Least obeyed street sign.
This spring I visited my sister in Italy, and we decided to visit the Amalfi coast for some siblingtastic beach bonding. The journey required two trains and one stupid bus ride down a winding cliffside road. Imagine Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu only half as wide, twice as twisty, and with much more lax public transit laws. (Keep in mind we made this journey on only a few hours of sleep and a hefty vino + spicy Italian liquor hangover)
We, along with the other tourists and stressed newlyweds, board from the train station after a brief but intense scramble for cabin space that sets a nice aggressive tone for the trip. Immediately one American man establishes himself as the token douche of the group by shout-talking at the other passengers to move. For some reason he and his wife thought this was the perfect kind of vacation to bring a 6-month old infant on. Who wouldn’t want to drag their own luggage, a stroller, diaper bags, and a helpless human child through various italian trains and overcrowded busses?
Within minutes two old Italian men start screaming at each other with the douchey American couple in the crossfire. The more fiery of the pair only settles down when a random stranger talks sense into and/or whispers sweet nothings to him.
We speed along the narrow road past rented vespas and various euro hatchbacks as our driver honks feverishly to alert oncoming traffic at each turn. My hangover, which had settled after train naps and shamefully scarfing down MacDonalds, is reignited by the bus reeling around each corner. I look over at my sister who has a rich history of motion sickness. Her face is sullen and serious, and she begins emptying the contents of her purse. “Want me to ask if anyone has a bag?” I offer. “No it’s fine.”
A few moments later I look over just as her chest and throat heave and her hand cups her mouth. Like a champ, she swallows it back down with only a small bit of Micky D’s laced saliva escaping. I want to help her, but I also want to laugh. Then I realize I need to stop thinking about it or I’ll vomit myself. There’s still 40 minutes of windy, horn-honking bus ride left.
Soon we stop to let an Australian family off at an earlier town. I tell my sister to watch that no one takes my bags because I have about $2000 worth of camera equipment in an unsecured tote under the bus (In the scramble I didn’t think to take my camera bag out). They don’t steal it, of course. But a few moments later my sister, recovered from the near-spew, is forced to blow her nose into what will henceforth be known as the Barf Scarf to remove a bit of french fry caught in her sinuses.
We continue down the road until the driver jams on the breaks to avoid a head-on collision with another bus. It’s a battle of the wills to determine who will be the alpha bus and who will have to reverse to a wider stretch of road. We win the faceoff and barely squeeze by- the mirrors scraping through lemon trees on the right and just inches from the other bus on the left.
By this time everyone has about had it and my own nerves are killing me. We whip around a corner and zoom down a hill when suddenly there’s a loud THUD followed by gasps. We screech to a halt and everyone jumps to the windows to see what’s happened. My first thought is “Oh fuck we hit a vespa!” but then I overhear that the luggage has just flown out from under the bus. “Fuuuuck my camera! Those goddamn Australians didn’t close the hatch properly!”
Next we see the driver and a random pedestrian retreiving a couple generic roller suitcases so I can breathe a little easier. “At least it’s not my shit,” I think along with everyone else whose stuff didn’t fly out onto the street at 40 mph (kmph? eh). Minutes later we arrive at our destination and I book it out of there as fast as I possibly can. My luggage is intact and my camera unscathed. All that’s left is a mile long uphill hike to the hotel– a breeze by comparison.
Worth it though, right? (Saturation has not been adjusted)
As with any vacation, there’s an inevitable return journey. My sister and I planned ahead to avoid a hungover bus ride back, but after three days of cheese, mussels, wine, and cappuccinos, my digestive tract was not happy with me. Waiting for our ride, my stomach ache grew but I couldn’t find a restroom in time. I popped an Immodium and hoped the sharp pains would subside long enough to make the 75 minute journey to Salerno.
While my sister enjoyed a nice bus nap, I spent the entire duration in a cold sweat trying to hold the elastic waistband of my tights as far away as possible to avoiding adding more pressure to the situation. With each excruciating minute, I debated which was worse: diarrhea-ing my pencil skirt and dealing with that aftermath, or demanding the bus pull over so I could shit in a lemon grove on the side of the road. By the time we reached Salerno, I was in tears, but I made it to a tiny unisex bar bathroom just in the nick of time. Neither the impatient knocks of the line forming behind me nor the weird Italian toilet seat could diminish that sweet, sweet sense of relief.