October 23, 2010
You know that feeling of anticipation, when you’ve been waiting for something for so long, yet when it’s finally arrived, you feel a moment of panic, that you weren’t quite prepared. Saturday morning was one of those days- Jared’s flight was due to arrive at around a quarter ‘till eleven. I woke up to an early alarm, a sticky note of last minute “to-do’s” by my bed, the apartment silent, yet my mind racing.
In some respects, I had planned “too well.” Swept the floor, took out the trash, rinsed out the kitchen sink (twice), made my bed (one of the few times this has occurred—the low ceiling of the loft makes this difficult), and then sat, puzzled, looking at the clock, and wondering why I woke up so early. Jared’s plane wasn’t due into Firenze for another three hours, yet I was ready for him now.
Normally when I walk anywhere in Firenze, I pick an upbeat song, seal myself off from the world, pick up the pace, and nearly race to my destination. Yet, as I watched the clock tick along, I realized that if I adhered to this rule of travel, I would arrive over an hour early. So for the first time, I nearly crawled to the train station, anxiously willing the minute hand to prematurely advance.
The SMN train station provides transportation to and from the airport. Buses leave every half hour, or so they say. I arrived ten minutes early (all that crawling had absorbed fifty excess minutes of my journey), and waited over forty minutes. I learned: those half hour buses are an optimistic estimate.
The travel time to the Amergio Vespucci or Peretola Florence Airport (one airport with two names, puzzling) is slightly over thirty minutes. And, much to my relief, I arrived a quarter ‘till 11 in the morning, five minutes to spare until Jared’s plane was due to arrive.
I was familiar with this airport, having arrived into Florence two months prior, having travelled to and from Sicily two weeks prior. Dressed in my leather jacket and my “Italian” scarf, I marched with confidence to the arrival gate. I could see the sign, the green lit letters; I could imagine him walking through the double doors. And then, only a few steps away, my phone rang.
“Babe, I’m stuck in Rome. And they lost my bag.”
“Umm…I’m at the airport…?”
All confidence and Italian pride fled as I retraced my steps in a run, boarding the same bus to return to the train station. Jared was hoping to catch the earliest bullet train to Florence, so I contented myself to stay in the vicinity of Santa Maria Novella, waiting to hear from him. Across from the train station, I braced myself against the influx of tourists, and purchased a cappuccino from a café. But I made a mistake. I sat down.
The change of plans, the unfortunate events had worn me thin. So I sat down to sip the foam and hot coffee, clasping my phone in one hand and the mug in the other. And when I could no longer scrape any more sustenance from the now empty mug, I stood up to pay at the bar. But sitting in Florence costs.
“Four euros.” He spoke in perfect English, and alarms went off in my head. My Italian status was shattered; I had been pegged as a tourist. Four euros for a cappuccino? Ridiculous! But I had no choice but to regretfully pay, my face hiding any alarm, berating myself for having succumbed to the bench and table.
After staring at the silent cellphone for a minute more, I ventured into the dense crowds at the San Lorenzo market, weaving through leather stands and scarf stalls, before walking up the steps into the shadowed building boasting fresh fruit and still bloody meat. I wandered around aimlessly, starting to regret my “handful of cheerios” breakfast. By chance, I found the dried fruit stand (the market is confusing, quite the maze), using short Italian phrases to order three hundred grams of bananas, mangos, and pineapple, a three Euro “healthy” treat.
At some point, I realized that I had no real way of reaching Jared. I couldn’t skype him, I couldn’t call him, I couldn’t contact him by any means. So I began the walk home, rather dejectedly, eating bananas and meandering through the small cobblestone streets, taking the “long” way home in the hopes that a phone call might persuade me to turn around.
I stopped by the Mercato Ambrosia near Piazza Beccaria and stood in line for ten minutes to buy “pecorino e pera ravioli” for Jared, before I realized they were sold out. I gave my number, 25, to the lady next to me (they were currently on 4). She thanked me profusely; I can imagine why (she was holding 49). In attempt to feel slightly more productive, I purchased four apples from my favorite fruit vendor. As I walked away, I realized that we still had apples in the fridge at home, but at this point, I didn’t care. A few more can’t hurt.
My mood lightened as I took the first shortcut of the day, through the plaza behind the market. Yet it was completely overrun by white dome tents hosting a food-tasting event with chefs from all over Europe coupled with a display on the environmental advantages of air travel. At first I was disgruntled. I had to walk around it all? But soon, I began to see the light: I had been gifted with yet another way to kill time. My trip home from the train station tripled.
I left the apartment in a state of order, and I was hesitant at first to make lunch and disrupt the “neat” table and “clean” kitchen. Yet, hunger prevailed, and I began to prepare a salad, aligning with my healthy mentally of the day. I ate slowly, blogged on my computer, listened to the traffic outside, and watched my phone impatiently. And then I got bored with lettuce and the fruit and the silent phone, and my healthy mind failed me. I came up with brilliant idea: dried bananas in Nutella. And in the back of my mind, I realized that Jared had better call quickly or the entire jar might disappear (mysteriously, of course).
And yes, I, or the jar, depending on how you look at it, was saved by a phone call. Jared had arrived! I anxiously told him to wait by the Clock Tower (I really meant Giotto’s Bell Tower, but in my excitement, misspoke) in Piazza del Duomo (Florence Cathedral). And this time, no ipod, no meandering, I raced through the familiar Florentine streets.
When I arrived at the Belltower, much to my surprise, no Jared. I walked past, panicked. Oh no! I had lost him already?! I was afraid my directions had been misunderstood (or as Jared argues, “incorrectly given”). As I walked around the Baptistery, to peer down the street towards the train station, a woman approached me in a panic.
“Where are you from?” She demanded, stepping close to me.
“Umm…Seattle, Washington.” I stepped back, the familiar routine.
“You must come with me right now!”
“What??! No. I’m waiting for someone.” It had crossed my mind for an instant that Jared might have asked for help. But it seemed impossible that this woman with crazy eyes might be delivering that aid.
“No! You must come now!”
I shook my head and deliberately walked away, back towards the Bell Tower, when I heard my name.
“Brie!” And there he was. Jared. Looking a little tired, slightly lost, and quite relieved, all at once. (And, for the record, he was standing across from the Bell Tower, instead of next to it, complaining that my wording had been inaccurate. “There was no clock.”)
And thus begins our Italian adventure together...