Saturday, May 11, 2013

Out Of Control

The main train car from Terni to L'Aquila

"A journey is like marriage.
The certain way to be wrong
is to think you control it."
~ John Steinbeck

I just sighed a huge sigh.  Huge.  You, of course, couldn't hear it, so you'll have to trust that I did.  The problem is that I'm just not sure where I should start.  (Cue music of "Do-Re-Mi" from Sound of Music. Enter Julie Andrews singing, "Let's start at the very beginning, A very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C...")

So, I'm not going to go through the whole story, but suffice to say that the owner of our last flat was supposed to pick us up at 7:45 to take us to the train station to catch our 8:30 train.  When he hadn't shown up by 7:52, I texted him.

Just checking to make sure you haven't forgotten us this morning.  I thought that was a nice way to put I'm stressing here, Buddy.  Where the h-e-double hockey sticks are you???

Two minutes later, I get a reply:  Who is this?

Apparently he remembered about 30 seconds after that because the door to his flat opened, and he hung over the railing of his balcony.

"I'm so sorry.  I actually did forget you.  I'll be right down."  The curly-cue British voice grated on my yet-to-have-coffee nerves.  "I can't believe I've done this.  It's never happened before."

We made the train with about 15 minutes to spare. 

Terni Station

The first of three trains we had to take today, the one we got in Spoleto was the same one we had to take to Roma last Saturday.  Unlike last Saturday, the train was packed.  If you remember, we had assigned seats since this particular train was the fast train.  Of course, someone was sitting in our assigned seats (which were close to the door).

"What do you want to do?" I think I asked Mike.  He could have asked me.  I don't remember because I was still too jangled from rushing and yanking suitcases up crowded aisles..

"Just find empty seats and sit."  Two seats in front of the luggage rack were open, so we threw our things there and fell into the seats as the train took off.  (Did I mention that you get about 30 seconds to get on the train and get settled before it starts to move?)

Backpack on my lap, I sat with my back to the window.  Mike was on the aisle, of course, sitting normally.

"You don't look comfortable," he said.  YOU THINK?  "You looked stressed."  NO SH*T.

"You know I hate rushing to avoid being late," I replied.  "And then having people in our seats didn't help."

"Everything's fine now, so sit back and relax."  He closed his eyes.  I rolled mine and stayed seated the way I was.

The three con men at the Terni station

When we got to Terni where we had to change trains, we arrived on Platform 4 and were scheduled to leave on Platform 1.  Being the suspicious person that I am, I dragged myself to the ticket window and asked the gal there if we were indeed leaving from Platform 1.  She checked.

"Yes. Yes. Platform 1.  Fifteen minutes."  The departure board listed the same thing still, so I felt we were home safe.  I headed back to where Mike was sitting at the end of the platform, and three men offered to help me with my suitcases.  (If you look at the photo above, they are the three on the right side.  One has a cute dog on his lap.  My mistake was to smile at the dog.)  I won't get into that complete story, but suffice to say I refused and then the guy with the dog kept yelling after me asking for coffee, wanting to know where I was from and where I was going.  (Crazy, but it shouldn't bother you, dude.)

"Gobbledy-gook.  L'Aquila.  Gobbledy-gook. 30 minutes.  Sorry for the inconvenience."  I couldn't understand much of what someone had just announced because, quite frankly, the sound systems in rail stations suck. (If you live in Siena, ours is good compared to these monstrosities.)  

"I better check the board," I signed.  I think she said we're going to be 30 minutes late."  The screen said our departure was still 9:33, but our platform was now 101.    101?   Rome's Termini and Tiburtina stations combined don't have 101 platforms.  And, considering what happened to us last weekend in Rome, I didn't want another platform fiasco.  I ran back to the ticket window.

"Where Platform 101?  For L'Aquila?"  The ticket agent kindly pointed me past the main platform 1 to another area off to the side.  101.  One train car (Top photo) sat there, and about 15 people were standing there.  Soon an engine backed up, and a couple of guys hooked it to the train car.  The driver waved us on.  The front car, which Mike and I chose, had about 25 seats.  (See photo below.)

"How long is this ride? the other half wanted to know.

"I have no idea." 

"Do we have many stops?"

"I don't know."

"What time do we get in?"  Good lord, man.  I had no idea.  What was up with the twenty questions?

The coach on our train from Terni

We'd been on the train about 30 minutes when the conductor came by to check our tickets.

"Oh," she smiled.  "Gobbledy-gook.  Get down.  Gobbledy-gook.  Autobus.  L'Aquila gobbledy Sulmona."

"We have to take a bus to Sulmona?" I asked her.

"Gobbledy-gook.  Get down.  Gobbledy-gook.  Autobus.  L'Aquila gobbledy Sulmona," she repeated and walked away.

"I think she just told me that we have to take a bus to Sulmona.  I'm not quite sure. I guess we'll find out when we get there."

Twenty minutes later, we pulled into the middle of nowhere, and the train stopped.  As everyone but the two of us piled off, the conductor came back and, for the third time, told us, |Gobbledy-gook.  Get down.  Gobbledy-gook.  Autobus.  L'Aquila gobbledy Sulmona." Ding. Ding. Ding.  We had to take a bus from a town so small it's not even on a map to the L'Aquila train station.

Our train from L'Aquila

We arrived in L'Aquila just before a different — and definitely not as colorful — train chugged in from Sulmona (above).  The less-colorful, graffiti-less train was the same one that took us back to its home base in Sulmona.

And, that's where we are tonight.  Safe.  Sound. Sleepy.

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