The next day we take a train to Venice, and our driver brings us to the platform, and points to the exact bench where we should wait, and makes extravagant gestures that indicate we are not to move from this spot until the train arrives. He is stern, yet understanding, like an extremely sexy high school principal.
He gestures at his watch and then at the time on the ticket, apparently trying to remind me to get on the correct train – not just any train that pulls on to the platform, but the 9:05 train. He seems worried about leaving us but really, what could go wrong?
We get on the correct train and successfully arrive in Venice, and manage to negotiate a vaporetta ride across the canal to the city itself. We pass a gondolier talking on a cell phone and smoking a cigarette while poling passengers along the water, which is not quite how I pictured it. We pass a UPS boat painted a vibrant turquoise, and I immediately love Venice.
We wander around the shops, buying Murano glass jewelry and hearing as much American English as we do Italian, which feels oddly out of place. We find a restaurant for some lunch, and the server begins with a spate of Italian and I say, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian,” and she says, “I know a little English,” and proceeds to sound like a Harvard graduate, putting to shame my “little Italian,” by which I mean I can say “prego” and “buon sera.”
Later, I have to figure out the train station without the driver pointing out which bench to sit on, so I look at the schedule and realize how much I hate asterisks on train tables when I don’t speak the language.
“It could mean anything!” I say to Jess in despair.
We board what I think is the right train and eventually glide into the Verona station, but then we cannot find our driver, who was supposed to meet us here, and suddenly the train station seems ten times larger than it did and I’m trying to figure out what the hell to do without a cell phone and not speaking the language, and finally we bump into each other – he is on his cell phone talking worriedly to someone, I’m guessing he’s saying, “What the hell am I going to do if I can’t find the damned American?”
But he gives us that charming smile and since he does not speak English, can give me no lectures on why I didn’t meet him where he told me to meet him.