If you want to get something done fast in Italy threaten romance. Perhaps the celebration of love and marriage depicted in the great Italian Renaissance artworks was the inspiration for my little white lie. A little white lie that got a few Italians moving! I’ve noticed at least here in Umbria, getting service is neither timely, nor immediate. On our first day with no power, the electrician just couldn’t come until the next day (it was a holiday) but luckily a few toggles of the old circuit breaker seemed to fix the problem. And when the washer broke down, we waited two days (another holiday) only to find out it needed to be replaced. Finally, I can’t even count the number of days our lunch consisted of cheese and salami as our US time zone appetites seemed to call for lunch right around what seems to be the Italian Siesta (2-7) when most places are closed.
So, when the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport Lost Baggage Department told me that Sam’s and Jill’s bags would probably arrive ‘sometime’ in the next 48 hours (after waiting nearly 36 hours), my imagination got the best of me and I unexpectedly heard myself telling them that that just would not work! I told them we had a wedding and that we needed those bags as fast as possible! The minute that slipped out I thought, “Whoops, did I really just say that?” Yup, I did and it was too late to take it back.
It all started after at least ten fruitless phone calls with nothing but misinformation and confusion – the bags are in Rome, wait no they’re not, or they’re on the truck no, wait they are still in London. On the 11th call, I was connected to a lovely Italian lady who explained that my “anxiety” over our lost bags was really unfortunate but that by now, the bags had been handed to a driver and it was out of her control. It was when she was patiently explaining that her job was to just get the bags in a car, that my little scheme popped into my head.
When I heard “48 hours,” I blurted out, before thinking, “But we have a wedding!” She paused for a moment and then asked, “When is it?” and before I could answer, she answered for me, “Tomorrow, right?” I sheepishly responded, “Yes, tomorrow,” and she then immediately asked, “What time?” Before I could talk she said, “Probably 12:00.” And so of course I said, “uh huh, yes noon tomorrow!” Suddenly she seemed to come alive, passionately saying, “OK I will put a note in your record and I will call the driver myself right now!” “Uh, OK, great, thanks,” I said all the while feeling a little bad but not much more hopeful.
With that done, we all piled into the car and headed to dinner and before we could even park, I got a call from the driver who seemed equally lively and engaged in the wedding excitement. I put him on speaker and the driver asked Sam and me, “What time is the wedding and when do you need the bags?” We told him, “It’s at noon and so we need them by 10:30.” He groaned a bit and said he wasn’t sure he could do that and so after a short but thoughtful pause, I told him that if he had the bags here by 11:30, we could make it work. He was very happy with that, ending the call with a robust “Ciao, I’ll see you at 11:30!” Things were surely looking up for Sam and Jill.
At 5:53 am the next day, my cell phone rang and it was the sleepy and rather irritated husband of the couple who manage the Villa. He told me a driver was outside with our bags. Huh? What? I could barely comprehend and only faintly knew where I was. I first wondered if I’d really slept that late. I peeked out the window and there he was, a big Italian guy outside the Villa gates with the sun barely starting to rise. Our elaborate plan to have Sam and Jill answer the door at 11:30 all dolled up, wearing their robes was obviously no longer needed. What I needed to do was to get downstairs and figure out how to let the guy in through the fortress-like gate. I found the little remote control thing, pressed about six buttons and finally the gate swung open. The guy literally ran the bags up and said something in Italian which I didn’t understand. I strongly suspect it had something to do with the joyous occasion and the aura of love buzzing around our sleepy little villa. Or, maybe he was laughing at me standing outside disheveled, barefoot and in my pajamas.
Steve, the Villa manager told me that the driver called him that morning and said, “They aren’t answering their phones and it’s urgent!” Urgent? Ha, that’s kind of funny and also makes me feel a little like a schmuck, making this poor soul drive through the night for a wedding that wasn’t really to be. After we all decided to stop feeling bad about our little white lie we realized how funny it is that had we not had the fictional wedding, we probably still would not have those bags. We just couldn’t get over how the idea of love and marriage mobilized the Italians to do the nearly impossible – to get our bags to us in record time!
UPDATE: My little white lie just got littler. Yesterday Sam proposed to Jill and she said yes! So, there will be a wedding after all; not just on this trip!