Writer’s Block: Mis­for­tune on a Ro­man Sub­way

A day full of bad tim­ing and worse luck al­most turned this dream va­ca­tion into a night­mare

More of Our Canada - - Contents - By Blythe Lowe, Cal­gary

Trav­el­ling in a for­eign city can be an ad­ven­ture—it cer­tainly was in this case, for all the wrong rea­sons!

After grad­u­at­ing from the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia in 2011 in civil en­gi­neer­ing, and then do­ing four ad­di­tional years of train­ing and ac­quir­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, my daugh­ter Emma was awarded her des­ig­na­tion as a pro­fes­sional en­gi­neer in Novem­ber 2015. It was a big deal. When she first started at univer­sity, I’d promised her a nice trip to cel­e­brate this com­ing ac­com­plish­ment, so we had been an­tic­i­pat­ing this trip for about six years be­fore it be­came a re­al­ity.

Fi­nally, in Oc­to­ber 2016, it was off to Europe. Emma had never seen any of the clas­si­cal, an­cient archaeological sites in Italy or Greece, so we de­cided to take a Mediter­ranean cruise to see the sights. It was a 12-day ad­ven­ture be­gin­ning in Barcelona and end­ing in Venice, hit­ting all of the fa­mous venues, and then some.

After a bumpy start—los­ing Emma’s lug­gage in Barcelona, and barely re­triev­ing it in time to board our ship—the vis­its to south­ern France and Florence and Pisa in Italy were mag­i­cal. We es­pe­cially en­joyed climb­ing the Lean­ing Tower of Pisa and get­ting a dif­fer­ent slant on the out­side world.

Next, it was off to Rome. My hus­band An­drew and I had trav­elled to Rome three years prior via a cruise ship as well. In­stead of tak­ing a cruise tour, we had trav­elled the roughly two-hour trip into the city our­selves from the cruise port, via the re­gional train and sub­way sys­tems. So, when Emma and I planned our visit to the Eter­nal City, I rec­om­mended the same pro­ce­dure, since I had done it be­fore and we had man­aged just fine. What could pos­si­bly go wrong?

The early part of the day was won­der­ful. The trans­porta­tion plan worked well get­ting into the city and we vis­ited the Colos­seum, Fo­rum and Pan­theon as well as the Trevi Foun­tain. The prob­lems be­gan on our way back to the cruise ship.

For those not fa­mil­iar with cruis­ing, cruise ships don’t wait for pas­sen­gers if they have ven­tured out on their own for the day, so be­ing back on time was vi­tal. The ship was due to de­part at 6:30 p.m., so we needed to leave am­ple time to travel from the city back to the ship. We were quite com­fort­able with our “drop dead” time to be­gin our jour­ney back to the port, so we headed for the sub­way. The jour­ney en­tailed tak­ing two seg­ments of the sub­way sys­tem and then join­ing the re­gional line to travel back to the port.

It was a Friday af­ter­noon and the sub­way sys­tem was teem­ing with peo­ple trav­el­ling home from work. I had never seen such crowds in a sub­way in my life! We jos­tled through the crowds to board

the train, but as I stepped onto the train, I didn’t re­al­ize Emma was not right be­hind me. I got on, but she didn’t! With no time to think, I in­stinc­tively stuck my hand out the door to stop it from clos­ing so I could get out again, but the door closed tightly on my fin­gers and didn’t open. It was sealed shut. Emma gazed at me in shock from the plat­form and be­fore I could do any­thing, the train was mov­ing! My fin­gers went numb quickly on the way to the next stop and the other pas­sen­gers were con­cerned. There was no emer­gency stop but­ton in sight, so I had to cope with my fin­gers trapped in the doors un­til the next stop. Of course, Emma and I were not able to com­mu­ni­cate about what she should do: take the next train to meet me or would I go back and get her? When I ar­rived at the next stop, and my fin­gers were freed, adren­a­line and in­stinct kicked in and I im­me­di­ately jumped on a train go­ing in the other di­rec­tion to re­join her. Un­for­tu­nately, she had de­cided not to wait and took the next train to fol­low me. To make mat­ters much worse, I was car­ry­ing her money and I had no cell­phone with me—les­son learned, be­lieve me. The net re­sult was that we couldn’t com­mu­ni­cate at all. We were sep­a­rated in the Ro­man sub­way sys­tem at rush hour, with our cruise ship sail­ing at 6:30 p.m. with or with­out us.

As­sum­ing that Emma would con­tinue on the sub­way to the re­gional sta­tion, I did the same and hoped that we would meet on the plat­form for the train head­ing to the port. My hopes were dashed, though, when I ar­rived and she wasn’t wait­ing for me. I had ex­pected her to al­ready be there since she was ahead of me on the sub­way. Now, what to do? I knew she had her cell­phone, so I asked an­other pas­sen­ger wait­ing at the plat­form, who was also re­turn­ing to the cruise ship, if I could bor­row his phone to call and text her. By this time, panic was set­ting in. I didn’t want to miss this train since the next one would get us to the port with only min­utes to spare.

Even­tu­ally, I reached Emma and she told me she was in the re­gional sta­tion but had no idea how to find me on the cor­rect plat­form: she couldn’t ask any­one, as no one spoke English. The train to the port was leav­ing shortly, but I had to find Emma. When I fi­nally found her, we’d missed the train. I knew from the sched­ule that there was one more we could catch, but the stress con­tin­ued when we checked the mon­i­tors and could see no more trains go­ing to the port that day. After more frus­trat­ing at­tempts to com­mu­ni­cate with staff, we fi­nally solved this prob­lem just in time and boarded that fi­nal train. Of course the or­deal was not over yet, we still had to get to the cruise ship be­fore 6:30 p.m. and this train was sched­uled to ar­rive at 6:20 p.m. From the train sta­tion, a 20-minute walk to the dock turned into a five-minute run since—of course—no taxis were around. Once at the port we still had to take a shut­tle bus to the ac­tual ship, and hopped on the one re­main­ing bus. We didn’t re­al­ize that this bus ser­viced an­other cruise ship, not ours! So just when I’d be­gun to think we might make it in time, the bus driver headed for the other ship and then turned around and headed back to the de­pot with us still on the bus! I was in dis­be­lief.

Thank­fully, I was able to coax the driver to take us to our ship. I could see that our gang­way was still down, de­spite the time be­ing 6:45 p.m. We leaped off the bus and dashed up the plank, com­pletely ex­hausted.

The next day, we found out that the only rea­son the ship did not leave on time from Rome was that the winds were too strong for the huge ship to leave safely. Ev­ery­thing that could go wrong did that day—ex­cept for those help­ful winds. ■

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