We took the train from Zurich in late afternoon. It was summer and the light of day burned into night. Once boarded, I immediately went into one of the compartments with the wide, oversized cushioned seats. I sat down with A next to me and thought we were damned lucky to have come in early enough to grab these. My elation was soon thwarted, as one by one, the six people who reserved these seats began to lay claim.
We went to the other first class seats. Use your imagination. The ones in the middle of the aisle where round metal adhered to walls. We had to pull them down and sit fast, before they swung back up into position. I wasn’t expecting cold metal on my ass against the thin material of summer dress.
Several hours passed and we became hungry. No, there was no such car with food. We looked. I guess everyone else did too, because every time we pulled into a station, a bunch of heads popped in and out of windows exchanging money for food. We watched and took mental notes.
There were too many people and not enough vendors. “Yell louder A,” I say to my best friend/sister and travel partner, but we were already operating at a deficit due to the language barrier.
The diameter of those seats were pretty limited. They would never hold anyone fat, but I never saw fat people in Europe. Not then anyway. In the states, we have a serious obesity problem. They’d have to manufacture new seats today.
That Honey Boo family would never have made it. They would have had to rent a van. I never saw that show, but, whoever they are, a lot of people have been talking about them. I saw a few short clips of them on another show. What the hell were they eating? My God, it’s probably enough to feed a third world country. Maybe now that they’re being paid well, they can trade in some of those carbohydrates for nutrition.
” Yell louder,” I say to A. ” Tell them we’ll pay double if they give us food, because my stomach is starting to rumble.” Stop after stop, no one saw or paid us mind. They had enough business coming from that middle train. They always went there, not to the front or back trains. How much can those people in the middle eat ? What selfish pigs !
I had been up most of the night and by morning, was exhausted. I could barely keep my eyes open and fought my body to stay awake. This kind, older man must have been watching me for a while from one of those comfortable cushioned seats.
He tapped me on the shoulder and said in good English, “Go ahead. Have my seat.” It was right against the large picture window. I thanked him profusely as I gathered my belongings and entered the private seating area. There were 3 seats on each side and every seat in every private compartment was full. They planned ahead. We had not. I heard a voice say, “What about me?”
I looked at a man with pleading eyes. I guess I learned guilt well from my family because he got up and gave his seat to A. I wonder if people still do that. When I was a kid, boys, men and young girls as myself, were taught to always offer a woman older than yourself, plus the elderly and handicapped, a seat. No questions. Now I see young kids who don’t have the manners to get up for an older woman. So I often do. They don’t even notice.
These two men were gentlemen. They gave up more expensive, comfortable seats for 2 young foreign kids, that didn’t know any better.
I finally fell asleep for an hour or two, but woke when I heard the train slowing down and pulling into a new station, ” Look, we’re in a much better spot now. Maybe those vendors will see us and we can get some food,” I said. As if on cue, once again, we popped our heads out at the next few stations but left hungry. There was an exchange of people about three stops later. A man and his son, close to our age, came aboard and sat in the two empty seats of our compartment. His name was Ron. I don’t think ir was his Italian name
Once they got situated, he looked at me and said “You are very beautiful. You must be American.” I nodded. I slept a little more, only to wake up to the smell of food. Ron’s father had pulled out a pungent smelling pepperoni or salami and was shaving it thin with a knife. He handed us both a piece. It looked very greasy, but at that point, we hadn’t eaten in about 15 or 16 hours. I was ready to pounce on it. As suspected, it was as greasy as it looked and after a few slices, my empty stomach couldn’t handle anymore
I tried to strike up a conversation with Ron a few times, but he mostly smiled and nodded a bit. By the time we pulled in to the Milan station, I realized he couldn’t speak English and “You are very beautiful,” was one of only two sentences he spoke.
Ron motioned for us to come with him. Gee, let’s find the best benches in the house for our overnight. We went from hard metal to cushioned seats, back to hard wood. Ron said to leave our bags with his father, who was sitting on a bench surrounded by luggage in the section closer to the middle of the station.
I dropped my pack and stupid jacket. At that point, I didn’t care if someone took it. A dropped her pack and as we were entering our sleeping area, she said, “I don’t think we should do this.” I asked, “do what ?” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Leave our bags with Ron’s father. He’s there alone and I’m afraid someone’s going to hit him over the head and beat us for our bags.”
I had to laugh. ” Are you joking ? Who thinks like that,” I said. “Do you really think if someone was looking to steal a bag, they’d go after a backpack? It’s hardly the pattern of Gucci. ” As we walked in to the seating area, some guy pinched her ass. I said, “Now you know what it feels like and this is where it’s supposed to be done. Mine was done prematurely. Who gets pinched in London.” The A started to laugh,” You always were ahead of your time.” We pulled up a spot on the bench and had taken our sweaters from our packs to roll up as pillows. I was falling asleep, when I saw a young guy sit next to A and start talking to her.
I dozed off only to be woken by a loud yell. I looked up and saw her on the floor. “What the hell are you doing down there ?” She said this guy was talking to her and being nice. After about 45 minutes he wanted to hug her and she pulled away. Then he went to kiss her and she pushed him away. I guess he got mad she wouldn’t put out and shoved her off the bench. Welcome to Italy.
I’ll have to pick up the finale on part 3. That’s the juicy part. Don’t miss it