Friday, July 5, 2013

rome -- where i start believing in miracles

“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
- Jerry Seinfeld to George Costanza in The Opposite

I am not a person of much faith. I don't really believe in miracles or divine intervention. I certainly don't believe in the miracles performed by saints. But, I am in Rome now and, as they say, when in Rome . . .

Rome is a beautiful city. Its history, architecture, culture and cuisine make it one of a kind, a place that everyone should visit at least once. Keri and I were here (along with Florence, Venice and Lake Como) on our honeymoon in 2002, and are happy to be back.

Keri found us a flat on Via Urbana, a small, cobblestone street lined with cafes and stores, just off the major thoroughfare, Via Cavour, that runs between the Colosseum and the Central Train Station. The flat itself is on the third floor, but our building has a small elevator so our four gargantuan suitcases made it to the flat without much effort. Amen.

The flat is quite nice, an old building with high ceilings and a modernish kitchen and bathrooms. Really, we have only three complaints about the place -- the "air-conditioning" that was advertised consists of two window units, placed conveniently in the middle of the flat, not near either of the bedrooms. Rome is always humid, and it can get quite warm this time of year. Steamy. (Note: since first writing this, one of the units broke down and has since been fixed – all in less than twelve hours. Almost enough to make me rethink my prejudices about Italian efficiency.)

Further adding to the sleeping challenge -- for Keri, at least -- is the bed, which is quite firm. Keri is very fond of our sleep number mattress at home, where her setting is around 35. Europe’s sleep number seems to be around 95. This is not our first issue with a firm mattress in Rome. On our honeymoon, Keri almost got into a fist fight with the hotel staff over the mattress we had in our room. (Like I needed more proof I married the right woman.) The staff seemed not to understand her complaint, repeating over and over that the mattress was almost new. I am pretty sure this was not a language issue and they were just messing with us. Keri resolved the present situation here by placing a down comforter under her side of the bed; sort of a makeshift featherbed.

Final issue is web access, which is through a makeshift wi-fi with a sim card capped at 100MB per day. I have no idea how much memory I use in a typical day but yesterday taught me that it is well, well in excess of 100MB, as our web access was cut off by late morning. I will do my best to make daily posts here, but, if I don’t, it is probably because I have been cut off.

I slept pretty well and woke determined to have a nice run. It started out that way, as it was fairly cool and overcast when I headed out before 8. My goal was to run to and around the Villa Borghese Gardens. I think I headed off in the right direction and was pretty sure I knew where I was. A couple turns and roads that change names (and directions) later, I was not so sure. I thought there would be a number of maps on major streets that I could use to navigate my way back to Via Urbana, and had decided not to bring a phone or map with me. Big mistake.

Turns out those maps are few and far between, at least into the non-tourist area to which I had run (I now know I was both north and east of where I had wanted to be). Having found one map posted by a bus stop, I thought I was ok. I was not, as, for reasons that are still not clear to me, I went in the completely wrong direction. I had been running for about an hour and fifteen minutes and figured it was time to stop, admit defeat, find a cab and suffer the humiliation of taking a ride back.

Only I could not find a cab. Truly. I suppose the taxis tend to congregate in the tourist areas, which I had conveniently placed myself miles from. I started walking, not sure of which direction I was heading, as I could not, morally, stand still and wait for a cab to find me. Mostly, I was worried that Keri would be worried. She was sleeping when I had left, but I figured she would be up by now and petrified about what had happened to me. I was getting frustrated and a little desperate, not sure what I could or should do. I was on the verge of breaking down.

And then, just as I was about to give up hope, there it was . . . a sign -- Via di Santa Costanza, named after George Costanza, patron saint of the eternally lost and stupid. Next to the street sign was a map showing this street connected to Via Nomentana, which led back down into the area I needed to go, near the Central Train Station. As all those seeking the help of Saint Costanza must do, I did the opposite of what I had done so far. I decided to shut off my brain and, if that did not work, suck up what little pride I had left and ask for directions. Some more walking, a little assistance and a street map from the good people at the Canadian Best Western near the train station and some persistence finally got me back to the flat, about 1030.

The good news is that the only one awake at the flat was Owen. Mercifully, Keri had slept through the entire incident and my worry about her worry was misplaced. My shame and misery were my own, just as they should be for any beneficiary of a miracle from Saint Costanza.

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