This last week I was caught in the clutches of the Eternal City, chewed up, and spit back out. I was locked out of the apartment, my e-mail and facebook accounts were infiltrated by a hacker, and my beloved camera was stolen. It was a no-good, rotten week in the state of Italy.
The first event was simple enough, it could happen to anyone anywhere. In fact, I'm sure it's happened to most of you at some point in your life. But when it happens in city of 2.7 million people and none of them are your friends...well, it moves from "inconvenient" to "crisis."
I loaded up the kids and the stroller for a "quick" trip to the grocery store so we'd be ready for our company that evening (friends from the US!). We were coming back after that so I just took two packs of crackers and a jacket for each instead of the usual assemblage of sippy cup, milk, lunch, snacks, rain cover, toys, books, etc. I also thought it'd be nice to carry a purse with all important items instead of my usual habit of sticking wallet, cell phone, and keys into various pockets on my person or the stroller. I put my purse together, opened the double doors, pushed the stroller and kids out, and shut the door, to realize immediately that I had left that same purse on the shelf and not on the stroller like I thought. Thus I was locked out without money or phone or even a phone number to call, in Rome. I had two kids and a stroller and nothing else save two packs of saltines. Matt wasn't due back until 5:00 pm, just before our company was due to arrive. What was I going to do?
Adrenaline pumping and all dignity aside, I sprinted full speed down our street and rushed down the metro stairs (stroller and kids in tow) to try to catch Matt who had left ten minutes before. We had no other chance. We knew no one save our landlady. I couldn't use an internet cafe without money and a passport. I couldn't call without a phone number to call. I couldn't get back in without the keys. Our only hope was Matt, who was on his way to a new library all the way across town, with a dying cell phone that wouldn't be on until noon, when he was supposed to call me. We made it to the metro landing, only to be thwarted by the fact that we had no tickets or money to pursue onto the metro. Now what?! Dejectedly I made my way back to the apartment, not sure what to do. I was hoping that maybe there was enough Jack Bauer deep within my soul that I could pick the lock or something. But alas, someone shut the outside door which I, in my ingeniousness, had so carefully left cracked and we were completely locked out. I sighed and sat on the curb. Then in desperation, I started sifting through the crumbs in the stroller basket praying, and hoping against hope, that perhaps there were some coins hidden in there. Miraculously, there was one euro. I thought very carefully about what to do with that one euro. I could buy some food so the kids didn't start screaming in two hours. I could make two phone calls. I could try to find an internet cafe that I could persuade to let me in despite no identification. Or, I could go on that metro and find Matt.
I decided to do just that. Having looked up the directions for him last night, I at least knew approximately where he was going and what it was called, even though I had no map and didn't know the area. We had talked about meeting up for lunch because the place closed from 12-2, so I knew he'd have to exit the place at 12 if I couldn't find him or get in earlier. We took the risk of getting across town and having to walk the 6 km back to a locked apartment, but it was our only chance! Again, we braved the metro with the heavy stroller, relying on the goodness of a few Italians who helped me carry the stroller down the stairs. We exited and wandered for about 45 minutes before we found the right church. Then it was all in vain. We arrived at a beautiful church hidden behind a hill and a road with a locked cloister and a buzzer and no obvious library. I couldn't bring myself to ring--what would I say?-- so I resolved that we would just wait the two hours until Matt should come out. A monk was next to the bars, though, so I approached him and asked if there was a library there. He almost laughed out loud (in a kindly way) at the suggestion. A library? We are a very small monastery with just a tiny library for the monks, but nothing for scholars. Perplexing! Nevertheless, I decided to stay. I'm not sure why. Maybe I just couldn't bring myself to abandon hope. At quarter past noon, however, we still had no sign of Matt. Dominic was getting restless and Cate was beginning to scream. While I wanted to sit down and cry and indulge in my misery, I tried to hold it together for the kids, since we gad a long walk ahead of us without any food. Shoulders slumping forward, I plowed along back down the hill. We reached the foot and were just about to turn and lose sight of the church and piazza where we had been waiting for Matt, I looked one last time, out of desperation rather than hope, when I saw the red backpack. My legs responded with the sprinting power of the former tri-state champion that I was, and I heard my voice screaming his name at the top of my lungs, not caring that everyone on the sidewalk was looking at the lunatic running full blast with a red stroller screaming. Then I was behind him in a second. In my joy, I accosted him from behind, startling him far more than he deserved. I have NEVER been soo happy in my life. My best friend. My one friend in Rome. My friend with the cell phone, passport, and the money.
He took care of me, immediately taking command of the stroller to relieve my burden. He commanded that we stop for food. When refreshed, he found an internet cafe while I bought a few groceries. We called the landlady. He helped me with the kids in the metro. He ran ahead to meet the lady in time. He watched the kids so I could get dinner ready for company and he helped me tidy before they came. My one friend in Rome is a pretty good one, I have to say.