David shared some memories from his second honeymoon while talking about his connection to THE CHRISTIANS here. He wasn’t quite done musing about his travels in Italy, though. Read on:
Innovation is one hallmark of the human species; we are quite adaptable after all. Deborah and I were staying within the old walls of Florence in a comfortable B&B, and during an early trip to the washroom, I heard a sort of grinding noise kick in just as I flushed the toilet. Inquiring at the desk, we were told that the noisy device was a shredder, designed to shred the paper and waste before the ugly mess hits the sewers. It turns out that the ancient sewers of Florence were in constant danger of getting clogged. I thought, how ingenious. The sewage treatment process begins at the source rather than upon its central location arrival. Maybe something Milwaukee’s Sewerage District could use?
I had never driven a car in Europe on any previous visit so I was looking forward to heading out onto the Italian byways in our snazzy Opel rent-a-car. We had booked a week’s stay in the country which would serve as our base for local shopping, good cooking and day trips. While tooling along a very nice stretch of two-lane highway, I was taught a new technique in the art of passing. Approaching us was one car going about the speed limit, followed closely by a second, impatient to pass. Naturally, I expected the second driver to wait for a clear opening on our side of the road. Instead, he smoothly slid out into the middle, straddling the center line, while at the same time, the car he was passing slid over a half-lane toward the shoulder. I quickly realized it was my turn to do the same on our side, thus creating a miraculous, new center lane where there had been none just three seconds before. Speedy Giuseppe gunned his Lamborghini and disappeared quickly in our rearview mirror. Now, that’s collaboration!
Returning to Florence from our car trip, we hit horrible traffic on a Saturday evening. It was backed up for miles, well outside the city’s old walls and our final destination, the rental car garage. After a good hour of creeping along, we were getting close to Avis Italia, when we found ourselves in a massive traffic circle in front of the train station. As imagined on a clock face, we came into the circle at 12 o’clock, driving counter clockwise, needing to get to 2 o’clock where our side street turned off. The circle was clogged bumper-to-bumper, six lanes across, with cars, service trucks, taxis, tour buses and, always, the weaving vespas and incessant horns. Our progress was excruciatingly slow, literally by inches and constantly challenged by the slow-motion aggression of undeterred Florentines behind wheels. We were at last within feet of our turn, when a female Italian cop blew her whistle and was waving us away from the side street. It looked like we were about to be sent for another rock around the clock. I couldn’t hold it in any more. I leaned out the window, and using the hand gestures of my ancestors and impassioned, loud and very-broken Italian, I argued our case. While Deborah was certain we’d be arrested, I think the lady cop thought it best to let this ill-spoken American go on his way for fear of creating a needless, international incident of language butchery. Heading for home, there was one more impediment: an enormous tour bus was nearly blocking the tiny street, with Avis not far beyond. By that time, I had fully adapted to the chaos around us and gently but firmly eased past the bus with our right wheels up on the sidewalk. Good thing no one needed their luggage just then. Exchanging the trusty Opel’s four wheels for our four strong legs was one of the most satisfying and relief-bringing events of that long day.