Why I Could Never Be a Secret Agent
Google Maps has never failed me until now.
Mario and I are in Rimini, Italy, a resort town on the Adriatic Sea and part of the Emilia-Romagna region. After a day of sunshine and hill-climbing in San Marino and Emilia-Romagna, we’re exhausted and decide to grab a train back to Bologna.
Google Maps predicts that it will be a 15-minute walk from our spot on the beach to the station. We give ourselves a bit of a cushion, leaving 25 minutes before. Not that it’s necessary — I always walk faster than Google Maps’s calculations.
15 minutes into our walk, however, not only are we not there, but we have a ways to go. Mario and I pick up the pace. Surely the station is around the corner, isn’t it?
It’s not. Google Maps leads us into a brick wall.
Crap. We need to find the station, and fast.
There aren’t a lot of trains back — there’s one in an hour, but it’s an express train (60 minutes instead of 90) and will cost a €10 surcharge for each of us on top of the €10 journey. I didn’t think we would need to use our Eurail passes today, instead saving them for more expensive journeys — but oh yes, we totally should have.
We start running and asking, and it turns out we were actually directed to the back of the station. Our train is at 5:47. We run into the station, breathless, hoping we can actually catch it.
The train pulls up.
We run to the machine. Now, here’s the kicker: it won’t let me buy a ticket because the time is exactly 17:47 and the train is scheduled to depart at 17:47.
The train is right there, but it won’t be for long. Mario looks at me. “Let’s get on it.”
We run down the stairs, sprint through the station, and jump up the stairs to the platform two at a time. We leap onto the train just as the doors are closing.
Safely on the train, I jump on Facebook and post the following to my page:
We might be in trouble. Google Maps sent us to a brick wall instead of the train station in Rimini, so Mario and I ran for it, made it, and hopped on the train just as it was pulling out. No time to buy tickets. Let’s hope they don’t check us or let us buy tickets on board…what will happen?! Stay tuned!
And then the responses poured in:
Hide in the bathroom 😉
Sounds like a James Bond film 🙂 Been there and have never been caught yet. Good luck!
I read this as if you two ran at the wall in an attempt to get to Platform 9 3/4. Fiction on the brain.
But then the most ominous response pops up from Jen of Jdomb’s Travels, who has spent the past few years living in Italy:
Find the conductor ASAP, otherwise you will get fined and be tossed off the train. I’ve literally been on the train when it has stopped in the middle of no where and people were tossed off.
We sit quietly and wait, the countryside passing by as my stomach twists in knots. Even though it’s technically rush hour, no conductor appears during that time.
More than an hour passes without incident. We are going to make it. We are going to make it back without any trouble.
And then the door opens and a conductor appears.
My neck hairs stand on end. He turns to us. I give him an expressive Italian pout and summon the few remaining shreds of the Italian language that I possess in my brain.
“Mi dispiace, ma la macchina non fonctionna…” I begin, hand gesturing like an Italian. I’m sorry, but the machine doesn’t work…
“A Forlimpopoli?” he asks.
Oh my God. I know Forlimpopoli. I’ve been to Forlimpopoli. I know for a fact that Forlimpopoli is closer to Bologna than Rimini, so if we say so, we can get off scot-free and pay for a cheaper ticket–
“NO!” I cry. “A RIMINI! WE WERE AT RIMINI!”
“A Rimini?” he asks, puzzled.
“Ma ci sono molte macchine…” He explains that with so many machines in Rimini, as well as a ticket counter, why would there have been a problem?
I switch to English. “The train is there, and it says you cannot buy a ticket because the train is there.”
My heart is beating rapidly in my throat.
That’s it? That’s it. He charges us a five-euro supplement and we’re free to stay on board — not dropped in the middle of the Italian wilderness, left to hitchike our way back, where we’ll be kidnapped and forced to stuff butchered pigs with fennel for the rest of our days.
I like to think that I can smoothly slink through any unexpected situation. Well, that was proven false on the train from Rimini. When the pressure is on, I can’t do anything but sputter. Either that or the Italians have the power of handsomeness on their side, and I can’t resist a deep “Ciao Bella…”
At any rate, if there are any openings for secret agents, I’d suggest passing over my application and going with someone who can lie convincingly on command.
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