The Vatican will have to wait. At this point it will take a small miracle, or a change of luck, so there’s really no use looking through our bags for a fourth time. They simply aren’t there. I know we didn’t both lose them. Someone stole our travelers’ checks. Instead of lining up to admire La Pieta I will follow my friends, Pam and Nona, and queue up with other tired and frustrated tourists at the local American Express office.
Maybe I’m just tired, but it really is starting to feel like maybe we’re just not meant to be here. In the past week we’ve hopped on and off trains from (West) Germany through France and Spain to Portugal and from Portugal back through France to our current location: Rome, Italy. Most of the trains are not very comfortable, and at times we haven’t had the luxury of a seat to sit on. Oh the luxurious world of Eurailing!
But sitting here on the floor of the train station’s lobby, that was first-class travel compared to our current situation. It’s a hot Saturday morning and we have just arrived in Rome from Nice, where we were forced to spend a day wandering through the city as we awaited our next connection. Yes, I said forced. I’m sure Nice is lovely, but when you don’t have enough time to unwind and enjoy the scenery, and you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, it’s almost a drudgery to walk around and take in the sights. We did walk past a public, and nude, beach. Not much to see on the beach but the water did look very inviting. Maybe if we’d had a few more hours…
While the train station in Nice was quiet and without any memorable qualities, the train station here in Rome is humming with noise and activity. It seems like the Romans are doing their best to give us a bad impression of their ancient city. Most of the people around me are either yelling, drunk, or deranged (or all three). Station employees are yelling at fellow workers. Drunks are sprawled over the chairs in the lobby, and others are talking to invisible people. Just a few minutes ago the police arrested somebody in a phone booth, while a strange lady walked around hitting people on the head.
My friends decided we should avoid being the next head-smacking victims so we left the lobby looking for a safer place to rest our weary bones. We still don’t have a place to sleep tonight so we are waiting for the train station’s tourist office to open. We found a good wall with almost no traffic, dumped our heavy backpacks on the floor, and sat down on the floor, backs against the wall, and resumed our wait. Nona fell asleep almost right away but Pam and I watched our stuff and the people walking by.
The people we could see from our new location must not have been as interesting to watch because Pam soon became bored enough to clean out her purse instead. This seemed to take a really long time, or she was so bored she was doing it again, so I asked her what she was doing. She answered that her traveler’s checks were missing. Not believing her, I helped her look in her backpack, sure that they were in there somewhere. When they still didn’t turn up Pam started getting frantic but I wasn’t worried. At least I had my checks. Or did I? Just to make sure I checked by purse carefully. Once, twice, three times. I was wrong. I could find everything but the checks. They were gone. Now it was my turn to panic. Many thoughts raced through my head:
“Why is this happening to me?” “What are my parents going to say?” “What am I going to do?”
While I am berate myself for joining my friends on this trip in the first place, they decide our next, and actually obvious, steps. We need to report the theft and see about getting replacement checks. That means a trip to the American Express office for Pam’s checks and then to the local Citibank branch for mine (because of course it’s not going to be a one-stop solution). We still don’t have a place to stay so we wait a little while longer for the tourist office to open and see what’s available for starving students like us with little or no money to spend. Having identified a good candidate and writing down the address, we head outside for the first time to find transportation into the heart of the city. We get into what appears, to us at least, to be a taxi, but soon find out that our day of bad luck is still far from over.