could be worth seeing before we head off in different directions.  I ask the young man behind the counter how much for a cappuccino, and he replies 2400 lira.  We both order one and he tells us to take a seat while he prepares it.  He brings our cups to the table and when we finish, we count out 3000 lira to give to the cashier on our way out.  When we go to pay, she rings up each cappuccino at 8000 lira!

"Your guy there said the cappuccino is 2400 lira.  Why so much?" I ask, indignant.

The cashier pompously replies, "Because you sit down."

I find this practice particularly unfair and underhanded.  Had either of us known that the table rental totaled 11,200 lira, we would have paid for the coffees and left.  We feel tricked.  The cashier doesn't care, she just wants the money.  I put my 3000 lira on the counter, Sarah does the same and we both leave in a huff.

Not far from the coffee shop, we are met by two police officers who demand our passports and bring us back to the coffee store.  Now, we are presented with the option of being swindled out of 5000 lira or arrested.  It would seem that the cost of freedom in Rome is about five dollars.

Sarah is as unimpressed with Rome as I am.  To shake off the coffee robbery and the incessant butt pinching, we conclude that the Romans went off in search of expanding their empire, probably because they were fed up with being ripped off.  Do what the Romans do, they say.  We head for the train station and head north.  Sarah is off to Geneva.  I'll stop in Florence for the night, a short distance from the famous leaning tower in Pisa.

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"Rome has always favored the doctrine which most completely subjugated the human mind and annihilated reason"