Traveling Tuesdays, Part I: Barf and Bus Washout

My family and I just got back from almost a month away from home. I’m an unabashed homebody so it’s fair to say this was the trip of a lifetime for me. A friend encouraged me to consider this differently, as to not imply it will be the only one. Still jet-lagged and struggling to reenter after a week of being home, I’m not sure there will be a second. For now I’ll call it Trip of a Lifetime 1.0.

This six-part series includes some of the highlights from my travel journey. If you can relate or have stories of your own to share, I’d love to hear them. It might even encourage me to take on another trip like this in the future. Just likely not in July.

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After navigating the Roman Metro (thank you Rick Steves, Italian Language Book, and Kind Strangers) we got on the train and all seemed well. So proud of ourselves, we were!

At the next stop, however, hoards of people entered the train and Tommy was squished in all directions. With his back up against Craig, his face was full frontal in the arm pit of a guy in his 60’s– polyester shirt, dress shoes, balding, smelling of cigarettes and a trace of must. Had I closed my sense of reality and put another face and a bigger belly on that guy, he would have been my Papa, circa 1992.

For Tommy, however, it was all he could do to hold it together. Three more stops and he started to sway. An elderly woman got out of her seat and said, “Bambino, bambino,” gesturing to Tommy and then to her seat.

Are you kidding me, lady? I’m going to be the ugly American who asks an old lady to give up her seat for an 8-year old boy? Hell to the no.

“BAMBINO!” Then I got scared. Ok, Focus. Bambino. I took Tom’s hand and had him sit down. Only she wasn’t done yelling.

“Acqua, Acqua,” she insisted, pointing at my water bottle and gesturing for me to put it on his face. It was only then that I looked at Tom for real. I’m processing all of this–cigarettes, must, polyester shirts and dress shoes, elderly lady yelling at me in Italian–it was like it was slow motion…

“Signora, ACQUA! ACQUA!”

I jarred out of my daze and said, “Tommy, are you going to…”

“BAMBINO VOMITARE! (“Vomit-AIR-ee!”) VOMITARE!”

My eyes scanned slowly from her flailing arms to my son who looked like he just might.

“…barf?”

Barf.

Sweet Jesus.

The teenage girl next to Tom jumped out of the way faster than a bat out of hell. The man next to her threw his newspaper at me just in time for me to catch the rest of Tom’s barf that wasn’t already all over his shirt.

From all around me on this super crowded train, hot and lurching from stop to stop, came tissues and water and soft murmurings. Not one turned up nose, not one huffy attitude. Only kindness.

And the old lady, shaking her head. She shrugged her shoulders, gave a head tilt and the eye brow lift, and then said, “Acqua, Capisce?”

“Capisce. Capisce.”

Although her eyes were gentle and her manner compassionate, she must have been thinking who in the hell is this fool woman who can’t even see her son is about to barf all over this train. Honestly, I can’t blame her.

So you see, I didn’t let Tom out of the house with a dirty shirt, that’s barf you see in the photo. (I put it in black and white to spare you the details. You’re welcome.)

What you may not see is how damp we are. The clouds above us as we sat on this open air bus were so full of rain that the tiny droplets had just started dripping from their seams. In about 22 seconds, the capacity will be reached and the bus that we (I) had to get, no matter the barfing, no matter the heat, no matter the lines, no matter the teams of pick pockets and shady sales people we had to wade through for sub par pizza to sustain us while we waited in line again, would be so full of rain that we could barely wade through it to get to the stairs.

And once down below, we may have been covered by a tarp, but the rain would flood under the tarp and down the stairs in such waves that I feared I’d lose my breath. They took Jackson’s feet literally out from underneath him and he slammed on his tailbone all the way down the stairs into the crowd of people standing in the aisle of the bus’s first level. The tourists on this bus tilted their heads in sympathy, but not one reached down to help him up. Curious.

When finally, finally we were able to get off the God-forsaken double-decker bus we were soaked to the bone and found that even parts of the Metro had flooded because so much rain came so fast.

In the interim, however, between the barf and the rain, we were able to see some glorious sites as I continued to marvel at this city. Rome is at once loud and peaceful, not dirty but not terribly clean, full of people who are hustling and bustling with no time for tourists, unless of course your child needs help and then everything stops until all is well. New city structures are built up against centuries old ruins–the juxtapositions are everywhere and it left me excited to explore most of them in the days to come.

Barf and rain, not withstanding.

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