Friday, December 23, 2011
a good place
As we know, the train system in Naples is not exactly slick. The fact that I even bother to purchase tickets to get on the thing is a great example of my honesty and stewardship. At the stop near my house, there is an empty, abandoned "station" that I never set foot in unless it's really windy or something. I simply wait for the train outside. I get on, and there is nowhere to stamp the ticket, so I always wonder why I even buy them.
So, there Lauren and I are with two shiny tickets in our hands as we exit the train at Montesanto station in the heart of Naples' craziness. When, what to our wondering eyes should appear, but several train station guards asking for tickets and trying to cause fear. Happy that I am a good steward with a newly purchased ticket, I proudly show ours to the guard. You can imagine my surprise when he does not let us pass, but starts writing on the outside of his citation booklet that we each owe 21 Euro, because our tickets are not stamped. He writes down the number, "42," then crosses it out and writes "21." Like he's giving us a two-for-one deal! What a guy!
"Um, dove e la macchina (where is/was the stamp machine)?" I ask, knowing perfectly well that there is one inside that "station," where we got on the train, but not knowing that the darn thing even works.
"Alla stazione (at the station)," he responds, looking off into the distance to avoid eye-contact.
"Non lo so (I don't know)," I say, meaning that I don't know where the machine is at the station and I don't know how to stamp the ticket, etc...
This encounter goes on for several more minutes with me getting my Neopalitan attitude on and raising my voice. The whole time, thinking in my head that this is not possibly happening and there is no way in hell I'm giving this guy any money. In the meantime, Lauren continues to act like a dumb tourist who doesn't know how the train system works in Naples. The guard gets his other guard friend who speaks English and both are demanding that we pay them some cash. Suddenly, it dawns on me that he needs to just write me a citation and I can pay it later, so I say, "I have no money!" Lauren pulls out 5 Euro and says, "This is all I have."
"You have no money?"
The mood has changed as they realize they are not walking away with our cash. The English speaker tells Lauren to put her 5 Euro away and tells his friend to please validate our tickets and let us go. As we're leaving he says, "We want you and other tourists to know that Naples is a good place. It is a good place."
We walked away with smiles from ear to ear, beaming with self-pride. Because, we both knew that there was a time in our lives when we would have just succumbed to the pressure and handed over the money.
Quick disclaimer: I do love Naples and believe it is a truly good place. A little corruption simply adds to its character.
Okay, that's the end of this story.
Stay tuned for another exciting story involving elements of miscommunication, language barriers, and cultural differences...
Posted by Blaine Family at 6:00 PM