TIME WAITS FOR NO TOURIST B
ACK in the ’90s, my husband and I happened to be in Rome during an Easter weekend so we thought when in Rome and all that, it might be nice to see the Pope giving his Easter address, even if we didn’t understand what he was saying and we weren’t Catholics. We would probably never have the opportunity again.
We were told by the lady at our hotel reception that the pontiff usually appeared on the balcony at about 10am so, come Sunday morning, we set off for St Peter’s Square. We were warmly dressed to keep the chill at bay but enjoyed the blue sky and sunshine.
We arrived at St Peter’s Square earlier than we expected to find lots of people milling around in large tour groups or individuals looking at maps and guide books. As we still had about half an hour before the Pope was due to appear, we made a beeline for the Sistine Chapel.
We were so busy marveling at the beautiful paintings and sculptures that we lost track of time. The next time I checked my watch it was almost 10am.
So we raced as quickly as we could without attracting too much attention from the Vatican guards back to St Peter’s Square. We were expecting to have to squeeze ourselves into the crowd in order to see the great man. But no, there was no crowd, in fact there were far fewer people than there were earlier. We looked up at the balcony where the Pope should have been but the door was closed. Had we got the wrong day? Was he sick?
I decided to ask someone. The first person I approached didn’t speak English and merely shrugged, the second avoided eye contact and ignored me.
So we went into a nearby tobacconist as we were sure the owner would be able to enlighten us.
“Si, the Papa, he speak at 10 o’clock. No problem,” said the elderly man behind the counter.
“But it’s just gone 10 now and he’s not there,” I said.
“No, eet eez after 11 now,” he said pointing to his watch. “Last night we move to summer time. Clocks move one hour forward.”
My husband and I looked at each other and shook our heads. “No one told us that,” I said to the little man, who smiled apologetically and shrugged.
“Eez too bad. You come back Christmas to see the Papa, no?”
“We’ve come all the way from South Africa and I’m not sure we’ll be able to come back at Christmas,” said my husband.
“From Sous Africa! You know my cousin Gino? He has a restaurant in in … I think ees Durban.” “Near the beach?” asked my husband. “Si, si. You know it?” “No, but next time we’re there we’ll go and visit him. Maybe we’ll have more luck seeing him than the Pope!”
Back in the sunlight, we got the giggles. We couldn’t believe we had come so close to seeing the pope and missed him because of a time change. In fact, it must have been all over by the time we’d arrived at St Peter’s Square and we never knew.
We stopped to change our watches to the correct time and realised we had better get a move on or we’d miss our train to Austria. — © Caroline Edwards
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