Lost - Jo-Ann Carson


…and foolish. Very foolish.

You know how I said you can walk everywhere in Florence within twenty minutes. Well, I proved myself wrong. I found other places.
I could blame it on the Citronella, or the kitchen fan, but the truth is I was plain stupid.
I’d had a rough night sleeping. The street noise was loud late into the night. When it quietened down I was left with the drone of the kitchen fan and the acrid smell of citronella burning the inside of my nostrils and turning my stomach in knots. By three in the morning I was ready to scream.
The citronella is part of one of our mosquito repellent plugs. PJ likes it because it works and the smell doesn’t bother him. He also likes to keep the fan on to move the air. You can see where this is going. By three in the morning I was ready to strangle him. My dear husband of 33 years was not looking so dear.
I got up and did some writing. The sun rose. I still felt physically awful, somewhere between sewer sludge and hell and worse I was boiling over with rage.
PJ snored.
So, I got up, dressed and headed for the door snarling over my shoulder about citronella, fans and my need to get out. PJ half asleep murmured, “What?” I left. It was 8:45.
The street was full of morning commuters on their way to work. The pace was fast and purposeful making me feel comfortable. I stopped a few yards from my front door in a lovely little cafe people were streaming in and out of, and had a cappuccino and pastry like everyone else.
Fueled with caffeine I decided I could go further. I’d go down to get the tickets we wanted for the Uffizi museum (which houses the largest collection of Italian Renaissance paintings in the world.) It`s about a five minute walk. I sent a text to PJ and headed out.
A five minute walk. But not for me.
Did I mention that I didn’t have a map with me? Or that medieval streets all look the same? Or that I`m pitiful at directions and can speak about 10 words in Italian?
I veered off the right path pretty quickly and found myself down by the Arno River. No problem, I thought. I know the Uffizzi gallery goes right down to the river. I’d been there the night before for a boat tour.
So, I walk along a road parallel to the river expecting to run into the museum at any moment, but I don’t. I run into a bridge that carries cars. Oh dear, I say to myself, this is not good. I’ve gone too far. I text PJ and continue.
Rather than retrace my steps I decide to head home by making a ninety degree turn. It made sense to me. The buildings I’ve become familiar with are no longer in sight, the tourist kiosks have vanished and I find myself on a highway. Oh dear.
I walk along the road trying not to get run down by cars and scooters looking for a way to get back into the inner city, but can’t find one. I walk for some time and decide to make another ninety degree turn. By this point I’m sweating and it’s not from exertion. But I keep going, reasoning that a moving target is harder to hit. My legs and hips are  aching and my hand holding on to my purse for dear life is cramping.
11:00 and the landscape has totally changed. I figure I’m in the suburbs. Does Florence have suburbs? I’m in deep trouble. I look at every person suspiciously and send the fourth text to PJ. He`s not responding, but if I get murdered at least I’ve left a trail.
Is he still snoring? Urrrrgh.
I see a nicely  dressed young woman emerging from an expensive car and pounce on her. In perfect English she tells me I cannot possibly walk back. It’s too far. I must take a bus, but the bus stop here has been closed, so I should walk down the road and around the corner to find the bus stop in front of an electronics store.
I walk down the road and around the corner and find a laundry. No bus stop in sight.
I go back to the main road. It’s too damn quiet and I’m totally lost. My legs and hips are aching. I’m drenched in sweat and the sun is rising higher and higher in the sky.
I stop an elderly lady and ask her for help. She looks at me through wise eyes and shakes her head. “This is not goot,” she says. In her limited English she tells me it would be 20 Euro to take a cab. I must take the bus and points me down the road farther.
So I walk on and find a bus stop. Yeah! But on top of it is a closed sign. Boo.
I am now beside a hospital compound. They usually have cabs and I’ll pay 100 Euro by this point to get home, so I go in and walk the circumference of the building. No taxis, no emergency, no apparent front entrance. I figure it must be a specialized  hospital. I knock on the door of mini-bus and am told he goes to another city. Now what?
Time to retrace my steps. What other choice to I have. Five minutes later I find a real bus stop and it’s in front of an electronics store. Yeah. I wait for the bus with a group of ladies.
Don’t think this is the end of the story. I’m in Italy.
The bus leaps back onto the road and roars forward. I grab a seat. It roars through traffic and comes to a stop at another bus stop. So I go up with my 2 Euro coin to pay for a ticket. The driver says, “I’m finished,” gets up and leaves.
The people on the bus break into loud chatter accompanied with hand gestures, none of which I understand. Something is not right. I figure he’s taking a coffee break, and they’re not happy about it. I sit back down again. We are now in an area of the city totally unfamiliar to me and I have no friggen idea how to get home if I leave the bus.
All of a sudden, half of the people leave the bus and the woman who was kind enough to tell me the cost of a ticket motions me to follow. So I follow. What else could I do?
The new bus has a bus driver who smiles and takes my money. I stand amid the jumble of people heading into town. Am I safe yet?  Not sure.
We go on a long drive, but the further we go the more familiar the surroundings appear. We stop at a bus station across from McDonalds. I know I’ve seen it before so I get off and decide to walk from there.
Five minutes later I find myself at the central market and another five and I’m home. It’s noon. With great humility I climb my 57 steps.
I do not recommend doing this.
But I do suggest you discuss citronella with your traveling buddies before you leave home.
phew…I`m heading to bed.
Notes: 1. the picture is of my bus ticket.
2. My internet hook up is sketchy and I can’t send replies to comments at the moment. I’m sorry, because the comments are wonderful.