Monday, July 07, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers

Shutters of Bergamo
Well, I made it to Bergamo and back .... but only just. Things actually went very smoothly on the way there: car, plane, bus, train, and then a long walk up a hill in viscous heat past a bicycle race. The journey back was a different matter.
The receptionist at the hotel gave me the wrong bus times and numbers and I didn't check her information, so I ended up on the wrong bus. I didn't realise this until we had wasted over an hour chugging through and around Bergamo; had sailed past the airport and were well out into the middle of absolutely nowhere, and this with only forty minutes left until my plane took off. The bus driver looked sympathetic, said no he was not going back towards the airport, no there was nowhere to get a taxi around here, shrugged his shoulders and smiled. I felt sweat trickle down my back and contemplated collapsing on the floor of the bus and crying. In the end, I shouted at the driver to stop the bus and let me off. He screeched to a stop and I stumbled off with my enormous bag.
The only person around was a man carrying vegetables into a grocer's shop so I rushed up to him and explained my predicament using my ten words of Italian, stabbing gestures at my watch and copious repetitions of urgentissimo, urgentissimo! As he confirmed that there were no taxis in the immediate vicinity, he gestured to me to follow him into the shop. Inside, he had a conversation with an older man about, well at the time it seemed to me to be about mozarella, but I now think they were deciding which of them should run me to the airport in the van.
I got there just in the nick of time and just a few hours later was picking the children up from the school gate where I fought the urge to tell all the bored looking parents what an adventure I'd just had in Italy while they were all going about their normal business.
Anyway, thank you kind Italians. I will never see you again since I would never be able to find your grocery store again but you really did rescue me from a horrible situation, and you didn't hesitate for one second. I owe a hapless stranger a big favour.


Lucy said...

One of those occasions! One always wants to tell the people at the other end all about them but they've been pootling along in thier little worlds and are really quite indifferent! But we share your relief, and what a nice man - perhaps they were saying how he could pick the moozzarella up on the way back from the airport?

Love those shutter photos.

Anonymous said...

Well next time I go to Bergamo I'll take the same bus and try and find the grocer's!

Just for those of you who thought I was slightly old-fashioned taking the train instead of the plane or a car: first I nearly missed the train because the trams were not working on the evening I left (a wine festival was on and clogging up the quay). Then there was a long hold up in Nice because they couldn't close the doors.

And on my return journey I managed to jump off the middle bunk during the night thinking I was on the lowest bunk, so ended up with a huge bruise on one leg. However Bergamo was worth it and I second Lesley over the kindness of every single Italian I asked for help.

Can't wait to go back!

beaverboosh said...

Hey, an all to familiar travel story with a great ending! Viva Italia!

Rosie said...

what a sweetie...I have always been lucky and met lovely people in Italy too

Anonymous said...

The stuff of nightmare. I wonder - would you have experienced the same stranger kindness here in the UK?

Bruce Anderson said...

There are good people still out there...your story gives me hope. How lucky you were to find them.

Anonymous said...

What lovely, kind chaps! And confirmation that people are essentially good.

Someone should go and stare hard over their spectacles at that receptionist until she squirms with discomfort and promises never to give duff directions again.

materfamilias said...

Don't know if you see new comments on old posts, but I had to come read this after your comment on mine -- and I realize I had read it earlier, but you've made it so entertaining and focussed so on the Italian helpfulness that I think I'd missed the obvious panic also represented!


Being confined indoors most of the day, just the four of us, is reminding me of the days when my children were wee and most of our weekends ...